Monday, March 29, 2010

Don't Say Cheese

I don't know why it is.

I always seem to forget.

The best pictures I capture

are the ones

when they don't even know I'm there.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Florida in [Lots of] Pictures

First time, toes in the ocean
Loving it
"And I'm not going to get out for the rest of the day!"
"OK, maybe I'll get out for some snacks."

Lunch.  With a view.
Lucy's first pool experience.  Clearly loving it as well.

"Mom's in the pool! Yipee!"

A kind stranger let William borrow one of their extra snorkels.  I'll give you a minute to recollect your composure.

Me.  With the kids.  At a bar.  Not quite that exciting though.  We were just waiting for our dinner to-go.

All the grandkids with Grandma.

My beautiful baby girl.  My sister said this could be Lucy's senior picture.

This was Lucy's first time on a swing by herself.  Last summer she was a newborn and it's been too cold in Minnesota yet to try it out.  This is when I discovered that my little lady is a total dare devil.

Dare devil action photo number two.  She was extra excited if I let go.

Chillin' with Grandma Nancy.  One of two of our excellent Florida hosts.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How I Flew with Two Kids by Myself

I have pictures that need to be uploaded and laundry that needs to be done, groceries that need to be bought and mail to be opened.

Such is the life post-vacation.

"I feel like I need a vacation after my vacation," I told Brian as we cleaned up the dishes last night from our Chinese take-out dinner.

But really everything in Florida was great, all things considered. We came back sun-kissed and rejuvenated.

More to come on Florida, especially photos, later. But for now let's talk plane.

If any of you have a plane trip scheduled with kids, call me first. I'm a total pro now. Especially if you're going to be the only adult.

When Brian asked me at baggage claim how our return flight was I told him I felt the sort of adrenaline high that a marathon finisher might feel.

I did it! I cannot believe I just did that. And I did it well. I'm awesome. I rock. When can I do it again?

OK, maybe not that last one so soon but everything did go smoother than I could have imagined.

I did cheat and borrow a portable DVD player. I know that in this day and age a DVD player isn't considered cheating but I still can't help but feel a bit like I'm taking the easy way out. I never grew up traveling with a portable electronic anything and somehow both my parents survived multiple trips with me and my siblings just fine.

Maybe if Brian or another adult were traveling with me I would have left the DVD player at home. But I knew if I could keep William still and quiet that I would have a probable chance of getting Lucy to fall asleep. And a well-rested Lucy truly is the key to enjoyable plane ride.

It turns out I was right. As soon as the pilot said OK to electronics I popped in one of those Donald Duck DVDs with the original cartoons. The kind that are made from actual hand drawings. Before Disney got all digitized.

Five minutes later I looked down and saw Lucy's eyes shut tight. It was a deep sleep. The kind with an open mouth and snoring. So sweet.

She woke up smiling and happy. And with a wet diaper. William had to go potty at the exact same time so we wandered to the back of the plane to tackle my biggest concern about flying. Which, to my pleasant surprise, ended up being the easiest part!

The flight attendants doted over Lucy while I took William into the restroom. Then it was Lucy's turn. The flight attendant informed me that the plane was not equipped with a changing station. So instead she opened two brand new plane blankets and spread them out on the floor by the food prep area. I put my changing mat on top of those blankets and voila. I got something that was probably a lot more sanitary than any baby changing station.

For the remainder of the flight I let Lucy bounce on my lap while she looked out the window at the fluffy clouds below. William made friends with two of the cutest little Russian girls next to us and together they played with his sticker book.

Before I knew it the four-hour flight was coming to an end. And we survived.

So, my top tips for flying with kids:

1. Be genuinely nice and appreciative. Especially to airline employees that seem particularly grumpy.

2. Stay cool under pressure and resist the temptation to feel rushed. Travelers always seem to have a sense of urgency. If you're late for a flight it's understandable. But for the most part it's unwarranted. You don't have to be lackadaisical about it all but it does pay off to be calm.

3. If you have a baby bring a stroller AND a carrier. Sometimes I needed to push Lucy. Other times, like through security, I needed to carry. But I always needed both my hands.

4. TREATS! If you're ever going to break the rules on too many sweets, now is the time. It will keep the kids happy and occupied on something they don't normally get to have.

5. Ask for help. I especially sought out other parents or an elderly person. These types of people are usually well-meaning and will have no problem to lend a hand. Most of the time they will even be excited to interact with your kids.

What's worked for you? What would you add to the list?

And now, not to leave you completely hanging, here's a few photos from my cell phone.
A little boy and lots of airplanes. 'Nuff said.

And this is where you could find William for about 75% of the trip.

My little beach baby.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Some Kind of Crazy

I surly must be at least a little bit crazy. Otherwise I would have never decided to do this, right?

But I call Minnesota my home year round so that already is cause enough to say I probably have a few screws loose. Living in Minnesota makes you a pretty hearty soul so I like that at least. But I digress.

Yes, it was 60+ degrees last week and yes,the sun has been shining a lot lately but...lest we all forget that just a few short weeks ago my backyard still looked like a scene out of March of the Penguins.

And so, against my better judgement and with a few lost marbles, I booked two tickets to Florida. Two tickets. As in, one for me and one for William. And a lap for Lucy. Sans Brian. Oh Lordy, what have I done?!

Once we get there it will be great. Sun. Pool. Ocean. Long walks. Sun. Sand. Seashells. And more sun.

And once we get home how great it will feel to be refreshed. Not just for me but for the kids too. We all need a change of scenery after this long, cold, snowfilled winter.

But ze plane! Ze plane!

Now let me remind you I'm no stranger to flying with kids. I've done it on four separate occasions. But those were babies. Newborns, to be exact. Easy peasy. Nurse, sleep, nurse, sleep, poop, nurse, sleep. Repeat. Easy.

But now I have a three-and-a-half-year-old and an almost-one-year-old. Whole new ballgame, folks.

I'm pretty confident about the trip there. My mom, bless her heart, will help with Lucy. And I'm pretty sure that William will be so excited to be on a huge airplane that his behavior will only be that of a super excited little boy. And if you haven't found that to be true in your own experiences please don't share that with me until after we've safely arrived home.

But the return trip. This is where I'll need prayers and extra servings of grace. I'll be flying alone with the two kids. Questions circling my head include: How will I fold and unfold the stroller without another adult to hold Lucy? How will I take William to the bathroom in those teeny tiny airplane restrooms while still holding on to Lucy? Will Lucy totally hit a brick wall if she doesn't fall asleep during the four-hour flight?

Of course, I knew exactly what I was getting in to when I booked the tickets. But at that time the thought of warm sunshine on my face may have cause a slight intoxication factor when it came to my decision-making skills.

Whatever the situation may be, we're leaving on a jet plane tomorrow. With Brian still at home makin' the money to make it happen. We love you, sugar daddy!

Maybe I'll blog, maybe I won't. We'll be on vacation, after all, so I'm letting my spirit move me in whatever direction it desires. And here's hoping William and Lucy's spirit moves them to sit still for four hours straight. Not holding my breath on that one.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Darling Little Sprouts

Just yesterday I was complaining to Brian that I was almost certainly positive that my thumb was brown.

You see, it had been two whole weeks since I planted my vegetable seeds. The package of seeds clearly stated that we should have seen growth between seven and ten days after planting. But all I had on days seven, eight, nine and ten were ten containers of black soil. No green anything.

"This kind of stuff NEVER works for me!" I said to Brian with deep, deep frustration.

Even William, who would wake up every morning to ask me if our seeds had grown, had become weary and bored and ceased asking any further questions about the matter.

But then today out of the blue during breakfast William asked about the seeds. They are placed high on a window sill and out of the way so he and I often forget about them during the day.

"Let me check," I said. Even though I knew there would be nothing because I had just taken a peak the night before.

But to my amazement there they were! Three containers with the cutest little seedlings you've ever seen.

"Come out little bean plant. It's springtime!"

Two bean containers and one zucchini have sprouted. I know it's only a 30% success rate so far but at least I have something to cheer on while I wait for the other seven to be brave enough to come out of the soil.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Swingin'

Yesterday it was 64 degrees. And that, my dear bloggy friends, is a record for the Twin Cities on March 14. Literally. We beat the old record by two degrees.

Of course there were the occasional nutcases who wore shorts and tank tops and flip flops and were surprised when they got to the local beach to find the lake still frozen solid.

But most of us were just content to open the sunroof in our car, take off our jackets, let the fresh air drift in from an open window, hold our head up to the sunshine, fire up the outdoor grill, or, like us, enjoy the tree swing in very own backyard.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Karma And A Few Minutes to Myself

I've mentioned before that on Tuesday mornings I need to be out of the house by 9 a.m. with both kids. And it's usually best if we're all dressed and fed, teeth brushed and hair not looking as if we just rolled out of bed. Though I admit that doesn't always happen. It's a crazy day but I can usually manage through with the help of a lot of coffee.

And guess what my wonderful hubby forgot to make this past Tuesday?

In our house Brian is the coffee connoisseur. There are two people in my life that can make a perfect pot of coffee at home. One is Brian, the other is my mom. I don't even attempt this feat on my own because it never comes out right.

So I growled a bit under my breath that morning when I saw the empty pot in the maker. But I made a dramatic recovery from my bitter attitude when I remembered I had a coupon to my favorite coffee shop. "A free drink on us for your birthday!" the coupon shouted.

Perfect. The shop's right on my way so I'll swing in, swing out.

When I pulled the car into the parking lot I thought that surly it must be my lucky day because there was a spot right in front of the entrance. From my car I could see that only one other person was in line. Just this once, I thought, I'm going to leave both kids in the car for three minutes. I'll have a clear view of the car from inside the shop and really, how long could it take?

"Buddy," I say to William, "I'm going to get some coffee. You wait in the car with Lucy for just a few minutes, OK?"

"OK, mommy."

I turned off the car, grabbed the keys and locked the car doors on my way in.

I hand my birthday coupon to the cashier and order a medium hazelnut latte with skim, please. Skim, because, you know, I don't want to go overboard or anything.

The lady looks at my coupon and then asks if today is my birthday.

Crap, I think, is it only good on my actual birthday? I thought I had a week, at least.

"Yes. Yes, it is," I lie.

Two days late, who's counting? I wasn't trying to cheat the system. I didn't print out 40 of these coupons to use. I just wanted my one free drink. One white lie. Who's it gonna hurt?

But that karma. It will always come back to bite ya.

The barista gets to work on my coffee and I browse through the morning headlines on a stray newspaper nearby clearly enjoying my freedom if only for two minutes.

"Medium hazelnut latte with skim?" the man announces.

I look up from my newspaper and nod. I smile and say thank you even though I'm a little sad that my kid-free moment has come to an end so quickly.

When I open the door to the leave the store my ears are suddenly struck with a loud, "HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK!"

"Whose car alarm is going off ?" I wonder.

I look over at my car and realize, much to my dismay, that my car is the culprit.


I frantically search for my keys and, with unsteady fingers, click the unlock button way too many times to signal that there is, in fact, no need for my car to be alarmed.

I open the driver side door to the sound of wailing from both my kids.

"MOMMY!" my son screams at me, "That loud noise scared me!"

"I know honey," I try to console, "I'm really, really sorry buddy. That was mommy's fault."

William outgrew his carseat a few weeks ago and the new one we purchased for him allows him to reach the buttons on his door. Thank goodness for the invention of (a) childlock handles and (b) window locks. But he curiously flipped his door's lock button back and forth thus triggering the alarm because I had already locked the car from the outside. These cars are too smart nowadays, I tell ya.

But is it really the car's fault? Probably not.

So what can we learn from this lesson?

One, it is so a figment of our imagination that we, mothers, could ever have a true kid-free moment. Let your guard down for just a few minutes and see what happens. If you don't believe me ask any mother how she goes to the bathroom when she is at home alone with her children. The answer is either at record-breaking speed or with little people tugging at her sleeves all the while she's trying to do her bizness.

The second lesson learned is to never, ever tell a lie even if it is only a white one. The universe will always strike back bigger and better.

Silly Pics of the Day

Mr. Potato Head come to life!

Problem Solved: How to carry the laundry basket and my 10-month-old up the stairs.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Purse That Wasn't But Then Was

Way back in the land before kids I sorta, kinda had a purse obsession.

I would buy them here and there and switch them out frequently. To match my outfit. To match the season. To match my mood.

I never spent very much on my purses. So it wasn't a designer purse obsession, it was just a whenever-I-see-a-cute-purse-I-must-have-it kind of obsession.

But then I got old and had kids. Not necessarily in that order. And switching out purses took too much time. And all those cute handbags I had seemed way too small for the amount of things I needed to be packin' when I was plus baby.

I still loved me some cute handbags but now I was more practical about it. It had to be big. Not huge. Just good-sized, let's say. And it had to be better quality. I only switched purses about once a year now so I needed it to last. I still wasn't in the market for a designer purse but I could afford to spend a little more on a purse that wasn't going to fall apart.

OK so now we're at the meat of the story. You were wondering where I was going with this, weren't you?

A few weeks ago I found myself inside Marshall's. I was supposed to go to Macy's but I passed Marshall's and so I made a quick stop. I was in need of new sheets for William's bed and new pillow cases for our bed. So how I wound up in the purse section is really quite mysterious.

But there I was with this beauty staring back at me.

The only problem was that this was a designer handbag. It was half the price of its original retail value. But even that price was still twice as much as I was willing to spend on a purse.

After carrying that purse around the store for eons I decided that I could not, in good conscience, spend that amount of money on a purse. I thought about how many groceries I could buy with that amount of money. Or how many gallons of gas I could buy for our car. Or what that money would cover in a month's worth of bills.

Being a mom has made me so practical. And practical is sooo boring. But somebody has to take the burden so I guess it'll be me.

Fast forward a few weeks: I could not, for the life of me, stop thinking about this stupid, but oh-so-beautiful purse. The soft feel of its genuine leather. The perfect size of its interior. The just-right length of its strap. The not-too-bright but not-too-soft greenish color.

I think I believed that this purse was fated to be my lover for all of time.

Yesterday was my birthday. It fell on a Sunday this year so instead Brian planned something special for Saturday. My Birthday Saturday, as he called it.

My brother was slated to come over and Brian and I had the afternoon and evening all to ourselves. We went shopping, among other things. We were supposed to go directly downtown but when we got in the car I asked if perhaps we could just swing by Marshall's real quick. And because it was MY Birthday Saturday, he agreed.

I walked in the store and briskly marched back to the purse section. There it was was! My lover was still there waiting for me.

"Get it," my other lover named, Brian, said.

No discussion. No back and forth. No pondering. Brian's not a careless spender. But he knew I wanted it and he knew it was my Birthday Saturday, after all. Plus, I think he was sick of me whining about it.

Being practical is good. But allowing ourselves to spend a little extra every once in a great while is pretty good too. And I can't tell you how happy it makes me to slip that beautiful, green purse over my shoulder whenever I leave the house.

So that's how I got the purse that almost wasn't.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Little Yogi

Would you look at this girl?!

Lucy doesn't crawl forward yet, or maybe never. But she does crawl backwards allowing herself to get anywhere and into anything that her mischievous little heart desires.

But when she's not crawling she likes to get into a downward-facing dog yoga pose of sorts. It alternates between that and plank position. Brian and I timed her last night after baths and she was literally in this position WITHOUT PUTTING HER KNEES DOWN for more than five minutes.

Her little arms shake. She rocks her bottom up and down, back and forth. But still, she refuses to give in and let herself get down until she's ready.

Determined little stinker, this one is.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

When did I get so crunchy? I don't know but it feels pretty good.

You know there's a name for people like me. We're called crunchy conservatives. And I think I fit the description almost to a tee.

I, personally, don't think environmental efforts should be a government's number one priority when it comes to spending. But I do believe that each of us should be responsible about what we know for sure.

As a family we recycle everything our city allows. We actively try to reduce our use of disposable items and I'm constantly reminding everyone to turn off the lights, television and other electronics when not in use. I like using products that aren't loaded with chemicals and I've recently taken an interest in organic foods.

Organic food choices can be confusing. Even a seemingly easy list to follow like the Dirty Dozen gets confusing. One year the tomato is listed as "Dirty" and the next it moves over to the "Clean" side. What gives?

It seems the only clear way to really know what's going in your body is to grow it yourself. This spring and summer I'm going to give a vegetable garden the old college try. Bonus: It's a great project to do with a three-year-old.

Since my backyard is still full of that white stuff and that beautiful fertile soil here in Minnesota is still frozen solid, I decided to start a few seeds indoors.

I bought potting mix, a few of those biodegradable planters and some seed packets. (Does it matter that the potting mix only shows flowers on the package? Is there a special package for vegetables? If so, I couldn't find it.)

I let William pick out three vegetables and he chose cherry tomatoes, green beans and zucchini. I also bought a basil packet because we go through a lot of basil and buying basil at the store gets pretty spendy.

Using just toothpicks, tape, paper and a Sharpie I made some easy labels.

William and I filled each container with soil and then planted a few seeds in each one taking care to follow the directions on the back of the seed packets. Then we watered and labeled each container.

See? Pretty and organized. I put this tray on a window sill that gets a lot of afternoon sun. After the danger of frost has passed (usually mid May in Minnesota) we can plant these containers directly in the ground.

William woke up this morning and asked if the seeds had grown yet. I can already tell this is going to be a good lesson in patience as well as a whole gamut of other things.

I put the word out on Facebook that I wanted to start a vegetable garden and asked which veggies were the easiest to grow. Based on the comments I received I'm thinking about adding lettuce, carrots, peas and maybe some peppers.

Have you ever tried a vegetable garden? What worked and what didn't? Please share any tips you might have. I don't have much of a green thumb. It's more of a yellowish color. But I'm hoping I can learn.

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

I'm a homebody.

I don't have an annual pass to the Children's Museum. I take my kids to the zoo once a year, maybe. If you were new to the area I really would not be the person to ask about indoor playgrounds.

When I was younger I was the kid who really didn't like sleepovers. I preferred weekends with my family and sleeping in my own bed. And I really haven't changed that much as an adult.

Sometimes, especially in the winter months, Tuesday is the only day I leave the house with the kids. That's the day we have our weekly Early Childhood class. And I signed up for it specifically to make myself get out of the house.

I realize that too much of something isn't always good. We can get pretty short-tempered with each other by sitting and staring at the same four walls every day.

When Lucy came along I thought for sure I would never be able to leave the house with both kids just for the heck of it. Grocery shopping and Target runs started happening in the evenings. I canceled my gym membership. Extra curricular activities were extinguished all together. And we still did manage to make it to our Early Childhood classes but we were always grotesquely late.

But then a few Saturdays ago something changed.

I was a poker widow that weekend. It's an annual event that Brian's brother puts on. It lasts from about 11 a.m. on Saturday until the next morning. It's great for Brian, but for me and the kids it usually means we go without anything that feels like a weekend.

At home all day with mom? Oh wait, that happens every other day of the year.

So I decide that wasn't really fair. The weather was nice and the kiddos were getting antsy so I plopped Lucy in the stroller and together William and I walked to a malt shop that's just a few blocks from our house.

I was a little nervous about handling a restaurant situation all by myself so I made it easier by going about a half hour before the normal dinner rush.

Things went beautifully. William was treated to a chocolate and banana malt. Both kids split a veggie sandwich. Even I was able to sip on my chococoffee malt without feeling rushed.

And when that went well I thought for sure I could go to the grocery store on Monday morning with both kids in tow. I made sure to go to the nicer grocery store (same chain, just different neighborhood) which is three extra miles from the not-so-nice store. (A clean store with baggers makes all the difference, don't you think?)

William walked, not always beside me but he was just trying to be helpful. He would race down the pasta aisle to find his favorite shape of noodles. Things like that. And Lucy was just happy to be perched in the cart watching every one and every thing.

I realize that a few developmental things have played a big part in getting me out. One, William is completely potty-trained. And by that I mean I don't have to ask him if he has to go constantly and if he does have to go, he can hold it long enough until we get home.

And two, Lucy doesn't nurse as frequently as when she was a newborn. Who wants to try to find a place to nurse in the middle of a grocery store when your baby is screaming? Not me.

I think I'll still always lean to the staying-at-home side of things but it's nice to know that we've finally arrived to a point where we can live the house if we want to without a whole lot of stressors.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Two Hours of Waiting Around

Written by Brian about The Bachelor Finale

I’m very sad to say this will be my last guest post about The Bachelor. I know, it’s tough. You’ll have to come up with a new reason to live every week. And a new crappy show to watch.

When I’m pondering a big decision, a brisk walk in the ocean with pants on really hits the spot. We get to meet Jake’s family after a trip to the dry cleaners. About two minutes into Jake and Tenley’s arrival the tears start flowing. Everyone…is crying. Even the guy sitting there behind the camera, tears in his eyes. He had his own things going on. Anyway, I think we know where J-man gets his uncanny ability to turn on the faucets. Also, Jake needs to tell Tenley that he likes to roughhouse. Wow, easy mom. The family pool jumping needs no comment. LAME!

Vienna is next to meet the family and it’s a car wreck. The girls really dislike her and Jake’s mom is about to slap her. The day improves but I think that was just careful editing. If you get this season on DVD - Director's Cut Edition, Jake's dad throws a bowl of mashed potatoes at her.

There are two dates but I don’t have the stomach for either of them. Jake makes out with Vienna for about 90% of the date. I think that’s the only way he can get her to stop talking. Tenley and Jake have a tough conversation about physical chemistry and the specific heat of uranium. That’s never a good sign for a final episode.

And it turns out I’m right. Jake doesn’t even try to sell it when Tenley lands in the helicopter. His entire body shouts I’m sending you back to Mars. I kind of feel bad for her.

Vienna is next so you know the rest. He asks her to marry him and we get a second round of "On the Wings of Love." Yes! Bonus Jeffery Osborne! That honestly made the entire season for me. They pan back and Chris Harrison is seriously lip syncing while Jake and Vienna kiss. Fist pumps. The End.

But it’s not. We need to drag this out for another hour. After the Final Rose is there to rescue you from your meaningless life. Tenley comes out and everyone loves her as expected.

Chris Harrison breaks away from his busy life hitting on people’s wives, chilling with J-Oz, and being a mob boss to interview Jake and Vienna. Things are blissful and the tabloids be damned.

What in the name of all that is holy?! It can’t be real! Stop the press! Am I dreaming? There he is, in the flesh!!! Jeffery Frickin’ Osborne! Jenny just asked if she could fast-forward and God considered striking her down. Chris Harrison dances with Rozlyn in the background. I’m crying.

The show ends with Ali announced as the next Bachelorette. Not a fan. But I am a fan of…”the only way to fly is On the Wings of Love!” That is all.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7
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