Wynn is reading

Wynn is learning to read now. We’ve been working our way through the Bob books together. For every book he reads, he gets either a chapter or a picture book. We typically do two and two. I love witnessing these developmental milestones! And it is really phenomenal how fast it’s happening now …  
 The vocabulary and spelling that Auden is doing now is extraordinary (to me it is – as I feel like he just learned to read!).  I love watching Wynn make his way there as well. I see an eagerness and a curiosity that wasn’t there before … I hope we have another bookworm in the making! 

Terraria & trampoline

Today the boys paid a visit to Auden’s friend Neal (from kindergarten) who lives just around the corner. 

Neal’s mom Peggy invited the boys over to jump on their huge outdoor trampoline and play a little Terraria. The boys let off a little steam and it wa super cute to see them bouncing around together.

Then the boys killed the Wall of Flesh in Neal’s game so he could gets into hard mode. He was so excited! While the boys were playing I showed Peggy the basics of navigation, crafting, and building a shelter. 

Wynn wa ready for a break, but we had to pry Auden and Neal away from the game. Here they are after another round of bouncing on the trampoline:

All in all it was a fun play date! I know Auden is already ready to do it again. :)

Whoa, it’s September!

So, I’ve been so busy playing Terraria that I haven’t done much of anything else during my leisure time. So, the mommy blog has been neglected.  But lots of wonderful stuff has happened in the past few months, so here is a quick run down for posterity:

Auden turned 8

It really is unfathomable how fast the time goes.  Here is our big boy, ready to dive into his cake:IMG_4768

We were in southern California enjoying Legoland and the Newport Coast for his birthday, so there was no big birthday even this year.  We had a little family celebration with cake when we returned home, but I get the sense that he missed having a big shindig, based on the story called “The Legoland Desaster” that he’s working on at school:


Nonetheless, our summer vacation adventures were really fun and hopefully more memorable than anther box of Legos (though he got those too)!

A holiday from the holiday

The kids relished the last two weeks in August with no camp, and I took a couple of days or afternoons off so we could do some things together.  Among other things, we enjoyed some back to school shopping.  Here is Stephanie working really hard at finding new clothes for the kids:


Seriously!  And we enjoyed lots and LOTS of silly time at home together.  Here is Wynn (do you think he takes after Stephanie, much?!) enjoying a pirate costume from the basement, which is finally back in order after our third basement flood and (hopefully!) final repair.


And we had a couple of really lovely Friday evenings at Langdon Beach, where we got to enjoy good friends, and sunsets over Lake Michigan.  The boys were still swimming last weekend – even though I could barely stand to put my feet in the water.  But they loved it, and of course we all slept well after the sunshine and fresh air.




I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that view, and of watching the light and the water and the clouds change while our kids play.  It is so peaceful, and I feel really blessed every time we have time to enjoy it together.

And … last but not least … the kids went back to school!

Of course it was harder on them than it was on us.  But they were both really positive and excited about getting back to their friends.  I think Wynn is happy to finally be with the big kids in school all day, on the big kids’ playground, and having lunch in the cafeteria.  In the first week back, Auden said “I missed this place!”.  Here they are:




I walked Wynn to his classroom, and Stephanie took Auden to his.  Wynn sat right down and got to work on the paper at his desk!  His only question was whether he could have his own markers, or if he really needs to share with the other kids at the table.  No markers, only colored pencils (which are better for fine motor skills, apparently).  And yes, he has to share.


The first couple of days Auden said that the homework was no worse than second grade, but he’s changed his tune already!  I’ll hopefully post some of his work in the coming weeks – it is pretty amazing to me what they are being asked to do already.



We’re hooked – totally and completely hooked on this game, as evidenced by the fact that the highlight of our holiday weekend so far has been killing the Wall of Flesh as a family.  We did it first in Auden’s game (after two weeks of actively trying!), and then again in Wynn’s.

The boys have been living, eating, breathing Terraria. Stephanie too.  I, unfortunately, have had to go to work.  When I went to Wynn’s Curriculum Night for first grade, I had a chance to learn about what he’s going to do in school this year, and I had a see what was in his desk.  His personal whiteboard had Terraria characters on it:


And, the boys have also been drawing the bosses at home, and using them to decorate through out the house.  Here is a picture of the bedroom wall near Wynn’s bed:


On the top left is The Twins, and below it the Eye of Cthulhu (which Auden drew for Wynn).  On the top right side (on the pink paper) is Wynn’s picture of the Wall of Flesh. Wynn explained that he is standing on one of the obsidian structures which exist throughout the Underworld.  He is fighting the boss with a Fiery Greatsword, with me standing behind him and Mommy in the far distance.  Magical, isn’t it?!

But wait – if you’re not equally hooked, this may not make sense!  So let me explain.

Over the summer, Auden had a counselor-in-training who told him about a new game called Terraria.  Better than Minecraft, he said. We were skeptical. After all, haven’t we logged hundreds of hours on Minecraft, purchased our own Realms, and bought Auden a Minecraft modding package for his 8th birthday?  Yes, yes we have!  So what could be better than Minecraft?

In fact, at the beginning, I made a lot of comparisons to Minecraft.   You dig into the landscape and discover ores.  Once you create (or in the case of Terraria, discover) a bed, it becomes home base. Like Minecraft, there is also the regular rotation between day and night, with the nighttime bringing more challenging enemies.  In Terraria there are waves of zombies and goblins which require you to build structures and defend yourself, and other creatures (like werewolves) once you get into Hard Mode.   You can collaborate with other players, or compete against them in player-versus-player (PVP).  In our house (with the boys being 8 and 6), we focus on collaborative play.  It was one of the aspects of Minecraft that we appreciated the most – cooperating to build structures and advance an imaginary cause (either with or without bad guys).  Managing, guiding, coaching them on appropriate behavior is how we found ourselves equally hooked on the game, I think!

Here is a family portrait in front of Auden’s home structure, with all four of us geared up and ready for battle:


From left to right, Stephanie as Boom, Auden as Redzhboy (his GameCenter ID), Wynn as the Skeleton (one of his three characters), and me in my purple armor.  I have strong crimtane armor underneath, and purple vanity items on top (both were a gift from the boys).

Each game has it’s own unique landscape and different biomes, and they vary by game (you might have a purple Corruption in one game, and a red one in another).   The landscape is not infinite; Terraria has a defined left and right edge, usually with a sea on one edge and a pink Dungeon structure on the other.  Each game also has a defined top edge (some games have a Sky Island) and bottom (Underworld).  The game allows you to zoom out so you can get a birds eye view of all the areas you explored.  Here is a view into my game, where I have explored, left to right, a purple corruption, the area around my house (where all the NPC heads are stacked), and the jungle biome (on the right).  I have also prepared part of the Underworld which is in red at bottom, in preparation for killing the Wall of Flesh, which spawns there:


Another random difference is the weather – Terraria has rain and occasional snow flurries.  In Minecraft Pocket Edition, the weather doesn’t change the way it does on the desktop or PS3 version.  My professional self can’t help but wonder if Terraria learned from early Minecraft engineering mistakes and made different choices about the game design as a result.

Besides those obvious differences, there is something different and special about Terraria.  It definitely has more game mechanics in play than Minecraft – there is a notion of forward progress and leveling up that makes it super addictive!  You build shelters for yourself as well as new characters (NPCs) that continue to join as you create new structures.  The first one is a Guide which helps you understand what activities to engage in next.  The NPCs require not just a roof and walls, however – they need a workstation (or table) and chairs, as well as light through torches or other lights.  In turn, the NPCs provide you with new workstations (e.g. the Witch Doctor provides you with an Imbuing Station) that you can buy, and new objects to trade.  Wynn and I seem to really enjoy the creation of our own spaces.  Here is a picture of my main structure (with smoke throughout because Wynn set off a smoke bomb):


And here is a picture of Wynn’s main structure, which is an elaborate, multi-level structure with all the decorations imaginable – 20 disco balls, paper lanterns, gem-laden walls, art pillaged from the dungeons of various games, and more:



Auden describes it as Terraria having ‘more things’.  Through your travels you collect weapons, banners, badges and trophies.  These enable you to fight an increasingly challenging array of bosses.  That is, there are bosses to battle (not just mobs), there are lots of weapons and other treasures to discover.

Which brings us back to the Wall of Flesh, which is the biggest boss in pre-Hard Mode.  Auden and Wynn (independently and with different members of the family) had defeated the four other pre-Hard Mode bosses in the weeks since camp ended.  Auden was increasingly anxious to beat the Wall of Flesh, so one night before bed we opened the Terarria wikipedia and read about different fighting techniques.  Using a combination of techniques, we finally did it!


The boys are off and running in hard mode now.  Honestly they are exploring and discovering so far, I’m not sure I can keep up!   I have been focused on building a beautiful, defendable structure for my NPCs, collecting all the ‘materials’ (with still unknown uses), and helping my family out when a Blood Moon requires all hands on deck.  I prefer the domestic aspects of Terraria.  And I have a job and a mommy blog to maintain, after all.  But Auden just earned fairy wings, so I may just have to log in one more time to see if I can get those …

Mini Man Cave

For some time, Stephanie and I have been talking about shifting the use of space in the house. We feel that each room (except upstairs) is not quite right. It is partly a legacy of having bought (or inherited) furniture for a larger house. But also because we have, frankly, been in survival mode due to the demands of the kids and my lack of energy.

But that is slowly changing, and so the house is too!  Last weekend I assembled some new shelving for the basement, we moved the TV and brought furniture from ‘the bump-out’ next to the kitchen into the basement. It was weird at first, but it’s really growing on us now:  

And, it’s much more functional for a family movie night than the two mis-matched chairs we had down there before!

We also rearranged the living room:

The sofa is rotated so the back is to the bookshelves, and we moved Stephanie’s secretary in there as well.

 The boys (like cats) are testing things out for us. :)
Not sure it’s quite right yet – I am definitely still trying to get used to the secretary behind the sofa. But it is great to have it out of the dining room, and we used the move as an opportunity to get rid of a bunch of junk we had stored in there.   

That was yesterday! So far today I have spent a bunch of time re-organizing the bump-out with the kids Legos, moved the TV and gaming system from the basement, and generally turning the room into a mini man cave:  Except for the lack of adult seating, I love it! And I hope they will too. 

I still have to finish putting the basement back together – especially the areas where Stephanie and I bead and sew, respectively.

Last up will be the office. I love that space – it gets wonderful light, and there are huge surface areas to spread out.  The only heartache for me is giving up the shelves we had in there. I know the space will be more open, but it’s always hard for me to part with books (even if they were just relocated to the basement!).  With Stephanie relocating her desk to the living room, I can’t wait to shift around the furniture and make a really great workspace for myself!  With both the kids in school full time, I hope I may even be able to work at home occasionally.

We’ll see … end of summer (and the start of school) feels like it is just around the corner.  So we’ll know soon enough.