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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It's a Small World

Lass Dumbo ride Miss Dumbo ride

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.

All girls and Merida

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!

A Wrestling Meet, a Birthday, Some Great-Grandparents, and Disney World

Warning: This post has a lot of photos in it.

I can’t help it. We are on vacation, and in the past week we’ve watched a cousin compete (and win 5th place!) in his HS State Wrestling tournament, had a birthday (and multiple parties), taken a plane ride, visited a great-grandpa and then a great-grandma (in different cities), and gone to Disney World. We’ve been in Iowa and all over the state of Florida. These events and their corresponding photos should have been put into several different posts, but we’ve been adventuring, and I haven’t wanted to stop to take the time to post before now. Here’s a little glimpse of the first half of our vacation.

Last Friday we got to watch part of the Iowa High School State wrestling tournament from a box. It was great for the girls to be able to watch their cousin’s semi-final qualifying match and then play cards or read or color at a table in the box the rest of the time. They really got into the excitement of cheering for their cousin, whose match was very exciting, and the other wrestlers from his team.

On the day we went to the tournament I asked Miss at bedtime, as I do every night, what her favorite part of the day was. She said it was watching her cousin wrestle.

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On Saturday we had a Snow White themed birthday party for this girl who turned four.

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It was a great party, with lots of family and fun, though I kind of spoiled the opening of her one present she has been asking for for weeks. She really wanted a Merida doll and I was so excited to give it to her. I kind of get into the present opening part of a birthday for my little ones, and I love watching their little faces light up and taking pictures as they exclaim over opening just what they wanted. Well, Miss went over and started opening her gifts while I was still feeding her baby sister and tending to Lass after her cupcake. When I realized it, mid-open, I hollered, “Honey, wait! Wait! WAIT!!” She didn’t wait. I didn’t get a photo of her opening the gift. I made an annoyed face at her when she didn’t listen to me. Though I recovered myself and told her “I was sorry for yelling but had wanted to be with her and take her picture while she opened her gift,” the moment was already spoiled. This is the photo I did get of her and her much-anticipated Merida doll. I felt like a total jerk.

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We regrouped though, and she has been enjoying her doll.

Note to self – a photo is never that important.

On Sunday we flew to Florida.

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I got headphones for the girls and packed their backpacks with their Leap Pads and Tag readers, books, puzzle books, coloring books, and crayons in a travel soap box. Lass thought the head phones were quite cool, though she wasn’t exactly sure how (or what) to plug them in.

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The flight was fairly painless. The girls did a great job.

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After we landed we got in our rental minivan and drove.

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First we drove two hours for a quick visit with Great-Grandpa C who lives in a veteran’s home. It was wonderful to see him, as well as my uncle and his wife, though sad to only be able to stay a short time.

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Next we got back in the minivan and drove two more hours to Great- Grandma B’s house. We spent the night and got up Monday morning (Miss’s birthday) to play with all sorts of fun stuff that my Gram had gathered and put out for the girls. Golf balls, plastic food container lids, baskets, and empty egg cartons were only a few of the things she pulled out to entertain my lovies for hours.

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They were in heaven with all the toys, and then she whipped up a “country breakfast” for us, complete with eggs, sausage, biscuits, gravy, and a huge bowl of cut fruit. Yum.

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She had tons of balloons that she blew up for the girls to play with and for Miss’s birthday celebration.

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Great-Grandma had a big to-do for Miss’s actual birthday with pizza and cake and ice cream.

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Baby sis got her first taste of ice cream.

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We really had a wonderful time with my Grandma and my aunt and uncle (who live next door to her). My Gram really went above and beyond for my girls, which meant so much to me.

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We had a too-short visit with her before hitting the road again for two more hours to head to Disney World.

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We checked into our hotel and played for a while before dinner. The “playground” at our resort was pathetic. It consisted of lots of fake rocks and coral and three small slides. The girls had fun sliding and running anyway.

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Then we headed out for a birthday dinner,

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and back in for an early bedtime.

Miss got this “nighttime gown” like Wendy’s from Peter Pan for her birthday. She loves it. I got it from Esty (I love Etsy) here.

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The girls watched the Disney bedtime story on the TV and we went to bed early to get ready for our big day at the Magic Kingdom.

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On Tuesday:

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We did the Magic Kingdom.

Tea Cups (one of my favorites):

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Casey Jones splash pad area, which was clearly the favorite of the girls:

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As an aside, I love these dresses, and so do the girls. They’re another Etsy find. You can get them here. They were perfect for wearing to Disney, and the girls also wore them to Miss’s party on Saturday. They were cool and comfy (I saw lots of little girls in big puffy dress-up dresses who looked hot and uncomfortable), washed up very easily, and my girls can wear them any day. The girls got drenched in them twice and they dried quickly and were no worse for wear.

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It’s a Small World:

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A few other rides, and then it was time for lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

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We had a nice lunch, with excellent food and service. The girls liked seeing the princesses. Each of them said Snow White was her favorite.

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My favorite was Ariel. She really tried to talked to them (though they were a bit shy), rather than just signing her autograph and posing for photos.

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She was even attentive to Sis.

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The girls got magic wands and made wishes during the “Wishing Ceremony.”

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And we had another little birthday celebration (she always plugs her ears during the Happy Birthday song!).

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Afterwards, all they really wanted to do was to go back to the splash pad. So we did that for a while, got a few souvenirs, and hit the road.

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It was only 3 when we took the ferry back to the parking lot, but the girls were totally worn out.

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I have to say, I was pitifully unprepared for all the little tricks of the Disney park experience. I had done a bit of Pinning, read up on a few things, and gotten a couple of apps on my phone, but was totally crushed by the huge crowds and immensity that is the Magic Kingdom. It was extremely crowded, which made it all the more overwhelming. In about five and a half hours we went on four rides (Prince Charming’s Magic Carousel, Dumbo, Mad Hatter, and Small World), played in the water, had lunch with the princesses, and picked out a few souvenirs. The rest of the time was spent wandering around trying to figure out where to get fast passes (most of them were not located right outside their rides, which seemed quite stupid to me), trying to find the rides that we wanted, or waiting in line. We got one fast pass for the Little Mermaid ride but then just missed our window to ride it while we were having lunch with the princesses. We never even made it out of Fantasyland! I learned a lot though and will be much better prepared next time.

One of the highlights of the Disney day for me was that we ran into some friends of ours from when we lived in North Carolina. We haven’t seen them in almost five years, and yet there they were, shuffling along next to us in the crush to get through the entrance to the park. I’m still marveling that we saw them at Disney World, of all places. How likely is it to “run into” someone on a busy day at the Magic Kingdom? Amazing, but we did. And it was so fun to see them, even if it was only for a few minutes as we were herded through security.

For the past two days we’ve been relaxing at my in law’s house. Lass, Sis, and I all have yucky colds (which means unfortunately we can’t visit some of my friends we had planned to see while we’re here, because one of them can’t be around sick people). We’re still enjoying the warmth and soaking in the Vitamin D. Eventually I’ll post about the rest of our adventures. Tomorrow we’re going to the beach. Saturday we’re going home.

“Vacation” isn’t relaxing anymore since having little ones. But it is so much more fun.

 

 

Never Say Never – Thoughts on Homeschooling

Well.  I never thought I would be writing this post.  Though I suppose I should know by now that I ought not say I will never do something as a parent if I don’t know a whole lot about what that thing is.  That thing in this case is homeschooling.
I have historically had the typical concerns about homeschooling.  “Don’t homeschooled kids miss out so much on school experiences?”  “How can they be socialized?” And so forth.  My husband has at times suggested that we consider homeschooling, but I have resisted for these reasons.  Then recently I had a conversation with one of my brothers in law and his wife.  She is a teacher in 6th grade and he was telling me about what wonderful experiences she has had with homeschooled kids when they come into traditional school.  The conversation went on from there, and I’ll spare you the details, but it started me thinking.  And asking.  And reading.  And it turns out homeschool is way more than I thought it was.
So, what really prompted me to think I might want to homeschool our kids?  This:
 We watched lots of princess movies with Grandma, which sparked some awesome pretending.
And lots of other stuff I have posted about in the past few weeks as we have been traveling.  The photos in this post are from some of the other fun experiences (in addition to those I’ve already written about) my girls had while visiting my parents.  See, we don’t have any family living near us.  The closest family member is about a five and a half hour drive away, which is a little far for frequent weekend trips, and my parents live 10 hours from us.
My girls get so much from visiting with our families.  They get experiences at my parents’ house and at the Farm and in Iowa that could never be matched by the experiences they would get in a conventional school.  Not even close.  My husband is fortunate to have quite a bit of time off from his job, which allows us to visit the people we love.  The people my girls need to know and make memories with.  So, we travel.  But traditional schooling would put an abrupt stop to that as soon as Miss begins kindergarten.  The more I think about it, I’m just not willing to trade in the flexibility to travel and let my girls know their heritage, and all the other things they can and do learn from our trips, for conventional schooling.  I would if I thought that traditional school offered something truly valuable that they couldn’t get through homeschooling.  I used to think that it did.  But I’m learning that that’s not the case.
Don’t get me wrong.  I have absolutely nothing against traditional schools.  I’m not saying that homeschooling is necessarily better than regular schools.  I’m just saying that I have begun to realize that it is better for us.  I contacted another blogging mom, Katrina from They All Call Me Mom, to ask her about her experiences with homeschooling her kids (she has nine).  She was so helpful and gave me some great tips.
In fact, everyone I have contacted with questions about homeschooling has been exceptionally warm and kind and informative.  I have been able to find some local groups that I think will fit with the type of homeschooling I would like to do.  I’m reading some good books (right now I’m really enjoying “The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling” by Rachel Gathercole).  Essentially, I have reached the point where I feel confident that when the time comes for Miss to start Kindergarten, she’ll stay home with me instead.  It’s pretty exciting, actually.

I have a lot to learn.  And a lot to teach.  But that’s what moms do all day every day anyway, right?