Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Fun

Our weekend was filled with Halloween fun, starting with a party Saturday afternoon, followed by another Saturday evening. And then of course, there was Halloween evening itself, trick-or-treating with friends.

This was the first year that Lindsey wanted to be something other than a princess of some sort. She chose to be a witch and on an impulse I had bought green make up, in case she wanted to be greenified. She did, and I happily obliged. It turned out awesome; incredibly green, very thick and definitely smudge-proof. She let me get it all around her eyelids, up onto her ears, all down her neck. We had lots of fun doing it and she looked great, though I had not thought through that we'd need to get it all off in all the places that I'd put it, so it took a while for her to bathe tonight.

Marissa was a pirate, this time by choice, unlike the costume we bought for her when she was two. She remembered the pictures of her as a pirate girl and Wayne dressed as a pirate as well, so he also pulled out the pirate costume so they could match.

Saturday afternoon we went to our friends house where kids and adults were invited to dress up. Lindsey and I were matching witches, Marissa and Wayne were matching pirates. The kids tried bobbing for apples for the first time in their lives and got to watch the Michael Jackson Thriller video.

Lindsey and I went to her friend's party later on that evening, where the 3rd floor had been turned into a haunted house. Lindsey didn't brave it but I heard reports from other kids that it was fantastic. At this party she mastered apple bobbing and managed to secure two of them.

Then, of course, Halloween day itself was far too long. The time went by too slowly; evening couldn't come soon enough. And finally it was time to begin putting on costumes, putting on make up and taking pictures.

Marissa and her friend Sophia literally ran from house to house, while Lindsey and her friend Ellie took their time, knowing that the houses weren't going anywhere and they would still be there to give out candy. The weather was perfect -- no one wore a coat, though Lindsey did opt to go back to get mittens at one point. Neighbors were out in full force with several firepits going, people dressed up to hand out candy and jack-o-lanterns lighting the way.

Lindsey and her friend opted to do one more block, and for the first time since we moved into this neighborhood we went one street over to hit another block. It made me realize how incredible our street is. In comparison, several houses were dark on the next house, and none of the candy-handers were dressed up.

I will soak up as many of these Halloweens as I can. If childhood is fleeting, Halloweens are even moreso.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fall Harvest Fun

Today I volunteered at Lindsey's fall harvest party. Back when I was a kid it would've been called the Halloween party, but no matter, it's an excuse to veer from the norm, put down the books and have some fun for a while.

Lindsey's room had four "stations" and I manned the craft station with other parents. We helped 26-some kids make ghosts out of paper plates. I'm not the craftiest mom around, but I managed to hold my own.

It was fun, it was chaotic, it was the fastest hour of my day. Lindsey loved having me in her class, and I loved finally putting faces to all the names she's always talking to me about.

It was over all too soon, and I gave her hugs and kisses before leaving. I was expecting some tears, but she was having such a good time with her friends that she was happy to say good-bye.

I then made my way to Marissa's class, where I knew her fall harvest party would be wrapping up. One of their stations was one of the funniest activities I've ever seen. They had a blue plastic pool filled with hay. They would then bury a rubber chicken in the hay and have the kids dive in to find it. It was hilarious and messy, something I didn't expect in a classroom.

I sat with Marissa while she listened to a book being read by a parent, and posed for a few pics before heading out to work.

Surprisingly, Marissa was the one who was all tears and hugs, not wanting to let me go. I was finally able to get away after promising to pick her up "at 5," as she put it.

I wish I could be there more often. As it is I will be volunteering in Marissa's classroom next, in December for their holiday party. That seems too far away right now.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A *Small* Declutter

I've been admiring the efforts of my friend Molly, who has decided to rid her home of 500 pounds of clutter. She is nearly there, with the last effort pushing her total up to 490 pounds of clutter removed from her home.

She recently posed a question to her blog readers, asking what one tip have readers taken away from her great de-clutter project. For me, that one tip is that it can be tackled one small area at a time.

I kept thinking of clutter as a big project, something that I needed to clear my weekend for, get a babysitter, call the garbage company and schedule an extra delivery. Not so, says Molly.

Take today, for instance.

I am home from work battling a sinus infection. I went to the doctor this morning and followed his directions exactly, including the "rest" part. So after waking from a 2-hour nap, I wondered if there was something else I could be doing with my time today.

I decided to tackle the upstairs closet, which usually holds toiletries for the family and other such supplies.

It became apparent that this needed attention after returning from our vacation last weekend, when I opened the closet door to put away the toiletries I'd packed with me on my trip only to realize there was no place to put them. How had I ever pulled them out of there in the first place? Where had they been sitting? Because there was no place for them now.

I resigned myself to throwing them in there on top of the other crap that had already collected there and tackle it later. Today was later.

I grabbed a garbage bag and began emptying.

Huh...cough syrup that expired in 2009. Infant Tylenol that expired in 2008. A mostly-but-not-quite empty container of body lotion, next to another almost-empty container of lotion. I always think I'm going to find a way to get that last little bit out but I never take the time to do it. Toss and toss.

I found four (count 'em, FOUR) different packets of 12-hour sudaphed, all of which had only a few pills left in them. I would always think we were out of stock and would get some more from the store. Apparently I did that four times, not including the time that I bought some on this past vacation, in an attempt to stave off the cold and ensuing sinus infection that I am currently suffering from. I consolidated all the pills into one box and tossed the other three boxes.

I found an industrial sized box of Lactaid pills, purchased when we thought Lindsey had a dairy allergy. My husband bought it at Costco, apparently thinking that 1) we would be able to get a 7-year-old to eat chalky pills and 2) that we would be dealing with this for a long time. Well, it turned out it wasn't a dairy allergy and now we have an open but mostly unused box of Lactaid pills. I didn't toss that -- I would like to figure out if we can find a way to give these to someone who can use them. The pills are in little packets; they would be perfectly good for someone else to use. If anyone has any ideas on what to do with my open but perfectly good Lactaid pills, I'm all ears.

Suddenly, I am at the back of the closet, which is still in its neatness that it had when I last organized this behemoth a couple of years ago. Could it be? Was this truly just surface clutter that we had piled in front of the actual supplies that we needed?

It was indeed. Now we suddenly can see all of the supplies that we have, all lined up in their little areas. Tooth care products in one area, eye care in another, lotions and sunscreen in another.

And, miracle of miracles, you can actually see the bottom of the shelves, where we could put MORE supplies if we ever found ourselves in need.

Unlike Molly, the consummate blogger who takes pictures all along the way, I only took a photo of the final neatness. And perhaps it doesn't look too neat in photographs, but you should've seen the before picture! And I am not weighing the clutter that I'm throwing out.

Total time?

Twenty minutes.

Maybe this weekend I'll find an extra half an hour to tackle the pantry. If I do, I'll be sure to take before pictures!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vacation Diet Tips

The only picture of our entire family on our vacation, not that I think I look extraordinarily skinny or anything, I was just usually behind the camera.
I know, I have nothing to say when it comes to dieting or losing weight. I've never officially been on a diet in my life. This makes me very fortunate. I was also very fortunate to have managed to drop a couple of pounds during our vacation to Florida last week. This is not the norm for most people, I know, but I have a few secrets that helped this happen, and I thought I'd share them with you.

1. First, vacation somewhere where the food is ridiculously expensive. This will keep you from wanting to order a lot of food, because in your head you are adding up how much it will cost you and will decide against ordering at all. Never ever vacation at an all-inclusive resort. While cheaper, you will eat and drink everything in sight.

2. Take your children to parks where the food is even more expensive. That way, when the family gets hungry you'll order only enough for them and will only eat whatever they have left over, if anything.

3. Wear a two-piece swimsuit to the pool that you probably shouldn't be wearing. Anytime you think about ordering some apps, imagine how you would look with a fully tummy in said two-piece. 'Nuff said.

4. When going out to restaurants, be sure to have a child along with you who will need to use a potty when you are halfway through your meal. There is a good likelihood that when you get back to your table the waiter will have taken your half-eaten meal, thinking you were done. Because apparently now you are.

5. Another tip while dining with children -- make sure you have to help them wipe themselves when they need this mid-meal potty break, because at this point in parenthood you are so far away from diapers the idea of accidentally touching poop makes you sick enough to lose your appetite, even if you had a meal to eat still waiting for you back at the table.

6. Drink lots and lots of water -- it keeps you full so you don't realize how little you've eaten. Use the calories you saved by not eating food to indulge in a margarita or two at poolside. Make sure these are expensive too; that way you won't order too many.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Cook Can't Win

After cooking the same 10 recipes for approximately 15 years of our married life, I've decided that I need to try some new ones.

Unlike early on in our marriage there are now more people to please, not just two adults. We now have two little ones, one of whom is a self-selecting vegetarian, and the other who can live off of burgers, pizza and pasta. Last week's vacation proved both these points out.

So a couple of weeks ago I tried a recipe called Chicken A La Impress Me from AllRecipes. The summary is that you roll up chicken breasts with cheese, ham and julienned carrots and zucchini and bake them.

As I am pounding the chicken breast flat so I can roll them up, the self-selecting vegetarian comes up to me and asks me where chicken comes from. She suddenly makes the connection that the chicken that we eat is the same as the animal that has feathers and lays eggs.

"You mean, this is an animal?" she says.

Yes, but a delicious animal.

"So do they have to kill it to eat it?" she asks. "How do they kill it?"

"That is a good question," I say, "And one you should ask your father; he used to live on a farm."

She comes back in after a while and observes me putting the ham on the chicken.

"Mommy, is ham an animal too?" she asks.

Despite her doubts, the chicken was a huge hit with the kids. They think it looks delicious, they love the carrots in them, and they both gobble it up.

I ask my husband how he likes it; he shrugs his shoulders and says, "It's chicken." recipe.

Last night I dug up a recipe for a crock pot beef stew -- according to the author, she tested several versions before her boyfriend finally gave his approval on this recipe. So I decided to give it a try. Last night I did the prep work, and this morning before leaving for work I turned the crock pot on and left for work.

We came home to a house that smelled ah-maz-ing.

We dug in, and I got a huge thumbs up from the husband. He LOVED it.

The girls, on the other hand, wouldn't touch it. Lindsey at least tried it, I will give her credit for that, but she didn't like it because the carrots weren't crunchy, like fresh ones.

The self-selecting vegetarian, on the other hand, ate a good dinner of grape tomatoes, fresh carrots, yogurt and strawberries.

Now it's your turn -- what are your family's favorite recipes? Please share -- anything that your kids and spouse will eat. Help a cook out.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Our Future! (as predicted by Spaceship Earth ride)

This was the video that played at the end of our Spaceship Earth ride. Lindsey laughed so hard she cried.

They were right 9 years ago when we visited, let's see how this prediction holds. I know that cars that drive themselves already exist, they just aren't hovering in the air quite yet.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Double Dipping Epcot

I need to go back to Monday, our magical day at Epcot.

We left the park around 4:00 with two exhausted but happy little girls. I wanted to return that evening to take in the final celebration that they do when the park closes, called IllumiNations. When I was last here about 10 years ago, it was a dynamic and exciting parade that wound all through World Showcase, the section of Epcot that highlights all the different countries. They have since changed it to a laser and fireworks show on the lagoon, but I was sure it would be just as exciting.

Since Marissa doesn't like the loud sounds of fireworks, I convinced Lindsey to come back to the park with me for this adventure. She was tired but dragged herself out for it, just for her mommy.

We got there with time to spare, and I was able to convince her to go on the Spaceship Earth ride, which is within the huge globe at Epcot. It's a slow moving, educational ride about the history of communication, with a glimpse of what the future may hold. I was interested in how this would change since my last visit, because pretty much everything that they had predicted when I last visited in 2001 had come true. The "future" of communication as it was laid out 9 years ago was happening today, as evidenced by the smart phone I carried in my purse and the skyping that people do to keep in touch.

At first Lindsey was scared by the darkness and the animated people. And as with all things Disney, the animation was amazing. It was hard to believe that these were robotic pieces of latex and plastic, they looked so real. Then we got to the top of the globe, which is like being in a plantarium, except you're looking at the earth in space from what seems like a spaceship.

Then, for the return to earth and our "glimpse" into the future, the touch screen in front of us lit up and we answered questions about what we wanted to learn about in the future. It then showed us a little video with  photos of Lindsey's and my head as the faces of the characters in the video, doing all kinds of things in the future. Lindsey laughed so hard she cried. As we were exiting we saw a postcard of us surfing on futuristic surf boards on one of the big screens, and she thought it was the funniest thing ever. It was clearly a highlight of the day for her.

We then settled in for the fireworks and laser show. We ended up sitting in a section that didn't have the best view, but it was still incredible. Lindsey loved the show as well, but I think that the highlight was still the Spaceship Earth ride. It was a fun little adventure, just Lindsey and I.

The Definition of Wild Abandon

Also the definition of the word TRUST.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Has the Magic Kingdom Lost His Magic?

People who know me well knows I'm a glass-half-full kind of person. I try to see the positive, focus on the highlights, see the best in situations.

Perhaps my hopes were too high for today.

There is, after all, a lot of pressure once you get to Disney. For one, it's damn expensive. We spent more on tickets for two days of amusement parks for our family of four than we did on airfare to get to Florida. And when you spend that much money on a single experience, you want to eek out every piece of enjoyment.

Perhaps I had forgotten that I have children who don't do well with change, that a lack of a consistent routine throws them off. I had forgotten about Lindsey's lack of confidence in new surroundings, that she needs a long time to become accustomed to a new environment.

They whined.

They fought.

They cried.

They stomped off in frustration and anger.

I had to take Marissa out of our lunching spot to calm down after she hit me and told me she hated me.

They could not agree on what they wanted to do, so we spent time trying to decide what to do, and ultimately decided that they could not decide.

All day long we only made it on two rides. We talked about splitting up, so each girl could go with one parent and do what exactly what she wanted. But then they argued over which of them got to stay with the double stroller that we spent $31 renting for the day, knowing that if they'd walked the whole way they would've been even more tired and cranky. Looking back, I'm not sure that that was possible.

The biggest smile and "YES!" we got out of the day was when we told them we were leaving to go back to the pool at the resort.

And as we were leaving, they got into such a scuffle that it attracted the attention of all the other park goers around us, who shook their heads and sighed.

I am not sure what their own memories of this trip will be; only time will tell. As for me, I will look at my pictures, try to remember the good times and minimize the feeling of disappointment I've got right now.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Vacation Is About

Today is our second official full day of our vacation, and we spent the full day at our resort.

No driving to a huge amusement park.

No long lines of waiting for rides.

No paying $14 for sunscreen after forgetting our own back at our resort after flying it 800 miles with us, only to leave it in our room. (Ahem, anyway...)

No complaints of hotness, or crowdedness or tiredness from little girls and two adults.

Just fun, sun, and relaxation.

We're hitting one more amusement park tomorrow, and then Wayne and I will decide if we've got one more under our belt, or if we're throwing in the towel.

If not, the pool will be calling us for three of the five days that we're here. And that's just fine with us.
We heard there's another pool here, too. We may have to check that one out, too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Disney Epcot

Marissa: Mommy, I am NOT going to get my picture taken with any princesses today.

Me: Gee, that's not a decision you'll regret 10 years from now.

[sniggering from other parents within earshot]

Thankfully, Marissa changed her mind in time for our lunch with the princesses at Akershus, which was the Norwegian castle in Epcot. But we did run into Jasmine along the way, where Lindsey got her photo taken solo, since Marissa refused to get her picture taken with Jasmine and Aladdin.

The characters do a fantastic job with kids. Their voices sound so much like the voices from the movies. Perhaps it's just the intonation, or the words they choose to use. But our girls were enchanted and by the far best part of the day today was this lunch.

The girls were thrilled to meet Ariel.
Marissa informed Snow White that she dressed up as her last Halloween.
 This was not the same experience as when Wayne and I last visited, before-kids. We only went on two rides the entire day, but I spent a lot of time seeing the same bathroom, over and over.

"I do NOT have to go!"

[Ten minutes after returned from the bathroom with one girl.]

"Mommy Mommy, I have to go so bad so bad so bad!"

Wayne was smirking at me that we had two girls and no boys. He got to hang out and rest while I traipsed back and forth. Hmmm...not sure how fair that is.

I'm trying to convince Wayne to return this evening for the laser show and fireworks, but he claims his feet are tired and he needs a beer. So I'll see if I can convince one girl to go with me, the one who doesn't clap her hands over her ears at fireworks. I'll report back and let you know!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: A Reader is Born

Reading at Uptown Cafeteria while waiting for the check.

Reading to Marissa who was in the tub.

Reading near Lake Calhoun.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Autumn That Wasn't

This weather is crazy. Crazy, I tell you.

Who hits 87 degrees in October? Not Minnesota. At least not until this year.

Who wears summer dresses this month? My girls, apparently.

We had an amazing week and an even more amazing weekend. We've been given a reprieve before winter officially begins, so we've been soaking up every extra breath of sunshine and warmth. The windows are thrown wide open, capturing every minutia of fresh air before the cold settles in.

Flip flops and sandals have been pulled back out of closets and shorts have not yet been put away.

Yesterday I went rollerblading with a friend and she showed me a trail that goes through the Twin Cities that all the bikers know about, but apparently not the rollerbladers. (Those selfish bikers, trying to keep this route all to themselves...) It was the latest date of the year that I've rollerbladed in the 15 years I've been doing it. It was amazing: I can't wait to hit this trail more next summer.

Then the family went to Tin Fish at Lake Calhoun for dinner. It's an outdoor restaurant right on the lake. I waited in line for 35 minutes to order and when I got near the front I could finally see their "sold out" list: they had nothing. Literally nothing. They had cod and tilapia: no walleye, no salmon, no mahi mahi, no chicken, no burgers and finally, no fries. Good for them for having an incredible weekend so that they went through their inventory over the two beautiful weekend days. Bad for them for not putting the signs out farther from the window so you knew when you got in line that there was nothing there that anyone under the age of 10 would eat. Despite this, the place was packed; I knew they would do just fine if we walked away and took our business elsewhere.

Marissa and Lindsey entertained themselves while waiting to eat.
So...we drove down the street a little bit to one of Wayne's and my favorite new places: Uptown Cafeteria. We haven't been there together, mind you; he and I had both been there with friends for various happy hours. Its decor is reminiscent of a 50's cafeteria, but the food is excellent (AND relatively inexpensive) and you can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. I'm pretty sure you couldn't do that at cafeterias back in the day.
Love the rotating dessert carousel next to the hip bar.
They have huge windows along two sides of the restaurant that face the street. All the windows were wide open: no glass, no screens. How refreshing to have the outside come in while eating dinner. They also have a rooftop area that is incredibly welcoming and comfortable. We visited the rooftop before leaving; the girls thought the funny little seats looked like mushrooms and they had fun playing around on them.
Dinner automatically comes with a toy: a teddy bear with fairy wings.
Blue cotton candy for dessert. The Davanni's sign behind them is across the street, visible through the open windows.

It was a perfect end to a wonderful weekend, soaking up every minute of the gorgeous weather. It will be a big shock when autumn finally begins acting like autumn.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Dueling Bakers

A few weekends ago I was in the middle of making a batch of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies when I discovered that someone had been helping themselves to my chocolate chips, leaving me with a mostly empty bag in my pantry.

Since I was in the middle of the batch and had no intention of making cookies without chocolate in them, I began calling around to my neighbors to see if anyone had a bag I could use.

My first call was my next-door neighbor, even though I suspect she wouldn't have any on hand. She is all of 100 lbs even though she's 5 ft 7, she can't possibly always stock her pantry with chocolate like I do. I ended up leaving her a message and eventually secured a bag from a different neighbor.

"Why'd you call her?" my husband asked. "She doesn't bake." Well, we can always hope...

A few hours later I saw her in the backyard, and she informed me that she didn't have any to spare, at which point I shared with her my husband's sentiments that she probably wouldn't. "Hey now!" she said, "I do TOO bake!"

A week later she proved it.

She left on our doorstep the following package.

Note the use of pre-made, pre-cut sugar cookies. Awesome.

Much to my husband's surprise, a stash of obviously homemade cookies (two kinds, mind you!) were under the pre-made ones, and they were delicious.

This is Lindsey's hand, pretending to grab a handful of cookies.
 So we've been proven wrong. I think next we'll accuse her of never cooking and see if we can get a dinner out of the deal.