Saturday, July 26, 2008

Best Week Ever

Everyone watch for a story about me on the E! channel because I had "The Best Week Ever!"

But before I get to that, let's back up another week. Kevin & Cameron had VBS all last week. And, much like the pain of childbirth, Dana forgot all about the agonies of teaching a class last year and signed up to teach again this year. Poor sap. She had something like 423 boys and 2 girls in her class. Maybe it was more like 17 and 2, but either way she was way outnumbered by "sweaty, rowdy, stinky soon-to-be 5th grade boys". She persevered though and made it through. I did notice, however, that she kept a low profile during the performance on Friday night. The pictures didn't come out very good, but here are some videos.

Watch for Cameron giving high 5 to the kids on either side of him. Throughout the whole song he kept getting snubbed. He'd turn to the girl on his left and she would turn away from him. Then, he'd turn to his right to be ignored there too. He usually gave an "air five" to no one in particular. As luck would have it, as soon as I tried to catch it with my camera, they sort of got it right. It was hilarious.

Kevin goofing off and lip synching or whispering at best.

And finally, I wish I'd kept the camera running on this one. You can see the kids starting to sit down at the end of the song. Eventually, all but one of them sat down. Can you guess who wasn't paying attention and was left standing alone on stage? Yep. My son.

We started the weekend off by celebrating Kevin's 10th birthday. Did you get that? He's TEN! My boy very proudly claims to now be an official "tween". The Samps came down for the weekend as well as Larry and Galena. Pa and Tootie, the Morenos and the Archuletas were also on hand for the festivities. We kicked things off by taking Kevin and his friends (Kevin, Ryan & Taylor) to see Wall-E. If you haven't seen it yet, go now. It's good!

After the movie, he opened his presents, failed to blow out more than one candle on the first try and scarfed down the cake. Here are some pictures:

Opening presets with helpful bystanders

Ready to huff and puff and blow out one measly candle. And they weren't trick candles either! This from the boy who likes to play soccer. I'd say he needs to start running again before the season starts.

Dana bought a very good ice cream cake.

The next day, I finished putting Kevin's motorcycle together - finally. Remember when I said it would be ready to go a long time ago? That darn thing fought us every step of the way. But that's in the past now. Here's the moment of truth. Kevin moved from his 50 to an 85 and had to learn a clutch and how to shift while doing it. That's what he gets for growing so stinking fast.

He fits just right.

My artistic shot. I call it "Le View from the Front Tire"

On this day, I told him to keep it in 1st gear and just worry about learning how to start and stop. He started off very slowly but it wasn't long before he was wide open in first sliding around the turns. We rode again yesterday and he started shifting.

Another artistic shot - "El viewo from la fronto fenderito"
You didn't know I spoke Spanish, did you?

You can't get any closer to crashing without actually crashing than this.




Dirt bikes for everyone!
Then, on Monday, I flew out to Florida to watch a test at Kennedy Space Center. They want us to repeat the test in a couple of weeks so I needed to see how they did things so the results will be comparable. Darn the luck, but I got a beachfront condo to stay in at Cocoa Beach. (for the government rate!) Anyway, the test was finished the first day so the second day I was given a wonderful tour of KSC. Now, keep in mind, my dream job for literally as long as I can remember is to be an astronaut. That's why I enjoy doing what I do because I get to contribute in my own small way to the space program. I was like a kid in a candy store where they're giving away all the free candy you'll need for a lifetime and stuffing video games in your pockets at the same time and it happens to be your birthday and Christmas. Probably even more excited than that. First we toured the Launch Control Complex. That's where all the important people monitor the health of the shuttle before launch. I didn't see a big red button that says "launch" though. I probably just looked at the wrong consoles.

From there we went over to the Vehicle Assembly Building. It's even more impressive in person than you'd ever guess.


In the VAB, they were assembling two sets of Solid Rocket Boosters in preparation for the next 2 launches. The next launch is to service Hubble, so they have to have a second shuttle ready in case any problems arise. The boosters are impressive.

This is one of the more fully assembled boosters.
Next up, we walked over to the external tank. Notice, everything is covered in work platforms.

This thing is huge. I was close enough to touch it but I didn't dare do it. With my luck, foam would have fallen off one whole side. Not really, but I made sure to keep my distance.

Launch Pad 39A. Unfortunately, for me, we didn't have hard hats. Otherwise, we could have gone up.

One of my favorite sites of the day. That's the belly of Endeavor. The nose cone is at the top. It's beautiful. I almost passed out with excitement by the time we got here. Let me tell you, the orbiters are big vehicles. Like I mentioned earlier, everything is covered with platforms so you can't really see the orbiter. Just parts and pieces.

It keeps getting better. This is looking into the aft end of Endeavor. Those two silver balls are the auxiliary power unit tanks. They hold about 50 gallons of hydrazine. Those are what I've spent the last 2 years working with.

Crawling past the APU tanks and up a short ladder, all the while ducking and contorting your body to avoid all the plumbing and hardware, you can turn to see the top of one of the main engines. Needless to say, it's crowded in there.

After reluctantly climbing out, we walked up on a service platform and peered into the Endeavor's payload bay. In this shot, I'm standing over the left wing looking forward.

It just keeps getting better. This is looking out the windows of Atlantis' flight deck into the payload bay! I was on Cloud 9 by now.

Turn around and you'll see the Commander's seat (left) and the Pilot's seat (right). Am I dreaming? Is this really happening?

I've died and gone to heaven!

Some observations or things I think I think: The flight deck is way smaller than you probably think it is. The middeck (below) is larger but they hadn't installed the lockers yet. Install those, 3 more seats and gear and you have a very cramped area for 7 people to live in. Sign me up!

I also crawled in the airlock and looked (and dreamed) out the window there too. I can't imagine it's much fun in there trying to get dressed with the suits hanging on the walls.

The crawler is huge!

I was given a tour on and around the mobile operations platform (it's what the shuttle sits on and the crawler transports to the pad). That thing is even huger. I imagine it feels similar to a submarine when you're walking through the passages and ducking under all the plumbing. Very impressive.
The VAB is also huge. I would LOVE to be present when they're picking up an orbiter or ET and hoisting it up and over the gantry to the high bay.

I have a picture of me in front of the launch pad and one of the space shuttle main engines. I won't show them though because I look like a moron.

I really regret taking my cheapo camera instead of the nice one. I didn't know I would be able to take pictures everywhere. As it was, my memory card was full so I had to keep deleting pictures to get better ones - like those from inside the orbiters.

I have now dipped my toes in the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
I hate the formatting issues on this blog site. Like right now, it refuses to allow me to add a space between the previous thought about dipping my toes in the water and this one. Maybe it's because I say I hate it. It drives me crazy, so please excuse any weird spacings or other unintended features. Also, my computer is getting slower and slower by the day. I hate that too.

The best part of the trip was returning home to 4 smiling faces.

This isn't what they looked like when I got home but Dana took this while I was away.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Visit to Cuba

Last weekend we all piled in the car, checked our passports and headed to Cuba. Cuba, NM that is. You'd be surprised how many people have never heard of the place and feel obligated to make some crack about leaving the country or bringing back some cigars. Anyway, some 47 hours later, we arrived tired and ready to get out and stretch.

Our visit wasn't very long as we got there Friday evening and left early Sunday morning but we all had a good time and we finally got to meet Galina (sp? - sorry!). Karen and Ronney also came up for the weekend sans kiddos. They mentioned something about Chase being old enough to take care of himself and Riley for the weekend. Either that or they were in Colorado with Ronney's parents. I can't remember which.

As usual, da boys headed straight for the 4-wheelers and me being the cool, calm, responsible adult, elbowed them out of the way as I ran past them to get first dibs. We did a fair amount of riding but the boys were always asking for more. Now, let me state here that I always require my boys wear a helmet when they're riding and I wear my own to set a good example. Except for this time. My helmet had a light scent of rotting fish (long but unfortunately true story) so no helmets on this trip. We also had more than one person on each ATV. I'M SORRY! OK? I KNOW I'M A LOUSY PARENT!

As I proofread the previous paragraph, I feel inclined to explain the helmet because it sounds rather embarrassing. When we went riding the dirt bikes week before last, we arrived to find some bozo had dumped some trash (tree branches and yard stuff) at our riding spot and it stunk to high heaven. Upon further investigation, I found a trashbag with several rotting fish in it so, with my gloves on, I drug the bag further away and downwind from where we park. Even though I tried to be careful, the stench permeated my gloves. And guess where I put my gloves when I pack up my riding gear at the end of the ride? Yep, in my helmet. And guess what I forgot to take out when I got home? Yep, my helmet and gloves.

I didn't get any pictures but we also went to the mud bog races in Cuba. Never one to turn down the sound of a screaming V8, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the guys (and girl) bounce, slide and claw their way across the mud pit. The kids started getting tired and bored after awhile so we split before it was over. Something noteworthy to no one but me - not one vehicle we saw had a Ford or Chrysler engine in it. At least not that I heard. They were ALL Chevy engines! (And some of those were NICE Chevy engines - like supercharged 540 nice)

Enough yacking. Here are a few pictures from the weekend.

The road to the mine. Rain the night before had everything nice and wet. That's Ronney with Cameron ahead of us.

Cool shot of the trail.

That darn dangerous Ronney setting a bad example for Cameron. Those glasses are not ANSI approved eye protection.

The boys and me. No we didn't ride like this. Cade actually rode on the front rack. Just kidding.

This hummingbird was lucky enough to catch a moment at the feeder without being dive-bombed by an evil little red hummingbird that felt the area was his exclusive territory.

Riders POV on the last section of trail leading to the mine. At this point, we were past all the gnarly parts of the trail.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July

Now that we have all this free time in the evenings, the kids are just hanging out and having fun.

How you doin'?

Cade doesn't ride the "dirt bike" as much as his older brothers did but he does just fine.

Another luxurious evening watching TV and eating ice cream. I might add that we were watching the new show "Wipeout". If you haven't seen it yet, you should make the effort to catch it next Tuesday. Watching people land on their face has never been more funny.

Last night we went to the electric light parade. Kevin wasn't feeling well so he and Dana stayed home. The parade isn't as good as it used to be - too many street racer wannabes with glow sticks stuck on their car. Where are all the classic cars with more displacement in one cylinder than those winged things have in all 4? There were a few nice floats though. The boys, especially Cade, enjoyed it.

Cade loves the snappers. Here he is stomping on one that failed to pop when he threw it.

The boys are getting ready to do some damage to our driveway. See those two, puny plastic bags that weren't really full of fireworks to begin with? $75! Let me repeat that. $75! For two small sacks of dumb fountains and other sissy fireworks! For that much money I should have been unloading the mortars, rockets, battery packs, bottle rockets, roman candles and a whole roll of firecrackers. But I guess I should feel fortunate that we're still allowed to do any at all.

Happy Fourth of July!