Monday, October 27, 2008

In My Previous Life....

...I was a tour guide. I absolutely love to travel and it usually doesn't even matter where I go. Put me on a plane, train, or in a car and I'm pretty pleased.

This week we have some friends from DFW visiting and they wanted to go to New York City for a day. We were out of the house by 6am and had the car parked downtown (on street!! no meter!! I'm AMAZING!) a little after 9am. We proceeded to visit the WTC memorial, the Statue of Liberty, see a matinee of Phantom, eat an early dinner, and visit the Empire State Building. We were out of the city by 6:30pm and home by 9:30pm. It's a good thing they took pictures of they may not have remembered anything of that whirlwind tour.

There was a time that I took my camera into the city every single time I went. After about six of these trips I realized I was taking the same pictures every single time. Of course, I was only 13 so that's not a surprise. After I got into high school I stopped bringing my camera.

I will never forget that last time I didn't bring my camera. I was on a business dinner cruise around Manhattan. A few of us New York-Staters were laughing at the "tourists" in our group who were taking pictures. It was August 2001 and they were taking some of the last pictures of the World Trade Center Towers. And since then, my camera has always come with me.

But now I only take pictures of the oddities and random things - I have enough shots of the Statue of Liberty, thank you. The picture below is my favorite from Saturday.

Probably the lowest price. We can't guarantee it, but we're pretty sure we're the lowest price in the city. We're definitely the lowest price on this street.....well, except that place two blocks down. They are for sure cheaper than us. But we are definitely the cheapest on this block. Specifically this side of our block. Don't go around the block because those other guys are cheaper. And they stay open earlier and close later. Basically, we're the lowest priced shoe store that's facing Trinity Church - that much we can guarantee.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Easiest Pumpkin Decorating Ever

My mother-in-law, Karan, sent the kids a Halloween package this week. (thank you Karan!) It was full of Halloween toys, candy, and a pumpkin decorating kit. This was the super-clean way of decorating a pumpkin, though. You just pushed the pieces into the pumpkin and wham-o, you've got your self a Halloween pumpkin.

I had seen these kits before but part of me felt I was cheating my kids out of the jack o'lantern experience. But since Karan sent it, I felt no guilt. That and I was trying to grasp how we would carve a pumpkin with the man-child who would eat every part of the pumpkin as we tried to wield a sharp knife. I had nightmares of pumpkin goo strings hanging out of his mouth as he choked down a handful of pumpkin seeds.

We strapped Jamie into a high chair to begin the event. He can sit on the bar stools with no problem if someone is next to him to prevent him from free-falling to the floor. He does this for fun. He knows what happens if we are not there and he continues to attempt this feat. So he gets strapped into the high chair.

He was very excited...and he didn't even know why.

It took a lot of concentration.


Loving the pumpkin.

We ended up with a dog and a bear.
What in the world are you smiling at?

He's pointing at an airplane that he can only hear. He loves airplanes. She's smiling so hard her eyes can't stay open.

Final arrangement. Lily chose which pumpkin went on which stoop. It was an incredibly important decision and Jamison was not taking it seriously.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Since we couldn't coordinate a Whitt-Sullivan pumpkin patch photo op, we made do with just our children. The sun was setting and the light was really nice so I just kept snapping. I tried to edit. I really did. But I happen to love my children and frankly, pumpkins are incredibly photographic for being gourds. Add in crisp weather and a great fall smell in the air and I was unrestrained.

I love how the sun made these pictures almost-dream like. Yes, I probably could go into photoshop and clear them up, make the orange in his jacket stand out to match the orange in the pumpkin, etc...but I'm a believer in the un-touched-up photos. Call me a naturalist or a purist. I think the artsy pictures that people touch up in photoshop look beautiful - and I love them. But I just think un-touched pictures make those fantastic shots even more fantastic. That, and I don't know how to use photoshop. Maybe one day when I learn how to use the program I will abandon my purist beliefs.I'd like to have a caption that reads - so sweet, here is Jamison kissing the pumpkin. But I would be lying. He was trying to eat it. There are teeth marks to prove it.I would like to enlarge this picture to a 10x20 and wake up to it every morning, please.
and here she comes.....It only took her a few minutes to find a pumpkin that matched Jamison's. She proceeded to boss him into doing something with their pumpkins and he proceeded to ignore her. It's a great relationship.Her self-styled bangs are finally growing in. They just need a bit more time before I can even them out and then grow them back out again.Instead of pumpkin pie I'd like to make a Jamison and Lily pie. I could eat them up. Even with the stupid bangs.And our work at the Shaker Shed was done. Brian carried his princess into the sunset. Doesn't he look rugged?? I think he misses his times on the farm. He's such a good dad and husband and he doesn't look too bad either! Some days I've got to admit when I've got a good deal.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Leaf Raking 101

Ahhhhh....autumn. Crisp air, Halloween decorations, a different wardrobe, fall foliage, and then the inevitable leaves falling. And falling. And then piling up.

There might be a few of you out there that don't necessarily need to perform the annual activity of raking leaves. I feel that I am responsible for sharing this experience with you.

We don't exactly have a large yard, but because we're on a corner lot we have a little bit more yard than others. That also means we have a bit more trees. With leaves on them. And then the leaves fall and if you leave them there, they will kill your grass. Leaves are grass-murderer's!

So first you need the proper equipment. There are a few options - metal rake (on left) , plastic rake (on right), and Brian's favorite - a riding lawn mower that mulches as it sucks up the leaves. But that's just a little pipe dream of his. A push lawn mower never killed anyone. Except for those who are seriously out of shape. It would most likely kill them.

And you definitely need working gloves. It gets really ugly if you don't have gloves.

Here is a shot of our side yard and our partial back yard. Since it is in the shade it's hard to see all the leaves but you get an idea of our "before" picture.

You might ask me - so how do you start raking? Do you just grab a raking and start jabbing at the ground? Oh no, no, no. There is a method. In our area we have leaf pick-up. This is done in two ways:
1. Rake leaves up and stuff them in leaf bags and drag bags to end of driveway for pick up.
2. Rake leaves to edge of yard that borders street and make a pile. This huge truck then comes around and sucks all the leaves up. I'm not sure what it does with the leaves at that point but I have a sneaking suspicion that they charge us tax-payers to mulch those leaves up, sell them to garden supply stores, and then sell our own mulched up leaves back to us. I'm starting to sound more and more like my father.
Our yard from above. I was attempting to show you technique in this shot but the shade does make it difficult. For the back yard, since it is far from the street, we have to stuff the leaves into leaf bags. My technique with the backyard is to rake the perimeter, always moving inward. This is the most efficient way to consolidate piles of leaves. You will end up with a number of smaller leaf-piles that are close to each other. This is much better than dragging your rake across the lawn to the one pile in the middle. That's just stupid.

You always need an audience to cheer you on. Lily and the princesses gave valuable direction and let us know whenever we missed a leaf. After the bigillionth time we had to inform her that if she wanted to point out all the "missed leafs" she could grab herself a rake and do it herself. She and the princesses declined.

Always have a helper. It also helps to teach 'em young. This way he will always think this is his job.

This is the "after" picture. But again, because of the shade, it's hard to tell. We ended up filling 8 leaf bags with this portion of the yard alone.

Then Brian moved on to the front yard while the kids and I went inside. Since the front yard isn't fenced in, it isn't exactly Jamie-proof. Since the front yard obviously borders the street Brian is raking the leaves onto a tarp that he will then drag to the street for the leaf-suck-up machine.

You can see some of the piles that our neighbors have raked to the street as well as the leaf bag option the people across the street chose. You can also see the lazy neighbors that haven't touched their yard. We all judge them. But they do give out good Halloween candy, so you have to give them that.

I know how intensive this lesson has been but I also know that I have given you the tools you need to rake your yard. So, go forth, grab your rake and dedicate a good four hours to cleaning up your lawn. Your grass will love you in the spring.

Our Poor Neighbors

We are in the process of having one of our bathrooms gutted. It's a project that we've had in mind for a few years. Approximately six. Specifically since the day we saw the house for the first time. But since it was only a guest bathroom and there were other things we wanted done, it has taken a backseat.

Until this month. It's almost done now and should be completed this week. But you know how contractors are. It might take another two weeks with no explanation.

On the first day they needed to shut the water off in the house to remove the tub, toilet, and sink. As they turned the water off the shut off valve fell off into the contractors hands. Not good. Especially since it fell off after they shut the water off. That means no water.

Then they decided they could turn the water back on at the main. In order to get to the main they had to dig a slight hole in our front yard. There is no need to go into details about how the main was rusted shut and they couldn't turn the water on and how I was without water for 24 hours. No flushing toilets for 24 hours. No shower. And worst of all (for me) NO WASHING OF HANDS. It comes to a point where anti-bacterial gel just doesn't cut it.

But the hole that they dug. It was quite appropriate for the Halloween season.

The next day I saw my neighbors talking and I went to go join in the conversation. They nervously asked me what was going on at our house. As they asked they motioned to my front yard.

"Oh that."

"Did Tulip die?"

And then I realized why they asked that. The hole looked like a small grave. I didn't see it that way the day before because my gaze was riveted on the pipe, praying for it to turn on.

"Oh no - not yet anyway. We had a water problem." And I went into the very boring details. I teased them for thinking that I would have so little class as to bury my dog in the middle of my front yard. And aren't there town regulations against that sort of thing? Can you just bury something in your yard?

We agreed that I should add a fake tombstone and decorate the rest of the house for Halloween using the grave as a focal piece. But of course I didn't - with my luck a random neighbor would walk into the hole and break their leg.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Daddy's "Helpers"

We've been doing some painting in our house in the evenings when the kids go to bed. This restricts our painting hours considerably, but at least we don't have to worry about any unapproved finger painting. To try to take advantage of our time, we try to do some simple things while the kids are awake, like taping cabinetry. Even that simple task leads to interference from the offspring.

As soon as Brian set up the step stool they were on it wanting to tape the walls like daddy. I told them to hold on to that dream for a few more years and we would have no problem putting them to work.

Monday, October 13, 2008

One of These Things Does Not Belong Here

Lily was playing tea party with all of her dolls and animals lined up on the couch.

Tulip refused to move and Lily refused to serve her tea or snacks.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reason #1 Why He is Always With Me When I Use the Restroom

This is what happens when I choose to have privacy in the restroom instead of bringing him with me....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Feeding the Devil Within

Back in August mom, Lily, and I went to go see The Little Mermaid on Broadway. Please note - I did not want to go to this show. It took Lily months to watch the movie without running out of the room whenever Ursula was in a scene. And now my mom thought it would be a good idea to take her to a live performance of Ursula?!??! How does that even seem logical? I foresaw me spending the entire production in the foyer calming down a very upset little mermaid.

But mom didn't want to go to NYC by herself with Lily and no one else was available. So I went. Out of love for my daughter and my mother. In the end it proved how much I loved them because the show was horrible for anyone over the age of 12. I can't believe it's actually on Broadway. It falls somewhere in between a high school musical and a community theater production - but with larger sets since Disney is backing them.

So we took the train down early one Saturday, saw the show, and took the train back home.

(at this point I'll refrain from writing a paragraph on how we missed the first train because my mother left the show tickets at home)

Unsurprisingly, Lily watched The Little Mermaid the whole way down and the whole way up. She didn't care when I pointed out the boats and barges on the Hudson. She was trying to figure out all of the Ariel's sisters names in time for the matinee.

We stopped by the zoo in Central Park to burn some time before the show. I thought it would be nice to show Lily the polar bears. The viewing platform for the exhibit is actually above their habitat so you look down into their den through plexiglass. As we approached the platform I heard the guide say, "As you can gather, it's mating season for the polar bear." And by that time it was too late for us to turn around. "oh, their just playing" was the chant that all of us stunned mothers kept repeating to our very curious toddlers.

Eventually the girl polar bear got mad and backed herself against the wall. Mayhem ensued as the boy polar bear was not happy about that move. Lots of growling, which I thought was pretty neat to hear in uptown Manhattan. So here's a picture of Lily watching the boy polar bear growl at the girl polar bear. You can barely see the girl bear's head right below Lily's head.

It's tough to see the sea lion in this picture but I just think it's neat that this little viewing area is in the middle of Central Park. The sea lion, by the way, is underwater on the very right of the picture.

And then we caught a cab to the show. Since Lily is incredibly Ariel-obsessed, mom and I thought that it would be even more special if Lily dressed up as Ariel. I really didn't want to encourage this addiction of hers, but I couldn't help myself.

This is Lily's "princess pose." I HATE it. I DESPISE it. She hasn't taken a normal picture in months because of this weird idea of hers. Mom and I try to tell her that no princess has ever posed like that in any movie, so we don't know where she is getting it from. AND THEN. THEN! at the end of the musical - guess what the Little Mermaid does? JUST GUESS!! YES - as she is accepting the audience applause - she poses just like Lily's "princess pose." What are the chances that would actually happen and how did Lily know?

Waiting in line to enter the show...

This was my sixth attempt at a picture of me and Lily. I was just done with trying to get her to smile normally by that point and this is the best I could do.

Luckily, I was proven wrong. Lily loved the show. She sang out loud (along with half the audience of little girls). At one point she was dancing in the aisle with her light-up mermaid high heels. It was beautiful to see her so enraptured. When Ariel came on stage Lily actually gasped and whispered - there she is mama.

Unfortunately I had to tell her the truth about Ariel in the middle of the show. I'll explain - to make the sea creatures appear to be swimming, they are on roller skates. Their tails or fins or aquatic limb-things swing behind them and their legs are somewhat covered by their costume (scroll up and see first picture for a good example.
Very soon into the show Lily whispered loudly into my ear - "She has legs!" I quietly explained that "this actually is not the real Ariel. Just like the Santa's in the mall are actually Santa's helpers and not the real Santa, this is not the real Ariel. She was just pretending to be Ariel just like you do everyday." of every week. of the past 6 months.
"What's her name then?"
for crying out loud...fumble with purse to find program, spill tic tacs on floor, cell phone slides down rows of seats, and finally find program....
"Her name is Sierra"
"What is his name?" She points in the general direction of the stage during performance of Under the Sea. Do you know how many fishes and other sea-types are on the stage during that song?
"which one?"
"What about that one?"
"Lily, we're not doing this now. I'll go through them during the intermission."
And, to make it all wonderful, she thanked us for taking her. (granted, days later, but whatever) Oh, thank you Grrrrmam, thank you mama.
And then we ate at my mother's favorite New York City restaurant - the Olive Garden. I was able to choke it down since she was paying.
Hopefully we created a nice childhood memory for her. Now if only Jamie would become obsessed with something so we could have some variety in our lives...