Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall Traditions

We had to buy new pumpkins this year.

Lindsey and I decided that zombie squirrels live in our neighborhood. They are zombies because they like to eat pumpkin brains.

Our pumpkins weren't carved, but that didn't keep the squirrels from eating right through them and making a feast of the pumpkin flesh and seeds.

So I bought a new pumpkin yesterday and we brought the survivors inside for carving.

While Lindsey loved getting up to her elbow in pumpkin guts, Marissa took a more conservative route.

Yes, those are rubber gloves.

After readying the pumpkins for carving we took a little walk with Dax to see the last of the fall colors. They were brilliant.


Then back in to see if the pumpkin seeds are done. They were warm and crisp from the oven.

Tomorrow will be the unveiling of the carved pumpkins. Nothing fancy, but lots of fun.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Evil Hair Days

Don't get me wrong, I love my curly hair. But sometimes it has a mind of its own.

And when it decides to go its own way, the results tend to turn out, well, evil.

Because when my hair misbehaves, it tends to resemble the hairstyles of various nemeses in books and movies.

Take this classic look, for instance.
Flattop, from Dick Tracy.
I achieved this one when I didn't pay attention while diffusing my hair one morning. I ended up with a bunch of curls on the outer sides of my face but the top of my hair was still flat.

Or this one.
Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in "No Country for Old Men"
This one I managed to create when I decided to straighten my hair one morning, but I don't have a really good flat iron to do so. I kid you not, my hair looked exactly like this.

And I've managed to achieve this look several times.

Cesar Romero as The Joker in "Batman"
Yes, my hair will curl this way, especially on its own while I'm sleeping. It's crazy and sticks out in all directions, and wobbles in one big wave when I move.

The good part of having curly hair is that most mornings I wash it, I put a little product in it and let it dry on its own. Half an hour later I add a couple of spritzes of hairspray to keep it from frizzing throughout the day and I'm ready to go.

But when my hair decides to be bad, it is evil.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Listening to Ourselves

Tonight when I picked up my youngest from school I noticed right away that she was wearing some borrowed pants. Sure enough, near the end of the day she had an accident because she didn't make it to the bathroom on time. This after having an accident at the roller rink a couple of weeks ago and nearly having an accident while apple picking. She clearly isn't listening to the signals her body is giving her about having to go before it becomes an emergency situation.

As we walked to the car we talked a little bit about listening to our bodies. I said how our bodies tell us when we're hungry, when we're tired, and also when we need to go potty.

"Mama!" she says fiercely, "Nobody is in my body talking to me!"

I couldn't help but laugh.

She then informed me how her stomach told her when she was hungry, and her eyes told her when she was tired. She even demonstrated how her eyes half close when she's tired. But apparently no one lives in her bladder, because her bladder doesn't talk to her.

"My body only tells me two things: when I'm hungry and when I'm tired."

I hope she figures this out, but in the meantime it was an amusing conversation.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween Festivities

This year, I had an awesome idea for a Halloween costume.

A little history first.

Four Halloweens ago I dressed up as Amy Winehouse. This was when she was at the height of her career, with hits on the radio and a Grammy under her belt. Shortly after she began making news for her unsavory drug habit, for which she eventually went to rehab. It apparently didn't take, because she was found dead of an apparent drug overdose on July 23rd of this year.

And thus my costume idea for this year.

My problem was that I had nowhere to wear it. So I decided to create a place to wear it, and hosted a Halloween party with a few friends.

We scheduled the party for this weekend, when my sister was visiting from Indiana. She arrived in Minneapolis on Tuesday of this past week and spent three days with our girls during a break from school. They had an amazing time, going to the Children's Museum, going shopping, making dinner for us in the evening. We were utterly spoiled by her presence.

And because Kristi is an amazing, outgoing person, she packed a costume and was ready for the party with people she's never met.

Back to my costume idea.

Here is the original, circa 2007.
(Damn blogger, won't let it display in portrait. Tilt your head and deal.)
And yesterday's updated look.

Yes, Amy's been zombified.

What do you mean I'm dead?
Other players of the party were:

Kristi, court jester.
Lindsey, big bad wolf in grandma's clothing.
Marissa, the wicked witch.

Wayne dressed as himself, though he did pull out the orange Monster Dash t-shirt that had a skeleton on the front.

The party was a smash, with princesses, ballerinas, witches and others running around the house and on the swing outside, while adults in various costumes nibbled on food and visited over a beer or glass of wine.
It was a great time. Who knows, if someone else famous that I can imitate dies next year, we may just have to do it again. I've got a whole stack of "undead" make up to use up.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Restaurant Night

What do you do when you have a frig full of meals?

You have restaurant night!

This restaurant night was very special, because it was organized by my sister, Kristi, who helped the girls make actual menus earlier in the day.

What is restaurant night, you ask?

This is our family's way of dealing with leftovers. All available meals become items on a menu that people can select. They are reheated in the kitchen by the "cook" and served by the littlest servers. It's been a great way to make leftovers a fun meal.

When it came time to run the restaurant, I got to be one of the patrons sitting down instead of the one in the kitchen.

Why yes, you can take my drink order, thank you.

A serving of quinoa sounds delicious.

And dessert, compliments of Sweet Retreat? Yum!

What a fabulous meal!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Dog's Guide

I like to call him our first-born.

After all, he was born in 1998, a whole 5 years before either of our daughters, neither of whom know life without him in it.

I wrote a while ago about how he has an eye problem which requires an expensive surgery, one we have opted not to do. His quality of life is impacted, but as long as his eye condition is controlled with medication and drops, the condition is not painful nor life-threatening. This is what we've chosen to do, for as long as we can.

One day this past week Dax awoke early and wanted to start his day. I could hear him snorting and sniffing for attention from his sleeping companion, my daughter. Before he could wake her I got up and carried him to the top of the stairs, then set him on the floor to walk down the stairs, like he usually does. I started down the stairs but he didn't follow me. I looked back to find him sniffing and searching for the top step, reaching a paw uncertainly in front of him to try to feel his way.

I carried him all the way down the stairs and to the side door. I set him on the floor again and opened the door, only to have him not find his way out the door. On and on this went until eventually I had to carry him out to the back patio for him to relieve himself, then carried him back in. He found his breakfast by smell, and then found his way to the rug for his treat by routine alone.

It was pitiful. And thankfully it was temporary.

Once the day got started and more lights were turned on, his vision seemed to return and he was able to move around again with confidence. I can only guess that his limited vision is impacted by low light levels, and returns once there is more light.

He has always been a companion dog, preferring his humans to being alone, but he is more so now. He follows me around constantly, mirroring my every move as I go up stairs and down, cooking or doing laundry, or putting the kids to bed. If I am sitting in a chair he can access he will jump up and make himself comfortable right next to me. If he can't sit next to me, he will stand or sit near my feet.

I have come to realize that I am my dog's guide. I hope I am a good guide in the autumn of his years.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apples vs Pumpkins

Our family trek to Afton Apple this year to pick apples was taken over by pumpkins.

Did you know that when four people pick you can fill an apple bag to the top in about 5 minutes? And our time among apple trees was cut short by Marissa's announcement the minute we were dropped off in the orchard that she had to go potty -- immediately. This after refusing to go potty before we left the house, at the Subway we had lunch at on the way there, or at the main entrance of the apple orchard when we first arrived.

We miraculously made it back to the main building in time and then were able to enjoy the rest of the day. There were hay bales to climb on, a petting zoo, and a playground partially made of farm equipment.

There also was a pumpkin patch, where the girls spent lots of time picking out the perfect pumpkins.

Lindsey fell asleep in the car on the way back, and took a nearly two-hour nap once we arrived home. She awoke in time to eat my favorite fall meal: stuffed pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy, followed by a piece of homemade apple pie.

It was a great way to spend a beautiful, crisp fall day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

These Warm Autumn Days

Saturday morning.

Sunday morning.
Yes, the leaves did eventually get raked up and bagged. And by the next morning you couldn't tell.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chloe's Fight: Worth Running For

Some of my friends were looking for a race to do together this fall. For fun, you know. Because some people do that. Not usually people I know, but I must've fallen in with the wrong crowd. of my friends knows a board member of a nonprofit called Chloe's Fight. At the same time, my friend Anita's sister has been deeply involved in organizing Chloe's Fight's first 5k fundraising event. This was destined to be the run for us, so we all signed up.

The ladies -- husbands and children roaming elsewhere.
A little about Chloe's Fight: It is a nonprofit created by Phillip and Erica Barnes to honor their daughter Chloe, who died at age 2 from complications from metachromatic leukodystrophy, or MLD. MLD makes the myelin sheath covering the nerves in the brain slowly degenerate, resulting in loss of gross motors skills to loss of mental capacity, and is usually fatal.

All proceeds from the run will be directed to one of two research projects, one of which is being conducted at the University of Minnesota.

In speaking to Anita's sister, they had only 100 runners signed up until the week before the run, when 300 more people signed up. They ultimately ended up with 500 runners and raised more than $16,000 that day.

The best part? Anita was there, donating her artistic talents to solicit more revenue at the event. She did henna art and glitter tattoos for the kids.

So after completing the 5k in record time (for me, that is), I cut in line in front of a whole bunch of kids to get henna.
Actually, Anita had a break in her littlest customers so I could take my turn.

Anita does amazing work, all free hand. One of her goals in life is to go to India and study with experts in the art of henna. I'm sure some day she'll get there.

Oh yeah, my "record" time? I completed the race in 33 minutes and 34 seconds, or a pace of 10:49. Running usually causes extreme pain in my left knee (one of the reasons why skating is my sport). My knee will miraculously stop aching the minute I stop running: I take that as a sign that I shouldn't run. My knee didn't start aching until the 2 1/2 mile mark, so it was the fastest 5k I've done.

It was an incredible day, filled with friendship, beautiful weather, a good run and a great cause.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Picture Day

Around here, every day is picture day.

Our girls are accustomed to my pulling out my camera about every other day. They make their own videos on our iPad. They mug and preen and pose.

But today was picture day at school, not at home, and that made it special.

Lindsey made a check list last night of things to do to get ready for it: Set alarm. Get dressed. Comb hair.
Marissa, on the other hand, picked out her clothes the night before and slept until 7:38 so that she would be well rested for her big photo shoot. We let Marissa wear a fancy dress that she's wanted to wear to school other days but we don't let her.

Of course, I had to take pictures before the pictures, because the girls made such an occasion of this day.

I can't wait to see if the actual pictures turned out.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Twin Cities Marathon

I had the easy part -- I stood in one place and cheered.

Twelve thousand runners, on the other hand, were out to put 26.2 miles behind them.

Wayne and I both knew lots of people who were running it and I wanted to head down to the course to cheer some of them on. Wayne stayed back with two sleepy girls, while I packed up a coffee and a cowbell and headed out on my bike.

If you've never witnessed or cheered at an endurance event, please find an opportunity to do so. You will find inspiration.

There was the guy whose shirt said "90 days chemo-free." There was the older gentleman whose shirt read "I'm 60: first-time marathoner." There were tons of shirts for DetermiNation (American Cancer Society), Team in Training (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society), JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund) and a host of other charities literally raising money on the backs of their supporters.

We knew a few people who were running with others to help them reach their marathon goal, be it 3 hours or 5 hours. A friend we met through Wayne's Minnesota Running Wild group paced a group of first-time marathoners to their very first finish. I saw a man running who looked about 50 pounds overweight, but there he was running along with everyone else.

A middle-grader, who was there to cheer on his uncle, pulled out his trumpet and sheet music and began alternately playing the theme songs from Rocky and the Star Wars. The best part was that he clearly is in second chair, so he didn't play the melody but the harmony in the songs. Obviously entertaining to the runners, who were smiling and laughing as they ran by.

Every time a pace group went by I was amazed by the crowd of runners. How do they run this close together? And people thought I was crazy for drafting while skating!

I couldn't believe the water stop at mile 7 -- I have never seen so many people lined up holding our cups of water. The ground was littered with so many cups I was surprised runners weren't slipping and falling down.
Only half the water stop -- I couldn't get all the volunteers in one shot.
After the majority of the crowd had passed by I took off on my bike and hit Caribou to pick up some freshly ground coffee to re-stock our kitchen, then biked home. I had to stop along the way, though, to capture some of the beautiful fall colors.

I got back home an hour and a half later to find two girls still parked in front of the TV, snuggled up under their covers. I managed to tear them away with a homemade breakfast of french toast, scrambled eggs and sausage. What a wonderful way to start my day.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Where else but at the Renaissance Festival can you find fairies, burlies and jousting, all in one place?
Our family managed to spend 7 hours there on Saturday. We listened to singers. We heard and saw silly actors and actresses in various hijinks. We yelled "huzzah!" upon request.

The girls got special facepainting and we ran into one of Lindsey's friends there, which was lots of fun.

We made a special purchase for both the girls of a Renaissance dress, which both of them plan to use in various ways as Halloween costumes. They spun and twirled around all day long, glowing under the compliments of passersbys who said how beautiful they were.

What a wonderful way to spend the first Saturday in October.