This and That – A Quick Update

Just a quick update on why I’ve been absent for almost two weeks:

This week, our house is going on the market.

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So for the past week, pretty much every spare moment was spent cleaning, or fixing, or weed-pulling, or staging (other than the moments when I took my kids to the pool for the first time this summer or when I took my kids for a play date with Super Friend’s kids, both absolutely necessary breaks from the house prep).

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My house is so different now. My school room is now a dining room again.

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There’s no more paint splattered on the wall or play doh smooshed on the floor. The few things that I kept around for us to do art projects and some finishing of reading lessons over the summer are crammed into that green cabinet in the photo above. If you walked in my house right now, you would have no idea that I homeschool my kids.

My kitchen no longer has brass cabinet pulls.

Before:

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After:

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Same pulls + a can of metallic spray paint + a little bit of work = cheap fix for ugly hardware!

Furniture has been moved all around. Tons of stuff got moved out to a storage unit. Everything has been scrubbed and dusted and tidied and polished, and I hate this process already, and I’m glad I will never have to do it again.

And I’m really, really glad to be on vacation this week. It’s only Monday, and vacay has been just delightful already. We started out visiting my husband’s cousin and his wife and daughters for a band practice.

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My husband’s other cousin (the sister of two of the band members), is getting married in a month and a half, and we are going to be playing for her wedding. No pressure. And also, how crazy fun and awesome is that?? It’s going to be the most rocking wedding reception, and I can’t wait.

And speaking of awesome, my husband’s aunt (the mom of previously mentioned cousins) took me and my girls and our hostess and her daughters to the Grotto of the Redemption on Saturday. What an incredible monument to faith, envisioned and built by Fr. Dobberstein for over 40 years in small-town northern Iowa (it was then nearly completed by Fr. Dobberstein’s helpers and successors after his death, with two more statues now needed for its completion). It has rocks from every state and from all over the world, and depicts various scenes showing the fall and redemption of humanity. It is breathtaking and truly indescribable.

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Miss got her first taste of singing with the band. After each song she said, “Can we do another one?” I think she’s hooked.

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It was such a fantastic weekend. Now we’re at the Farm, doing all the Farm things.

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It’s going to be a good week.

An Adventure in Chicago

Last week my husband was bear hunting in Alaska.

So I took the girls to Chicago for a girls’ road trip/ultimate field trip extravaganza.

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I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, so I’m not unfamiliar with big cities, but I had never been to Chicago. It’s been a long time since I lived in a large metropolitan area, and I was kind of nervous to take the girls by myself to a huge city I’m unfamiliar with, but I did it anyway. I planned the trip so that we would not have to drive much downtown, crossed my fingers that it would work the way I planned, and went for it.

It was perfect (if I do say so myself).

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The main Chicago attraction I wanted to be sure to visit was the Shedd Aquarium. We were reading and talking about sea animals in school, and I knew my girls would just love an opportunity to see so many of them in person, so I pretty much planned the trip around that goal. I found a hotel that I thought would be within walking distance of the aquarium and that also had two-room suites for a reasonable price (because I wanted to be able to put my kids to bed and still have my own place to be awake; the lumpy pull-out was worth it). We drove down Wednesday after Miss finished school, battled the ridiculous traffic, pulled into the hotel’s valet parking garage (because driving and parking downtown was the biggest thing I was NOT willing to do), and began our adventure.

Our hotel was right across the street from Grant Park, and the girls loved the big statue we passed right away in the morning while walking to the aquarium.

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I think they would have been happy just to play on and around it all morning, but we eventually did press on, and the Shedd was so worth the trip.

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I could go on and on about all the things we saw, but I will just note that I just loved hearing things like, “WOW! Mom look!” and “This is so cool!” and “I think he likes me!” (while face to face with some creature through the glass of a tank), and all the giggling while looking at strange animals.

The highlights of the day, the things the girls begged to go back and do again, were seeing the sharks and touching the stingrays. We also really enjoyed the 4D Sea Monsters show, though it was kind of scary for them too. The aquatic show was a big dud. The girls kept asking when it was going to be over. I think because the aquarium folks spent a lot of time talking about how they train the animals rather than just allowing us to watch the animals in action. Meh.

When we left the aquarium, we were exhausted, but also wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather. We stopped a few times on our walk back to the hotel for the girls to get out of the stroller and run around.

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Then it was back to the hotel for a little break, some sea animal DVDs on my computer, and some room service dinner.

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They took turns checking for stinky feet after our long day of walking and running around.

After dinner, we went out for another walk. I think one of the highlights of the whole trip was for the girls to see the various statues in and around Grant Park. We didn’t really walk very far, because they asked to get out and play on/around every statue and fountain we came across. I wanted to explore by walking and looking. They wanted to explore by touching and playing and imagining. We did some of both, but they were off the stroller and playing much more than they were on and being walked around. As it should be.

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I had planned to take the girls to the Field Museum on Friday, but then one of my friends (who lived in Chicago years ago) suggested we check out the Lincoln Park Zoo instead. I debated a bit whether to change my original plan and take them to the zoo, but then a few different things lined up to make the decision easy for me. The hotel people told me I could only keep my car in their parking garage until noon after check out that day, the weather turned out to be beautiful, and the girls said they wanted to go to the zoo.

So to the zoo we went.

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It was a little bit crazy in the morning because there were tons of school groups there and it was extremely crowded. But as the day went on it cleared out a bit. The girls were really tired, but we still had a great time.

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It was a successful and extremely fun trip. We learned a lot and made many wonderful memories. I will definitely be taking them back again, and I’m already thinking about other fun road trips to take them on. A Little House on the Prairie trip comes to mind or maybe some cool museums in Minneapolis?

Easter-y, Mommy-ish Randomness

We are visiting my parents this week, and I don’t want to interrupt our family time to do a long, or even thoughtful post (you’re welcome?). But I do have a few cute Easter pics and some good ones of my girls having fun at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, so I’m going to get rambly and probably a bit photo crazy for a minute.

If you’re not my mom or my mother-in-law or my Auntie, you may want to just stop here. I won’t mind.

Here goes –

Last week, I had lots of fun Holy Week activities planned. Then Miss got strep throat and we ended up skipping a few of them, like the search for 30 pieces of “silver” (or quarters) on Wednesday and Holy Thursday Mass as a family (Miss was still contagious). Most of the things we did do I didn’t get photos of, like our “Last Supper” dinner (which Miss didn’t feel well enough to eat anyway) or the foot washing on Thursday night after my husband and I got home from Mass.

We did get to the Good Friday service at our church, and the girls did surprisingly well for it being such a long and late event.

Holy Saturday started with an RCIA retreat for me from 9:00 until about 1:00. Then I came home, boiled eggs for dying, put out Easter decorations with the two older girls, gave the dogs baths, and packed our stuff. After Sis got up from her nap, we dyed eggs and my husband and I got ready for the Easter Vigil Mass.

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She said the made ^^ that egg for Jesus.

The Vigil was beautiful, but I didn’t get a single photo from it this year. It was nice to experience it with a little less nervousness and adrenaline than I had last year. I realized that I hadn’t remembered much of the service from last year because of being so excited and anxious about being baptized and confirmed and receiving Communion for the first time (plus being interviewed in front of everyone). It was less exciting and emotional this time, but I probably was able to appreciate it more in some ways.

Sunday morning, we had our Easter egg hunt, I made resurrection rolls, we threw our things and our dogs and our kids in the car and hit the road for the drive to my parents’.

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I was determined to be on the road by 8:00 so we could get here by dinner time and have my family’s traditional Easter and Christmas breakfast of creamed eggs for dinner. We got going at about 8:20, and we made it.

My kids have been enjoying Grandma and Grandpa and the lovely weather and flowers and greenness here since.

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We have many lovely bouquets for Grandma of dandelions, or “Lellow Light-ups” as Sis calls them.

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IMG_4557Someone, who gave up coloring for Lent, is very happy to be able to do one of her favorite activities again.

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As a new Catholic, it amazes me how much Lent creates so much more appreciation of the Easter season and the celebration of spring, and life, and the Resurrection.

It’s Wednesday, but it’s still Easter. What joy. Happy Easter!

A Vacation that Actually Feels Like. . . A Vacation?

Going on vacation with small children has never felt like a vacation. Staying in places that aren’t baby/toddler-proofed, dealing with disrupted sleep schedules, and not being in my own space has always thrown my (mostly) finely-tuned routine for a loop and led me to feel like I’m doing more work than usual, rather than “vacationing.”

That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed our travels. I’ve just had to adjust my expectations so that I plan for fun on vacation and lots of learning and great times with my kids and family, but not rest or relaxation or leisure.

So imagine my surprise at finding out that, while traveling for two out of the past three weeks, it has actually, kind of, at times. . . felt like a vacation! Two weeks ago we were at my parents. This week we’re at the Farm visiting with my in-laws. Now that my girls are getting bigger, I’m actually feeling a bit leisurely.

Everything is simpler here.

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I’m not as caught up in cleaning and school prep and food prep and all the other random daily-grind things that come up when we’re home, so I get to play more with my girls.

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Exploring and made-up games are the big hits, as always, but somehow when we’re here it’s just a bit more special.

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And now that Sis is getting bigger, it’s a little less stressful to travel with her. I’m no longer worried about her falling down the stairs where we don’t have a baby gate or choking on something small since not every toy has been completely sifted through with all choking hazards removed. I don’t have to constantly hover over her every second (I’m making myself sound totally neurotic, aren’t I?).

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I still get a little bit nervous with her around the water, but she’s done a pretty good job so far following our water rules. All the girls are enjoying the water and the fishing.

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They’ve been catching lots of fish. Even Sis caught a few crappies, but she preferred fishing for minnows.

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Slippery little suckers.

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As for me, when not exploring with the girls I’ve been reading and writing and taking naps every day and playing cards with my husband and my in-laws. We played Euchre a few nights ago, which is one of my favorites.

Last night they even convinced me to play Texas Hold ‘Em. I’ve never been a fan of playing poker, so I was reluctant. But I didn’t want to be a party pooper, so I agreed. I loved it! I even ended up the big winner of the evening after an intense hand with a huge winnings pot where the two others betting with me both had full-house hands, but I won with four of a kind!

Ah, vacation.

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So, don’t despair moms of little ones. Someday you will again be able to relax a bit on vacation. And it might be sooner than you think.

I love it here.

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Now it’s time for my nap.

Disney Trip Take 2 – Success!

Disney Take Two (1)

Last year we went to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for the first time with the girls. I remembered going as a kid and just doing it, with no major advanced planning or strategizing. I vaguely noted that lots of people nowadays seem to devote a lot of time and energy to mapping out every moment of their visit, but I didn’t think too much about it. I pinned a few things and scheduled a princess lunch for Miss’s birthday. I got a few suggestions from Super Friend who had been there a few months before we were to go. I figured it would be no big deal.

What I didn’t know is that we were going to Disney during one of the busiest weeks of the year. I had no idea that the third week in February is a peak time because some places have their spring break at then (in February people??). So, I got a great big smack in the face of Disney reality last year.

Last year we went on only four rides, Prince Charming’s Carousel, Tea Cups, It’s a Small World, and Dumbo (we only managed this one because some kind people gave us their Fast Passes as I was wandering aimlessly trying to figure out where we could get our own).

I had really wanted to take the girls on the Peter Pan ride, but I couldn’t find it. Seriously. Super Friend had told me to ride it first thing in the morning, because it gets busy fast. She also said that we could go straight there if we went left after walking through Cinderella’s castle. Good tip. I could do that. I was on a mission. As soon as we got to the park, we walked quickly through Main Street, cruised past Cinderella’s castle, and then I confused my right and left and we went the wrong way. Of course we couldn’t find it and but the time we did the wait was ridiculous, so no Peter Pan ride last year.

This year I redeemed myself. This year we went on all the rides we did last year

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Tea cups

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and we made it on so many more. We even did a few of them twice. The first day alone, even though we didn’t even get there until about 2pm, we made it on all the above rides plus Ariel’s Under the Sea thing and the Winnie the Pooh ride.

The girls loved meeting the princesses last year during the lunch I reserved, so I made sure to schedule lots of princess meet and greets for them this year too. I learned last year that Fast Passes are key. This year Disney has a new system so, since I bought my tickets in advance online, I was able to schedule three Fast Passes for each day ahead of time. I highly recommend doing this.

Unfortunately with the new system you can only get three Fast Passes per day period (I think it used to be unlimited, but you had to find them in the park), but scheduling them in advance at least allows you to pick the best times and make sure you get the ones you want. For the first day, I scheduled Ariel’s Under the Sea ride (which the girls loved so much we went on it again the second day), meeting Ariel in her grotto, and meeting Rapunzel and Snow White. The second day I scheduled the Peter Pan ride (I was not going to miss it again this year!), meeting Cinderella and Aurora, and Enchanted Tales with Belle. I’m so glad I scheduled this last one, because it’s fairly new and very fun and the lines for it were loooong.

The girls really enjoyed meeting the princesses, especially Miss. I thought it was funny that she got so excited, because as we were walking in on day one and I was talking about them being able to meet the Disney ladies, Miss said, “Yeah Mom, but they aren’t really the princesses, they’re just people dressed up like the princesses.” You wouldn’t have known she thought this from her expressions when getting to meet these “people dressed up.”

The girls’ favorite princess was Ariel. They insisted on standing in line to see her a second time on day two, and didn’t even seem to notice that the second Ariel was a different woman.

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^^ Ariel #1

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^^ Ariel #2

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Not all the princesses were equal in their rapport with the girls. The Ariels were fine, but my favorite (and my husband’s) was Merida, for the time she took and attention she paid to the girls.

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She especially took some time with Miss who told her about her plans to have a Brave-themed birthday party. I was very glad that I took the few minutes to find out where and when to meet Merida (you can’t schedule a Fast Pass to meet her). We went to her area (which is around the back right side of Cinderella’s castle, she starts meeting and greeting at 9:15 am) first thing on day two and only stood in line for a few minutes. It was so worth it.

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My second favorite princess for her ability to connect with the girls was Rapunzel.

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The Belle experience was fun.

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I thought it was funny that Sis would have nothing to do with Cinderella (we couldn’t even get her in a picture)

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but she loved this Aurora:

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This Snow White was my least favorite. She didn’t even get down on the level with the girls, and barely even smiled. Maybe she was just having an off day.

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On day two during nap time my husband and I took Miss back to the park by herself while her sisters slept and my in-laws stayed with them. This was such a fun experience. She really wanted to go on the magic carpet ride. So we made our first journey into Adventureland, and on our way to that ride we went up in the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, which my husband and I both have fond memories of. She thought it was fantastic to go up so high in what she initially thought was a “real tree.”

Overall, this trip was so much better than last year. It helped that I was able to plan more things in advance and that I figured out where and when to do specific things, like meeting Merida beforehand. The biggest thing in making it better was probably the fact that we went during a slow week. Plus it was cold and rainy, so the crowds were much smaller than last year.

We aren’t planning to go back to Disney again for several years. But I’m so glad we had a great experience this year. I know my girls had fun and made some memories. I did too.

P.S. I am trying out using Pic Monkey and Drop Box for my photos. For some reason some of them have been disappearing even after I’ve saved them in the post, so if they aren’t showing up, sorry, I’m trying to fix it (and probably won’t use this system again).

It Was Worth It

Last week we were in Florida, busily trying to soak in as much decent weather as we could, while folks here in the north had negative-gazillion-degree temperatures again. If you aren’t a member of my family, you might want to skip this post. It’s overloaded with photos of my kids doing Florida stuff.

But, I needed to put these photos up to remind myself that the trip was worth it in spite of having sick girls for several of the days we were there. That it was worth the beating I took at the hands (and feet) of my not-quite-two-year-old who didn’t want to sit on my lap on the plane ride home yesterday. And that it was worth the overly-tired craziness of my three-year-old who had the biggest exhaustion meltdown I’ve ever seen from her earlier today. Thankfully she is taking a nap as I type this.

So. For all who want to hear about our travels, and for myself to remember that it really was worth it, our trip in photos (and a few words, because I just can’t help myself):

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We went to the bird sanctuary, and then the girls played on the playground and beach just outside. Based on how crazy my girls went running around on the playground, you’d think they’ve been cooped up inside because of sub-zero temperatures all winter. Oh. Wait…

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This is the way to do the beach:

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Just outside the bird sanctuary there is a small beach area. You can’t actually get to the water because of a retaining wall, but there’s super soft sand, and that’s all my girls really care about anyway. My in-laws pulled their sand toys out of the back of their vehicle

DSC_0707and we had a perfect beach trip. No long drive to get to the awesome beach. No excessive wind. No shards of shells digging into my feet.

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No overload of sand or attempt to eat lunch while keeping it out of everyone’s food. Lovely view.

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Perfect.

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DSC_0751^^ Miss’s sand pyramid, of which she was quite proud.

After a short time in the sand, we all brushed off and got lunch at a nearby restaurant. And that’s my idea of a good beach trip (with kids).

The next day we ventured to a children’s museum where they had sting rays the girls could touch and feed, along with lots of other animals and science-y stuff.

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And no Florida vacation would be complete without some time in the pool.

DSC_0814 DSC_0815 DSC_0826 DSC_0831^^ Those pool photos were taken on Tuesday. Wednesday was pretty cold and gloomy, and the girls still begged to go swimming. I was so tempted to just let my hubby take the two older girls in. But Sis really wanted to swim too. So we all swam in 50-degree weather. Total and obvious northerners.

Unfortunately the crummy weather continued through our last couple of days when we went to Disney World. But that’s a post for another day (nap time is over). Before I go though, I’d like to toot my own horn for a moment and just say that I did redeem myself after my huge Disney fail from last year. I’ll tell you all about it soon.

Untangling

Just like when I was a little girl, visiting my Gram still makes me happy. She is a one-of-a-kind special lady. And even better now, I get to see my girls love her too.

DSC_0602Visits to my Grandma’s house always involve good food, some sort of craftiness, making music, and playing with unconventional toys. My Gram doesn’t throw anything away. Ever. So she has tons of fun stuff for my girls, much of it things they wouldn’t otherwise think to play with (or more accurately, things I wouldn’t normally think to give them to play with). Plastic easter eggs, golf balls, styrofoam egg cartons, a bucket of random lids. And of course her piano. They had a blast.

DSC_0578 DSC_0586In her box of goodies for them, I found a God’s eye. I used to make them all the time with my Gram when I was a kid. Turns out the one in her box was one I had made as a girl. 30-ish years ago. Told you she saves everything.

DSC_0589Of course, my Gram got out her yarn and had me saw the pointed end off of some wooden skewers she dug up in her kitchen so she could make God’s eyes for my girls. I helped Miss make her own.

DSC_0598 DSC_0593My heart nearly burst from the nostalgia.

As always, I learned a thing or two (or ten) from my Gram during our visit.

See I have a tendency to get somewhat stressed out when we are traveling. Especially when we’re staying at someone else’s home. This comes from a combination of worry about inconveniencing or messing up something for our host, not having the ease of our own super-toddler-proofed space at home, and everyone being extra tired and cranky from travel (I really try to just chill out about this, but it still gets me sometimes).

So. I was getting all freaked because my girls were going nuts with my Gram’s yarn supply, trying to make God’s eyes and then unravelling and playing with it and tangling it all up. I crabbed at them a little bit about messing up Gram’s yarn.

After I got them set up for their naps, I went out to help my Gram get the yarn untangled. I was all set with multiple apologies and offers to untangle the yarn for her by myself. I felt awful that it was such a mess.

But my Gram was already sitting in her chair, peacefully untangling and re-winding up her yarn. The yellow was all over the room. The orange was in knots. The purple and green were hopelessly tangled together. She didn’t even care. Before I even started in with my prepared apologies, she began chatting about how she likes to have things to do with her hands to keep her busy.

I stopped in my tracks and stared at her, all sweet and calm and happily untangling, and I thought, “What the heck was I so stressed out about?? This is how I need to be about tangled yarn and other relatively minor stuff that isn’t worth getting upset over.”

I sat down and gathered up a pile of the yellow yarn and started to untangle and wind it. And I proceeded to have one of the most enjoyable hours I’ve had on this trip. I sat with my Gram and we untangled together and talked.

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She talked about her mother. She talked about my Papa. She talked about my Dad, her sister, other people she’s known, the church we went to when I was a little girl, and all sorts of other things. I was honestly sad when the yarn was all neatly wound up and ready to be put away.

I got a beautiful lesson in perspective from my Gram during that hour. I always leave a visit with her feeling amazed. She’s 91 years old and she usually gets more done in a day than I do in a week. But that hour of talking with her was extra special to me. We untangled her yarn, and she untangled me a little bit.

Thanks Gram.

Louisville – A Little Walk Down Memory Lane

I took the girls to Louisville this past weekend. 18 hours in the car, by myself, with three children under five. Nine there (Thursday), nine back (Sunday). Whew!

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We made it, and it really wasn’t bad at all. The trip down to Louisville had a few rough moments as the girls learned that Mom couldn’t reach and do everything for them like I can when Daddy is driving, and I learned some tricks for how to help them as best I could while keeping my eyes on the road.

Both ways we only made one long stop. They enjoyed the treat of eating in restaurants and watching lots of movies.

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They saw a big-city skyline for the first time as we drove through Chicago, and on a smaller scale when we reached Louisville.

I just love Louisville. It warmed my heart to drive into view of that skyline.

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^^ Not exactly the skyline, but the most distinctive building.

On Friday we spent the day with some dear old friends at a pumpkin patch/farm/apple orchard/farm market/winery. It was intense, and warrants its own post in a day or two.

Friday night we went out to dinner with the same dear friends at a pizza parlor I went to from time to time while in graduate school. I have such fond memories of that place. I even went there on a date with my husband when he visited me in Louisville at the very beginning of our relationship.

Part of the reason I chose to take the girls there was that it was the only one of the places I frequented as a student that I thought would be somewhat family-friendly. But, I wasn’t entirely sure it would be, so I called in advance to make sure they would have a high chair and kid-friendly drinks. They did have high chairs but didn’t have anything but pop and tea (and alcohol) to drink. They said I could bring in my own milk though, so it was all good.

Lass actually said dinner at this restaurant was her favorite part of the trip.

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There were fun Halloween decorations all over, and she has talked about the big spiders and ghosts she saw there since we left.

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And the pizza was delicious. Brought back happy memories.

While I was getting all nostalgic, the girls were appreciating all the little things about the vacation.

They called this their “Fancy Breakfast” because of the french toast and milk in glass goblets.

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They got to watch TV in the mornings.

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And of course they had lots of goofy fun with Grandma.

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On Saturday afternoon we had lunch in a beautiful park that I never went to when I lived in Louisville. I don’t know why, exactly, except that I lived nearer to a different (and less pretty) park.

We had a fun picnic.

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It was pretty much entirely prepared by these ladies:

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Love them.

I had seen a weather forecast that said it might rain on Saturday, and my friend who determined our meet-up spot in the park said it was near a fountain, so I figured the girls would get wet. I brought changes of clothes and their raincoats/boots.

They were disappointed that I wouldn’t let them play too much on the play structures (they were kind of slippery, and honestly, though I didn’t mind them getting wet, I didn’t want to stand in the rain to supervise Sis on them) or at all in the cool fountain/splash pad area. I would have let them run in the fountain to their hearts’ content, except that there was another little girl (around 4 or 5 probably) running in the fountain for most of the time we were there. And she had no clothes on. None. She was naked as a jaybird. I had to explain to my girls why they couldn’t also run in the fountain without clothing, “Well, Honey, it’s just not appropriate to take your clothes off in public, so no, I’m sorry, we’re not going to do that.”

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But they did get wet and had a great time playing in the rain and puddles.

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I’m so happy I brought the rain coats and boots and the changes of clothes. Unfortunately, I forgot towels, so I had to dry them off with some spare fleece blankets I keep in the car. Not too effective, but we managed. It was worth it.

Saturday night I had a bit of difficulty getting out of the hotel to meet my friends for dinner. Sis chose that night to learn how to climb out of her Pack’n’Play. I put her down to sleep and was completing my preparations to leave when I heard my mom say, “Is she in her bed??” I said “yes,” of course. To which she replied, “Well, it sounds like she’s right on the other side of that door…”

She was.

She thought climbing out of that Pack’n’Play was just about the neatest. thing. ever. She did it two or three more times for my Mom after I left. And then I-don’t-know-how-many times between 4 and 6 am.

I was extremely panicked thinking she was going to start doing this at home as well, but she hasn’t so far. I will need to come up with a new sleeping arrangement for her for our upcoming deer-hunting trip to the Farm though.

I did manage to make it to dinner roughly on time and had a delicious meal with wonderful company.

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I was even in bed before midnight, which is a personal record for a night on the town in that city.

I lived in Louisville for four years, from the ages of 22 to 26. While I lived there I made many great friends, I earned a Ph.D., and I (amazingly) met my husband. I moved away from Louisville 11 years ago, and my life has changed immensely since living there, but the city remains very close to my heart as do the friends I keep from those years.

I was happy to experience it from a different perspective this time, with my kids.

And now I’m thrilled to be back home with my husband, doing our day-to-day thing, making memories in our family’s home town. It was really fun to walk down memory lane a little bit, and experience and old place in a new way, but I’m happy to cherish the little moments here and now with my family.

Fall Fun and a Girls’ Road Trip (Gulp)

Oh, how I love fall.

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We’ve been making yummy stuff.

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^^Check out my budding chef grating nutmeg on the microplane.

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They were so proud of their creation.

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I had a lot of fun making the caramel apples with them.

I unwrapped the little caramel cubes into a bowl and showed them to the girls. Immediately Miss knew we were going to make caramel apples.

I asked them if we should go ahead and dunk the apples in and they immediately said “Yes!”

So, we did. And naturally the “dunking” didn’t work out with the cold candies just sitting in the bowl.

I asked them what we should do. My favorite part of the process was this:

Miss’s eyes lit up and she said, “Mom! We could put. it. in. the microwave!”

Everyone got very excited, and there was some jumping and shouting about the brilliant solution. Miss was so proud of herself when we took it out and it had begun to melt. She kept saying, “Mom, I had a great idea, didn’t I?” Love.

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Later today we are leaving for a seven-hour girls’ road trip. We’re going to my old Kentucky home, Louisville. I lived there for four years while in graduate school and it remains one of my favorite places in the world. I’m meeting some of my dear old friends from my years there for a reunion, and we’re going to the St. James Art Fair. Can’t wait.

I must admit I’m kind of nervous about the trip. My husband has to work and can’t come with (my mom is meeting us in Lou to help me with the girls). I’ve never done a road trip of any length with them by myself. For inspiration, I’m reminding myself of my husband’s Aunt J, who drove an RV, by herself, with her five daughters to every state in the continental US when they were kids. I can do this.

Look out Louisville, here we come!

Nashville, a Basement Flood, and Rainy Day Play

Well. I haven’t written a real post in over a week. Sorry.

I’ll spare you the details of why I haven’t written.

Like the fact that I’ve spent several evenings this week cleaning up the mess left behind from water than got into our basement while we were out of town.

Of the fact that I spent one evening filling out an application to adopt a puppy from a local shelter. He was the perfect puppy found on petfinders.com (a mixed lab, husky, and mastiff, blue-eyed little guy), and I was convinced that I had to fill out the application right away so we would be able to get him. Only to realize the next morning, through discussion with the husband, that this is really not a good time for us to get a PUPPY. Duh.

Or the fact that my youngest child is barely napping more than 30 minutes a day.

Or the fact that, becasue I finished weaning Sis last week, I spent all of last evening sitting with heating pads on my boobs, alternating sides with heat and kneading out knots from clogged ducts. Ouchie. I was sort of successful, as I ended up with two big wet circles on my shirt (clearly didn’t think that one through ahead of time), but I’m still trying to get it all worked out.

Anyway. I now have a little bit of napping from Sis, so I’m trying like heck to get this post done before she wakes up.

A quick catch-up on our happenings:

Last week, I spent the most awesome 24-hour period ever. In Nashville. Over night. With my husband. My mom watched the girls. We splurged on a fancy hotel.

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Did I mention it was awesome?

We relaxed and went out for a nice dinner. Unfortunately it was slightly marred by the fact that the cab driver who took us to the restaurant was a “Too Much Cologne Wearing Man” and had apparently not only doused himself but also the seat of his cab with his chosen scent. I ended up with Eau de Bad-Man-Smell in my hair and on my dress (all I did was sit on the seat, I swear!), and my husband and I kept catching whiffs of it throughout dinner, making “ew, that stinks” faces, and then smelling ourselves, our hands, sleeves, etc., to try to figure out why the smell from the cab was still lingering. We both noticed it on our hands and made trips to the bathroom to wash, but it didn’t help. It wasn’t until we got back to the hotel that I thought to smell my hair and realized that I reeked of this guy’s cologne. And then I found that the back of my dress did too. Weird. And gross. And oddly sort of funny.

It was okay, though, since we got back to the hotel to find this lovely turn down service, complete with chocolate cookies that we were both too stuffed from dinner to eat.

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I have to admit, though I love to stay in a fancy hotel sometimes, I always feel very awkward around the staff of such places. I never know when I’m supposed to tip, how much, and how to do it. I always end up averting my eyes and shoving some wadded up bills roughly in the direction of the person to whom I want to show appreciation while grumbling, “Uh, thanks a lot” or something like that. I think I was a little better this time than the last time we stayed at this place (mostly because I made my husband tip the valets and wrote all other tips on receipts), but I still always feel like a total hick in these situations.

The best part of the trip? We slept in and woke up to a room service breakfast and leisurely morning.

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No one yelled, “I’m huuuuungryyyyyy!” No one spilled her milk. No one complained about the breakfast food offerings. It was lovely.

We topped off the day with a walk around downtown Nashville, some visits to art galleries, and lunch at a place called the Back Alley Diner.

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It was a funky little place with a fun atmosphere and very good food. It made me feel young and hip again. Yes, I was once young and hip…

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Our little side trip was an amazing perk of the visit with my parents. The girls did great while we were gone, as I knew they would, and I had some wonderful QT with my man.

It was a great visit with my parents. The girls had a great time, and they came home saying new things like “Doink” and “Big Honkin,'” as in “I doinked my head” and “Don’t take big honkin’ dragon bites [of food].” If you know my Mom, this will make perfect sense to you.

We were all sad to leave my parents’ house, but glad to be getting home.

Our travel day turned out to be a long one, with a flat tire on the way home and water in the basement once we got here.

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But we’ve had a wonderful relaxing week at home.

Lass has been saving up her allowance money and finally got to order her “Rody” toy. It came in the mail the other day and she was so excited.

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She has barely stopped bouncing on it and has even asked to take it to bed with her. I’m pretty easygoing about letting them take books and toys to bed, but I’ve drawn the line at that one.

So she bounces during nearly all of her waking moments.

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We brought up Miss’s Rody from the basement, which she got for Christmas two years ago from my in-laws. The games they are playing with these guys and the stories they make up are priceless.

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They even hold them during their special time watching “animal shows” with their Dad in the evening.

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The weather is still awful here. It’s snowing as I type this, and yesterday it rained all day. I used the weather as a good excuse for a lazy jammy day. We didn’t get dressed. We didn’t go anywhere. We did school in our pajamas, which the girls think is hilarious.

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And they played and played and played.

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Getting back into our home routine and hoping for better weather soon.

Happy weekend!