Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fake Spring Saturday

It's not really spring yet, but it sure feels like it. The sun has been shining and the rain has been at a minimum. Believe it or not but that actually bugs me. I like having a deluge of rain in the late winter and spring so that summer is that much more incredible. I figure it beats shoveling snow at any rate. 

Today Jim had to work in the lab for a while so the kids and I headed out on an adventure. Aeryn has reached that point where she would rather "be sick" and stay in bed all day than hang out with parents so I was surprised she cooperated and came along with minimal protest. The promise of a trip to the mall probably helped.

I was trying to look at these cute snowdrops when Tate took off running. Him in the background was an accident but is the reason I absolutely love this picture. Moments later he tripped and tumbled down the hill a few feet. An hour later I had purchased him new shoes.

I'm determined to visit the Rhododendron Gardens numerous times this spring. I have never seen it with the rhododendrons in bloom and I have heard stories of how magnificent that is. Even though we have another year hear I am starting to get very nostalgic and wanting to make sure I see and do every single interesting thing. This crazy little town has gotten under my skin and feels very much like home. In fact, after only 3.5 years this place feels more like home than the city I lived in from kindergarten through graduation.

Tate loves to climb and explore and Aeryn is always happier after she's had a chance to be outside -though she tries not to admit that and hide in her room all day every day.

I used to look at mom's with boys and cringe over the messes. The wet or muddy clothes, filled with sand from our neighborhood park, always made me grateful that I had girls. It's crazy how already this little guy goes through more outfits in a day than Squirt ever did and I'm completely ok with it. I haven't cared one bit that I do laundry twice as often or change his clothes multiple times a day. It hasn't bugged me when he played in the mud or spilled something. I still panic when he climbs things I don't think he should be able to climb yet, but I think there may be hope of me surviving this "boy" experience.

This sunny Saturday is lovely. I'm grateful to have had it, now can we please have the rain back for a while?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Week of Parks - The Universal Edition

Oh man, when we decided on two days at Universal I really was not sure that was necessary. I had no idea how cool some of it would be. My goodness. The Harry Potter stuff completely blew my mind. For example, every time the dragon would blow fire it was like getting blasted with a heat wave. In a crazy good way.

The kids all selected wands from Olivanders and surprisingly, they all picked completely different wands without trying. That was my favorite part about it. No one copied anyone else and no one tried to go out of their way to be different. They all genuinely picked what they liked and each one was different. I loved it.

The wands are interactive, which means they have an infrared sensor. Periodically there are golden seals in the street. If the kids stand there and do the correct spell (move their wand in the right pattern) then something mAgIcaL happens. They got a real kick out of that. It was fun, but some of the spells were tricky to master. Also, parents, if your kids are wanting to do this be prepared to set back $50 a pop. We were a bit shocked to say the least. When in Rome, er, Diagon Alley....

Most of the lines weren't too bad, at either park, but the Harry Potter roller coaster had a bit of a wait. When I turned around and saw our whole group looking at phones to pass the time it was really funny to me. I would have done the same except that I was trying to conserve my battery to use for pictures.

Gringotts was the coolest. It is unbelievable how much went into building this and how elaborate the sets were. It was impeccably done.

This coaster was a combination roller coaster/3D experience. It was a bit odd. Jim didn't find it to be too much, but there were times I had to peek out from the 3D glasses to regain some grounding.

My second favorite part of this park is the Dr. Seuss land. It was soooo cute! The colors, shapes, everything. It was just amazing. Plus, it was little kid friendly so there was a lot that Tate could do here. We found this area on accident as we were leaving the park our first day there and had to go back the next day because it was just so great. Lesson learned: read the park maps before you go. Don't miss the good stuff!

Tate loved the interactive park where he could spray water and climb to his heart's content.

He also loved the Caro-Seuss-el. I think we took him on that more than any other ride and every time he smiled like it was the best thing ever. 

Universal was fantastic. It definitely surprised me. There were fun rides, delicious butterbeer, great stuff for the kids, and my BIL won the Fear Factor physical challenge! Good times. At first I questioned the need for two days here but now I'm so glad we did it this way.

Five days of amusement parks is quite a lot. At the end of the week we were all spent, but it was an amazing trip with fun people and will be something I hope all the kids remember for a long time. Except Tate of course, but he will see pictures and hear stories and grow up lamenting the fact that he doesn't remember it. What a remarkable week it was.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Week of Parks - The Disney Edition 2

There are too many pictures. I want to remember them all. As a result of the picture package, we ended up with a bunch of group pictures from the three days. It's nice since those are the type of pictures you are less likely to get when you are taking them all yourself.

In preparation for the trip, Grandma had given all the grandkids some Disney themed clothes. The two bigger girls and the two little girls both voluntarily dressed in matching tee shirts each day. It made it really easy to track down all our people!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was one of the favorite rides among the kids.

The picture package also made it possible to get all these "classic" shots would be harder to achieve on your own.

I felt silly sticking Tate in the picture while he was sleeping, but I'm glad to remember that he was there. He was a trooper. That boy hardly complained and was perfectly agreeable, despite being held or strapped in a stroller for the better part of several days. We did get better at finding times for him to roam and explore, but there was still a bit of sitting for him.

After this first day, some members of our party were sick, some had migraines, and others were having trouble juggling all the commotion that goes along with a big park so the pictures of us all together are nice to have.

T and Tate have a pretty special little bond. Tate would laugh hysterically at him in the pool and he just thinks that cousin of his is the best. T was the first person we told when we found out we were having a boy and he has been thrilled to not be the only boy grandchild anymore. I am so glad Tate can look up to him as he grows (no pressure, T).

 I love this crazy family I married into.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Week of Parks - The Disney Edition 1

To jump back into our Florida adventure, after our visits to the National Parks we spent a week in Orlando with family visiting the Disney and Universal parks. It was pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. The only camera I carried was my phone and I didn't take any pictures of the amazing house we stayed in. Fail.

Jim's mom found a house to rent so we could all stay in one place. It had 7 bedrooms and an enclosed swimming pool. There were other cool things too, but I think the pool and hot tub was the most utilized feature of the home. Jim's brothers and their significant others were there, plus any offspring, and his parents. His mom purchased the Disney picture package so we could get all the pics taken at the park and that contributed to my not carrying a camera. So did the idea that I didn't want to leave it unaccompanied in the stroller to go on a ride, just to risk it going missing. I love the camera too much for that.

We had three day passes to Disney parks, and our game plan completely changed after every single day. We ended up spending two days at the Magic Kingdom and one day at Hollywood Studios.

The first thing we did was meet Mary Poppins. I'm not even sure half of the kids have seen the movie, there was just something magical about her being right there when we walked in. Aeryn and I used to watch it when she was little so I know that she was familiar with those characters.

We took a chance and tried the teacups with Tater Tot. The spinning was kept to a minimum - just in case - and he seemed to like them fairly well.

Aeryn was hesitant about many of the rides because she is so afraid of getting motion sick. Star Tours was the first one she absolutely loved and said without hesitation that she would ride again.

Occasionally the grownups went off on their own and someone would stay with the kids. We learned really quickly that the fast pass system could be utilized by this sort of family arrangement - one person would go on the ride and they would give a complimentary fast pass so the adult hanging back with the kids could trade places and go on the ride without waiting after the first group had gone. It was pretty sweet actually. After the first day we used this quite frequently and it enabled a lot of adults to go on a lot of rides.

Of course the kids loved the gift shops. Aeryn and N had similar interests in the shops and ended up both picking out the pink Cheshire cat as their souvenir.

One of the best parts for me was just that all the kids got to be together.

Tate was absolutely mesmerized by It's a Small World.

I learned that when Ellie gets her learner's permit I am going to stay far, far away. Although as she was quick to point out "this isn't anything like a real car," so it may not be as scary as I fear.

One of the things we learned about from actually reading the park map was a free portal game that is scattered throughout the park. Every member of our group was given a pack of trading cards with different characters and spells. We were on a quest to solve mysteries and capture villains. Each portal would give a clue how to defeat a villain, or where to go to find the next clue. Occasionally they would have to "cast a spell" or other such tasks. We ended up capturing four of the eleven villains and the girls have said this was one of their favorite parts of the park. T was sick this day and I think this was the perfect activity for him to miss, if he had to miss something. It was quite a girly day.

It wasn't our intent to stay for the electrical parade but I'm so glad it happened that way. Not all the kids were with us at that time, but it was pretty spectacular. I had never seen it myself. It was pretty amazing.

Of course that meant we were also able to see the fireworks. It is a classic part of Disney that I'm so happy to have been there for. I'm not sure anything will top the magic of Aeryn's first trip to Disneyland when she was completely amazed by every little thing, but this was pretty fabulous too.

It was definitely a magical experience. There were adjustment pains like trying to keep a group of 15 together, learning how to structure the day so we weren't just running back and forth across the park for every ride, adapting to what the kids were ready and willing to do, etc. I'm so thankful we were able to go and I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Best of Both Worlds

I know this may be a sensitive topic, but I choose to protect my children from illness using both the natural immunization idea so popular among anti-vaxers AND from the medical immunization methods of the vaxers. I figure you can't be too careful and I want to cover my bases.

Although, with this kid I sure don't get an option in the "natural" immunity building option. Where's the opt out for that one? He eats everything.

We were outside for about ten minutes, and he chewed on at least ten different objects.

He's now built up a tolerance for playground plastic, nylon coated rusty metal, and almond pods. Not to mention whatever was all over them (which sort of makes me feel queasy if I think about it).

In other news, can you tell I tried to cut his hair? It didn't turn out too shabby if I do say so myself, despite the fact that he most definitely did not sit still for it. I can't decide if I'm happy or not about the fact that no one can tell I cut it

Some little bits about Tate at 13 months:

  • He eats everything (except fruit - explain that one...)
  • He is walking around like a mad man. He still has that adorable unstable baby walk and I love it. He'll often sidestep and drag his right foot instead of turning his little body. 
  • He loves meat. Seriously, he claps and gets excited when he tastes bites of pork in almost every form (prosciutto, pancetta, bacon, pork chops, pork loin, etc.). 
  • Sometimes he will make a squishy face and do a silent breathy forced laugh when he is trying to be funny. It's actually hilarious. 
  • Tate is not a cuddly child. He isn't very much into hugs or kisses, but he will snuggle into my shoulder when he is tired. I love it and rock him to sleep pretty much every day. It doesn't bother me if that is a "bad" habit. When it's your last baby you are less inclined to do things "by the book" and more inclined to drink up the moments in the way that makes you happiest. 
  • He gets really excited when Aeryn gets home from school every day. 
  • On our trip to FL, he giggled up a storm watching his cousin Tyler. He loved watching all the big kids and wanted to be in the middle of all the playtime action, no matter what it was. 
  • He doesn't care one bit about toys. In fact, he doesn't care one bit about anything he is allowed to play with. If it is allowed it must not be fun. 
  • He almost always has an object in his hands. At Christmastime it was a pen or a straw. It is now a Wii remote. He swirls it around to watch the strap spin, pushes the buttons, and just holds onto it for dear life most of his waking hours. It also gets dropped quite often, and smashed into the floor with every step when he crawls with it in his hand. 
My two cents - because I "went there" with the vaccine issue I feel the need to disclose that I am not anti-vaccine or anti-anti-vaccine. Basically I place confidence in vaccines because I think generally the good outweighs the bad even though occasionally the bad is very bad...(I'm also a scientist and that colors how I view studies and medical developments) but I feel that it is a parent's right to choose. The second we make it "mandatory" and remove choice from the equation we risk the industry being corrupted beyond imagination and giving government too much power. I value the position of the anti-vaxers even though I'm not one because I think we all want the same thing - the best for our children. We may disagree about the method to go about that, but open dialogue without judgement would benefit us all and help us see that we do, in fact, agree more than we sometimes think we do. 

Monday, February 9, 2015


There was one more National Park we planned to hit while in Florida. Biscayne. This one was a quick stop, quicker still because we hadn't understood just how little there was to do without a boat (and because children were in a serious mood).

We walked around the boardwalk along the water and I made the girls kiss fish.

I feel like there is little to say about this park other than "Oh hey, we went there!" We weren't there at the right time to see any of the beautiful fish on our walk, we weren't prepared to go fishing, and we had no boat. It was pretty, and nice to see Miami in the distance, but not the easiest 1/2 day trip.

From there we headed toward Orlando, with a quick stop in Fort Lauderdale on the way so that Jim and Ellie could add one more temple to their travels. This brings the number of temples they have visited up to 51. I thought the day was beautiful and the colors bright, however my composition was lacking as I cut of angel Moroni in almost every single picture. Oops.

Our first few days in Florida got off to a great start.