Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Unwrapped

The boys were up early, not as early as some, I suppose, but eager to get to the goods.  It was nice to hear Jake say that the things he likes best about Christmas are: "First that Jesus was born. Second, that we get to open presents!"  I think that's a first for him to put Jesus above the hype and excitement of the day.

I told the boys they wouldn't get to open their presents until we got at least one good smile...Think I should have held out for a better one?

Erik practiced being a teen with his "Oh great, a shoe box, just what I always wanted."

Jake was much more enthused with a box of Quaker Oats. He was so funny, opening presents with zest and enthusiasm regardless of the packaging beneath the wrapping.

Karen & Erik opened this one together

Probably Erik's favorite gift - something no teen seems to think they can live without.

(In case you can't see the packaging - a cell phone - w/ limited minutes)
Both boys got a DS game - we had them open them together

And this one took most of the day to put together. Kind of reminds me of that Peter Paul & Mary song "The Marvelous Toy."  I never knew just what it was, and I guess I never will. (Click the Youtube link - its worth a listen - Live at Sydney 1970)

OK, I do know what it is, it is a marble contraption.

Christmas Eve

We went to Gramma's for Christmas Eve and opened a few presents after a great meal with a - you guessed it - pork roll.  The boys don't look as excited as they were to open presents.

 In keeping with Grampa's sense of humor, we pulled the old underwear gift gag in his memory.  Jake thought it incredibly funny to finally be included in the gag, but Erik was a little less enthusiastic.  We had a good laugh over it. Definitely a fond memory of Grampa.

Then it was home to put out the luminarias along the sidewalk - in front of our house, both neighbors and two across the street. Here's our house partly hidden by our olive tree:

Our neighbor on a side street organizes a neighborhood party every year where people bring food & snacks and sit around folding paper bags and filling them with a bit of sand.  (We had to stop on the way home from Gramma's to get the little candles).

Anyhow, this is that neighbor's sidewalk (and driveway) and a few houses down his street.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Winter Solstice & the Tree of Life

The Tree of Life sculpture at the corner of Galvin Parkway and McDowell was built in 1991 as a boundary art project using transportation 1% for the arts program (1% of all highway programs funding went to support the arts).  Scottsdale & Phoenix arts programs were also involved.  Anyhow, the sculpture is supposed to be a terraced 'garden' collecting and distributing rainwater to several terraces all in the shape of a tree. Kind of neat. 

It is also supposed to be a solstice marker. I can find very little in that regard on-line, and I think I now know why that is.  The winter solstice was Dec 21, but as solstice means "sun stands still" it should still have been the same on the 22nd and 23rd.  The 21st had clouds and the 22nd did as well. The 23rd was a clear day, and I climbed atop the shortest of the pillars supposedly aligned with the winter solstice sunset.

As you can see the shadows begin to align.  If the true sunset were not blocked by a small ridge in Papago Park (the sun disappeared a full 5 minutes before offical sunset time) the shadows may have aligned.  But in the last shot the shadows clearly do not align.  Very disappointing. No wonder so little is said of it being a solstice marker.

This is probably due to modern technology. They likely had all the right calculations determining exactly where the sun would be at the exact time of sunset.  They never figured in the reality of terrain affecting the viewabililty of the sunset.  As it was quite the opposite for the indigenous people, they were able to make very precise markers for the 'magical' time of solstice.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Erik the Teenager

Erik had a few friends from his new school over for his birthday party.

I took Jake to see Planet 51 and we both thought it was pretty good. Karen stayed home with the kids.  These are the kids he pretty much hangs out with every day at lunch. They get along very well.

Instead of cake, we went with a cookie.  They had pizza for dinner, too. (Jake had Hot Dog on a Stick, one of his favorite places)