Monday, November 30, 2009

My Halls are Decked

Here's the deal: I am having a very difficult time wrapping my brain around the fact that Christmas will be here in 25 short days. TWENTY FIVE DAYS! Doesn't it seem like just yesterday I was complaining about how could the summer was?

Oh wait, that probably was yesterday.


With a couple of significant snow storms under our belts already this year, and 95% of my Christmas shopping DONE (since SEPTEMBER, can I get a woot woot!), I still can't believe that Christmas is upon us. The worst part is I really can't figure out why.

I have been listening to Christmas music all weekend, have my house totally decorated (which, hello, takes me usually a full week, and I had it done in three days!), and my kids have watched The Grinch, Elf, and Polar Express so many times it's nuts.

(Not that they can watch the same movie over and over, but that they have been allowed to watch that much tube since Friday.)

Usually, our annual Polar Express Night kicks me right into the Holiday Spirit. This year, I fell asleep before the movie ended. Oh, the movie ended at eight. So, if you are doing the math, I was asleep BEFORE EIGHT.

Actually, now that I think about it, THAT might be the problem. I think I have been too busy to really feel my days. I mean I feel them in the sense that I am dog tired at the end of them, but I mean I am not really living my days.

I hate that.

The worst part, is I think I have been doing this all year.

Try as hard as I might, I, my friends, am a task oriented type of a gal. Unfortunately, what that looks like is I jump from one chaos filled project to the next without taking the time to soak in the ride along the way. I am sincerely hoping this will change somehow, someway because guess what? Tomorrow is the first day of DECEMBER of 2009. I feel like I am still stuck in 2008 somewhere.

This past weekend, we didn't have huge Thanksgiving day plans. I didn' schedule any shoots, or any programs. There were no activities, or play dates, or get-togethers of any sort. I got totally caught up with work (because my Hubby RAWKS hard core), and then I took a deep long breath.

It felt good.

So good, I want to take another.

And another.

This month's focus: Breathing deeply, loving fully, living in the present, and soaking in the life that is around me.

Next month's focus: Rinse and repeat.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I Did This To Myself, You Know.

Last year, I wanted to do something really special for my Mom and Mother-in-Law for Christmas. Knowing how much they love my blog, and wanting to please probably the only audience I have, I decided to turn my blog into a book. You know, just in case they wanted to jump into imperfection and total chaos at any given moment.

Well, they LOVED them. It made my heart so happy to see them so happy about this gift.

Also, I felt a bit relieved because, hello, how humiliating would it be if they would have opened the gift, and then said, "Hmmm, well isn't this interesting?"

Turning the blog into a book, though? My, oh my! It was a chore indeed! I can't say I particularly enjoyed it. I think I may have said a few times, "If they don't LOVE this book, I am taking it RIGHT BACK!"

Ya, because it is so returnable.

Anywho, I posted a little something about the freedom I felt when the whole thing was over, here.

So, to say I never want to do that again, is a huge understatement.


However, my Mom and my Mother-in-Law LOVED them. Heck, after all that work, I ordered one for myself, and I LOVED it. The thought of my kids pouring over the pages in that book one day as they feed/soothe/rock/parent their young children brings tears to my eyes.

(Hello, children! If you are currently doing what I just said in the above paragraph, just know that I am bawling my eyes out with joy somewhere.)

This past weekend, I knew I had to get this task done. Considering it took my almost TWO FULL WEEKS to do it last year, I was actually almost running a bit behind. Thankfully, our Thanksgiving weekend this year was so mellow, so calm, so lovely I felt like I could tackle this task with somewhat on somewhat of an even keel.

Well, I can no longer bash Blurb or Blogger. They have completely redeemed themselves from the problems that plagued them at this time last year. What took me TWO FULL WEEKS to do last year, only took me FIVE HOURS. Half a day, really. CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE MY JOY.

The happiness is so big, it is difficult to contain. That is why, I had to share this here.

If say, perhaps, someone other than my mother or mother-in-law are reading this blog, and lets just say, they have a blog too. Can I urge you to do the same thing? It is super easy. It makes a great gift, not only to whom you are giving it to this year, but to who will be reading it in years to come.

I love having this blog. I love reviewing it from time to time. I know I think that this life is so happy, so fun, so hard, so crazy, so messy that I will never forget it, but low and behold, I do.

Thankfully, now, I can pull a snip-it of my life off the shelf whenever I want.

P.S. Mom and Mother-in-Law, sorry if post ruined your Christmas day surprise, but I figured that you probably knew anyway. Also, the same terms that applied last year, apply this year. Just because it only took a fraction of the time to put this together, does not mean you will not find spelling, grammar, punctuation errors. In general, there could be spots in the books where it is messy and totally imperfect. The good news: The book, and all it's mess, is true to life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

For Goodness Sakes, Don't be Boring!

Recently, The Girl and I were delivering a meal to a friend who had lost a loved one. She had to leave her hubby behind with two of their children, and we thought that her hubby and children would benefit from a meal.

Honestly, I volunteered to bring over the meal, and then kind of spaced it out (sorry, friend!).

If you could get a small glimpse into my life (and some of you already do), you would understand that this behavior is totally typical of me these days.

The day that I had signed up to bring a meal on came, and THANKFULLY I remembered.


However, it was kind of late in the day, and I wasn't sure what I could whip up in time to get it there by dinner. All my meats were still frozen, and because I had to go to the grocery store for myself, I didn't want to make two different trips to pick something up fresh and then return back later.

Self-focus can be a serious issue for me.

I thought about just picking up some sort of take and bake pizza or a prepared meal from Costco (sorry, friend.). Then! Then I remembered that I had some yummy potato chowder in our freezer that I had made when we harvested a bunch of veggies from our garden and from a field trip that The Girl had gone on to a farm where we could load up on fresh veggies. I thought, "Hey! I can bring this soup, buy a fresh salad, and some yummy fresh bread, and bibbity boppity boo, you have diner!" It wasn't much, but it would totally work.

OK, so I didn't really say bibbity boppity boo, but you get the picture.

I took The Girl along with me to go grocery shopping, drop off the meal, and then run a quick errand. She was getting frustrated with how long everything was taking and just wanted to get home already. That's when I decided to take the time to teach The Girl a small little lesson.

I told her about how Jesus was talking to his disciples, and He was telling them to go out and help others who are in need. I told her the reason why we help others who are in need is because God's Word says, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." I further explained what that means for us today.

She thought about it for about ten seconds and then promptly exclaimed, "Well then, let's not be boring!"

"What?" I asked because I wasn't sure what she was getting at, or if she even understood what I was trying to explain to her.

"Well, if by serving others we serve Jesus, I definitely don't want to do something boring."

Yes, she got it, and as I pondered the boring-ness of my potato chowder that I threw together at the last minute because of a little self-absorption, I wondered who was teaching who.

Thank you, Lord, for this little girl.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I Bet You Thought We'd Never Get Here...The Beach!

The last day of our trip was a day to be spent relaxing. The Hubs and I always try to fit in at least one down day per trip (sometimes more). It helps the trip feel like, well, like a vacation. I hate coming home exhausted from a vacation. It's just not how I enjoy traveling.

Trust me, having kids and bringing them on vacation with us, made me completely re-think the word "Vacation".

I pretty much haven't been on a "Vacation" since they were born.

Oh wait, there was that Girl Trip I went on a year and a half ago. Delightful.

OK, back to business. So, the last day of our trip we spent relaxing. This included a trip to IKEA because, hello, we don't have those here, and surprisingly, The Hubs was just as intrigued as I was about this place, a trip to the beach, and some lunch out while driving around exploring the area. We also came back to our hotel for naps. Ahhhhh. Then it was early dinner and bedtimes.

I was determined to get some great photos of the day. Especially at the beach. However, the first part of the day, I spent feeling a bit ill. I had that left over motion sickness feeling from the day before. THANKFULLY I was able to move past those feelings while at the beach.

(Can I just tell you, although we were at the beach which totally equals "happy" for me, it was a mere 65 degrees. Yes, something about it being NOVEMBER made it a bit chilly. Thankfully, besides the tummy/headache and the briskness of the weather, I was still able to find some "happy".)

So, here we are at the beach, and I am determined to get some great photos of the kids, maybe even some "Christmas Card Worthy" photos. So, I find the perfect spot, and start working:

Then I realized, I don't want to work. I want to have fun. I want my kids to have fun. I want my kids to play. I want to make memories, not portraits. So, after that picture, we did just that.

One of my favorite memories of the whole trip was The Little Man's realization that waves keep coming. They don't stop. He had the biggest belly laughs playing in those waves. One would come and he would squeal, then it would go back out. Of course, he would chase it back out only to find out that another would come. The laughter and squeals are something I hope I don't forget.

This picture here is so imperfect that it's pure perfection to me. I just may have this blown up big for my home. I love that when I look at it, I can still hear them laughing. I think my walls would like some laughter. I think my walls might be tired of perfect pictures. I think my walls would like to live a little.

More belly laughs:

Waiting for the next wave:

Again imperfection becoming perfect. I feel like if I inhaled deeply enough, I could be there again smelling all the freshness of that day:

It didn't take long before The Girl was doing what she is passionate about: Playing in the mud. This child is like a moth to a flame when it comes to dirt or mud. She absolutely cannot control herself. When I heard some happy giggles coming from behind where I was standing, I had a feeling I would be seeing this when I turned around:

When she tells me that she wants to grow up and be a paleontologist, I don't doubt it. It would be perfect for her to get paid to dig in the dirt and mud.

Meanwhile, back at the shoreline, we have some more belly laughs:

Have I mentioned that The Little Man laughed all day?

After spending time on the beach, we decided to head up to the pier. Then I saw how disgustingly dirty it was, so it was a short stay. The kids did get to look out over it and see schools of fish swimming around:

And watch some surfers nearby:

And, of course, have their picture taken:

It wasn't a long stay at the beach, but it was fun. We topped it off with a little lunch and then some rest. We also spent some time driving around the area exploring a bit. It got a little scary at times, so we called it good and grabbed some dinner.

That night, after we had hit the hay early, I heard some loud booms outside of our hotel. The Hubs quickly ran over to the window to see what it was. It was the Disneyland firework show.

We didn't miss it after all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Long Awaited (And Winded)...Day Two!

My heavens. I thought I would never get to day two. Life is crazy after a vacation.

Also, I don't really look forward to time spent uploading images to Blogger.


Day two was spent at:

California Adventure!

I was bummed big time about not bringing my wider angle lens on the trip. It's a pricier lens so I thought it would be best not to drag it all over Disney, but that picture above? It would have been so much better if you could have seen all of California instead of just the "liforni". Oh well. This picture is sweet too:

I am a total sucker for the Mickey hats. I wanted some so badly on day one, but we were so busy that the day got away from us. Before we knew it, it was time to find dinner, and who really wants to wear their Mickey Ears at a restaurant outside of Disney?

Oh wait. My kids do!

So we waited until the next day when we would have maximum time allotted to wearing the Mickey Ears since we would be in the parks until at least 10:00 in the evening.

First we strolled down the back lot and took in the sites of different sets. The kids didn't really get it, but I thought it was so fun. Look here, the real sky almost matches the fake sky:

(Yes, The Little Man has on another pair of Mickey Ears in baseball hat style. The sunglasses came with this particular hat, so it was a sure pick for The Little Man.)

Since The Little Man had two options for ears that day, we let The Girl have two choices as well...We are such suckers!

Seriously, though! How cute are those?

In the back lot, we got to meet Sully:

Since Monsters Inc. is currently one of The Little Man's favs right now, this was a big deal. I am just so thrilled about being at the parks when there were such low crowds. In addition to being able to ride whatever we wanted whenever, and however many times we wanted to, we also could walk right up to all the characters and have photos taken. We have had trips in the past where we have waited up to two hours to meet characters, so this was a super big treat.

Speaking of Monsters Inc., here we are stuck on the Monsters Inc. ride. Yup, we got stuck on the ride and had to be escorted out of the ride. While we waited for our escort, we got this snap:

Thankfully, we were almost done with the ride anyways, and truth be told, it wasn't a real must see, so we walked out, and walked on.

Next up: The Tower of Terror!

Oh yes we did! Some people might say that age four isn't ideal for the Tower, but we did it twice! I can't say that the kids absolutely loved it, but they did like it...once they knew what to expect. That meant the first time around, it was a bit scary.

(By the way, the scary part to them was not the stuff surrounding the ride ie the story, the spooky ghost stuff, etc. it was the dropping feeling of the ride itself)

So, if you could look into this picture a bit more closely, you would see some pretty scared faces. I couldn't find the picture from the second time around when the kids actually enjoyed the ride, and I think The Little Man even put his hands up a few times!

Here they are, survivors of the Tower, and they were tear free...see I'm not so bad.

Right around the corner waited this guy:

The Little Man was pumped about getting to meet Mr Incredible.

Next we went to ride Soarin'. Our family loves this ride like no other. However, we stopped here for a pic on the way to the ride. If you know my Hubby, you know why we had to get this shot:

Also over by our favorite ride, were these guys:

Both kids were happy to see McQueen and Mater. I was sad again about my not so wide angle lens. Bummer.

The sadness did not last long! I am happy again in line waiting to go Soarin' over California for the second time in a row:

(Don't you love that the Mickey Ears fit me just as well as they fit the kids! Honestly, I think the hat fit a bit snugger on The Little Man than it did on me...I am a peanut head.)

After getting our fill of Soarin', we had to get our fill of lunch.

Oh boy! Park food!

Next we headed over to Paradise Pier. There are all sorts of fun rides there. Our favorite was Toy Story Mania. Too bad they didn't have a fast pass for this ride because it was the longest line that we had to stand in the entire trip at 40 minutes. I realize that isn't very long, but we'd been spoiled. Unfortunately, we only rode it once. We did get to ride Mulholland Madness, Jumping Jellyfish, California Screamin' (for The Hubs and the Father-in-Law because the kids were too short), and Mickey's Fun Wheel. At this point, I started suffering from some sort of weird motion sickness type feeling, and thought it would be best for me to skip the big Ferris wheel type ride that had gondolas that moved along the wheel as it turned. The kids really liked this ride, and I really liked that their daddy could take them and I could just watch.

Here's The Little Man looking very little:

Next up was the Aladdin show. This was a great time for my nauseated body to take a rest and sit back to enjoy a little production. I was nervous about how the kids would react to having to forgo the rides for a bit and sit still, but they were captivated by the show, as it was totally wonderful, and a completely reasonable length of time.

Sadly, I still remember all of the words to all of the songs, however, do not ask me what I did yesterday.

While we were waiting for show time to start, the kids played with Grandma and Grandpa in line. I loved this shot:

This one too. Trying to grab a bit of rest from the busy day:

Here we are waiting for the show to start:

After the show, was another show. The Pixar parade! I was determined to have us watch the parade. It would have all of The Little Man's favorite characters. Of course, right before the parade started, The Little Man had to go potty. The Hubs ran him to the closest potty, but we didn't get to see each other again until AFTER the parade. I got to see none of his reactions. I was told they were good and he really liked it. The Girl enjoyed herself too. I am trying to forget that we watched this parade apart.

Parade goodness:

Then we had a chance to head back to Disneyland for the night time festivities they had. I was interested in a light show and the fireworks. We also had time to squeeze in a few more rides that we missed and enjoyed from the day before and wanted to do again. Top on The Little Man's to do list: Space Mountain and The Buzz Lightyear ride. Top on The Girl's list: The Matterhorn (sadly we didn't get to this one), Top on my list: The Pirates of the Caribbean. We also squeezed in The Jungle Cruise.

People, The Jungle Cruise is pretty cheesy during the daytime hours, but let me tell you, at night, it takes on a whole new level of cheese. Even the kids were making comments when we got off.

Oh yeah, we also had to eat dinner in the park that night. Although lunch was OK, dinner that night...was so wrong. I could get the shivers just thinking about it. What made it even worse, was the price. Heavens to Betsy, that should be illegal.

After dinner was the light show called Fantasmic. It was good, but people were finding spots to watch the show HOURS before it even started. We opted to ride Pirates of the Caribbean instead as well as some other stuff.

In line, having fun at Pirates of the Caribbean:

(Wow! That's one great pic! I had to have a pic of me with both sets of Mickey Ears on otherwise it just wouldn't have been fair. No worries, I just wore the ears for the pics. Can't you tell from that look on my face, "Take the picture already!")

When we came back it was difficult to find a spot with premium views. I am sure the show would have been really good had we been able to see it from a great spot, but what we did see was great too.

After Fantasmic, we decided to stay in the same spot for the fireworks that started promptly after.

That was an even worse viewing spot. We tried moving, only to make things even worse. I am a little sad that we missed the fireworks, but it was such a fun and full day, it was hard to care too much. I mean check out The Little Man as he got carried into the hotel that night:

I think the last time he was able to be carried while still sleeping was somewhere around age one.

Oh, and finally, The Hubs wanted me to post this pic of his high score on the Buzz Lightyear ride:

Congrats, Honey! You beat the socks off of a four year old...

Tomorrow (or next week, whenever) we get to have some downtime on the beach.

Ahhh, the beach.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Be Merciful to me Blogger Photo Uploader...Day 1 of Disney!

Day one of our trip was Disneyland herself. Or himself...whatever. The plan was to get in as many rides as we could before dinner. Not being a fan of amusement park food, but alas a lover of food, I planned our day around meals. (It's pure craziness to be me, I tell you. Craziness!) Thankfully, we planned our trip during a very slow part of the year for Disney, as well as going in the middle of the week, so this was totally doable. The only downside to this was that there would be no parades or fireworks on this day. The upside: We were out by DINNER TIME. I ate at a normal restaurant, and didn't flinch when the bill came because I actually ENJOYED MY MEAL. There is just something so hurtful about paying big bucks for nasty food. It just plain stings. Also, it got pretty cool at night, and do you know that I don't really get along well with the cool?

So we soaked up our daylight hours and pretty much walked onto whatever we wanted to ride. I am not exaggerating when I say that we literally stood in maybe five or six lines the WHOLE TRIP. The kids were rock stars and much more brave than I expected. They rode every ride we suggested to them, and loved it.

This is when I realized the blissful stage that we were in. First, we traveled (for the first time) with no diapers or bottles. HELLO! Enough said. Second, no one needed naps. OK, I TOTALLY could have snoozed several times on this trip, but what I mean is we weren't scheduling our riding and park time around nap time so we could avoid a cranky toddler as we have in trips past. Third, even though The Girl wasn't too into The Princesses, The Little Man was totally into his characters, and it was so fun to have a change of pace in the characters we were interested in seeing. Since The Girl was over The Princesses, she willingly went along wherever The Little Man wanted to go. Fourth (and maybe last, I'm not sure I could come up with something else just as blissful), the kids were both tall enough to ride all the rides except for two. That meant we weren't child swapping the whole day. We ALL rode the same rides TOGETHER. It really made for a nice time together.

Then, when it was all over, and we were starting to get hungry and tired of all the walking, we LEFT AND ATE DINNER SOMEWHERE ELSE.

(I'm crazy)

Now onto the pics:

The kids in the magical mini-van:

For some reason the kids LOVED this mini-van. They had so much fun with this car, I thought that Disney was going to just be a side note. They have been begging us to get one since we got home, and even had an *almost* tearful goodbye.

The craziness has been passed down to the next generation.

Speaking of crazy, it was right after that last picture was taken that I realized that there was a high probability that there may not be any pictures of me taken on the entire trip, you know, because I am the only one that seems to takes pictures. So I decided a self portrait was in order just in case later on in life we wondered where mom was.

Here I am:


Then I got excited as we neared Disney, and I loved the line of Palm Trees:

And the fact that the street name was Disneyland Drive:

Heading into the park (and starting the day off with crazy's not like it was going to look great all day anyway):

Waiting for the tram with Grandma. (I think the key to having a successful Disney trip is bringing along the grandparents. We LOVE having them come with):

Right inside the door, we got to meet up with Goofy!

Then right around the corner, was the Big Guy himself!

I was attempting to get the kids with the castle in the background here.


However, the kids really wanted nothing to do with having their picture taken at the entrance of the park, and really just wanted to get INTO THE PARK ALREADY! Also, The Little Man was complaining about the sun burning out his eyes when he looked at me.


So not exactly the photo I was hoping for:

A little snip-it of Frontier Land:

Waiting for Big Thunder Mountain to come and pick us up:

What a ride!

(Hey! I did make an appearance!)

Now we come to the highlight of the day. It could also have been the highlight of the whole trip for me. In Tomorrow Land, there is a place where your kids can be apart of a Jedi training show. With The Little Man's love for Star Wars running VERY deep, this show was a MUST see for us. I also desperately wanted The Little Man to get picked to be part of the show so he could get "trained" as a Jedi Knight and also "fight" Darth himself. Here the kids are, front row, waiting for the show to start:

Then, the best possible outcome that could have happened, happened. BOTH kids were picked to be part of the show. I guess, if I were being TOTALLY truthful, The Little Man was picked, and The Girl followed him up and made herself a part of the show as well. I really don't know who was more excited, the kids or The Hubs and I. I was literally shaking with excitement.

Again, the crazy is uncontrollable at times.

Here's The Girl getting her Jedi robe thing-y and finding her spot:

Of course, The Little Man, he found a spot where I couldn't see him well. Arg.

The Girl practicing her moves:

The Little Man learning how to duck:

The Young Jedi Knights with their certificates of completion:

So, you know, it's totally official now.

Let me tell you, The Little Man, he used those moves on pretty much anyone he came across all day. Other kids would try to make friends with him, and in return, he would fight them off with an imaginary light saber. So, we looked like really awesome parents. We figured the only thing left to do was to totally continue to encourage the behavior, and we bought him a light-up light saber to use for the rest of the night/trip.


Here's the kids and The Hubs at the entrance/exit of Tomorrow Land:

In Tomorrow Land, they have a ride called Autotopia. Basically, it allows children to think that they are driving cars around. It was always a ride that we have avoided in the past because A) There is a height requirement B) The line is usually ridiculously long and C) It just doesn't seem that interesting to us adults because we do enough driving in our real lives.

With no lines and children that were tall enough to drive their own cars (with adult companions), we pretty much had no reason at all to skip it this time around. The kids really loved this ride! They had a great time "driving" around the course. I made The Little Man look at me for a picture when he was driving. He flashed me a quick smile and then sternly told me, "Mom, don't distract me while I am trying to watch the road."

I have no clue where he's ever heard that before:

Thankfully, The Hubs got the same picture of The Girl in their vehicle.

The next ride was my favorite of the day. It was the Nemo submarine ride. It wasn't that the ride was so fantastic that I could barely stand it, but it was way more than I expected it to be, and also the kids were in total awe as we went around in a submarine and looked for Nemo in an underwater world. Here's one of my favorite pics of just awe:

Of course we took in some 3D action with the Honey, I Shrunk the Audience movie. Thumbs down for the movie, thumbs up for wearing 3D glasses:

We got crazy and let the kids ride the Matterhorn together instead of making each one of them ride with an adult. When we got off and looked at them they had fun smeared all over their faces and also, I think they were close to falling out of the car a couple of times. The Girl will say over and over that this was her favorite ride:

And even though we traveled without diapers, bottles, or naps, we were still smart enough to make sure we rented a stroller for the whole day. Truth be told, if we go again and our children are teenagers, we will still probably rent a stroller. If the kids don't ride in them that's fine because they are perfect for carting around all of the stuff you bring into the park with you.

And, alas, at the end of the day, even big kids get tired of walking:

Tired, cold, and hungry we called it quits for day one in the parks and headed somewhere to get dinner and then hit the hay a bit early so we could do day two at California Adventure in the morning.

To be continued...