Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Snowstorm That I Thought Missed Us, But Just Showed Up Late

Well, the snowstorm that I thought missed us made its appearance last night.  This morning we awoke to a scene of beautiful white.

We got about 5-6 inches of wet, heavy, slushy snow with a nice layer of ice underneath and it is still coming down (although, a lot less heavy, with not much more accumulation expected for the remainder of the day). 

While it wasn't enough to warrant a snow day for our school district, the roads were kind of icky this morning.  It definitely helps that I no longer have to worry about whether we are going to get stuck on our street in the minivan, though.  With our AWD Traverse, we can pretty much get through anything...which is helpful when I have to get kids to school before the plows have made it down our street. 

Today is laundry day and I'm hoping the power holds out long enough to get everything run through the washer and dryer. We had a few power surges this morning and even lost power for a few minutes (due to the snow, I suspect).

Today is also mustache day at school, so I helped Allie craft this masterpiece:

When I took the camera out, Olivia started declaring "CHEESE!  CHEESE!"  She was so cute, I couldn't resist a quick picture while she was finishing up her breakfast of Honey Nut Cheerios, banana, string cheese, and milk.

Zach wanted in on the action too and made sure to employ his very own favorite camera pose.

Last night when it began sleeting, Zach asked what it would be called if big chunks of ice began to fall from the sky.  I responded, "Hail" to which he replied, "Hail?  HAIL?  But, isn't that the really scary place without Jesus?"  That boy cracks me up. 

On Monday night, he managed to grab onto the shower curtain during his shower (for about the one-hundredth-millionth time despite our warnings not to do so) and the whole curtain came toppling down on his head.  There were screams of panic.  There was water everywhere.  And then we had to finish showers while I held up the curtain because the tension rod that holds it up was completely busted.  To save me from having to hold up the shower curtain at 5:00 am the next morning while Ben showered, he volunteered to run out and get another tension rod after the kids went to bed that very night.  

Last week, while left alone with Olivia in the living room for a mere 10 minutes, he managed to haul out every single one of Olivia's toys from her bedroom, pile them on the floor in the living room, and somehow coaxed Olivia to the top of the toy mountain.  When I asked why he would do that, he responded, "Because Olivia needed to play."  When I said there was no need for him to bring every single toy out of her room, he responded matter-of-factly, "I didn't.  Her baby doll is still in her room."  Then he said he needed help picking up. 

It is a good thing he cracks me up, otherwise he might drive me insane.   

And, now I must go put in another load of laundry before I have to leave to pick up Allie from school.  I'm wondering if it would be too terrible to have another snow-afternoon today.  After all, it would actually be official this time....

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Snow Storm That Missed Us...Again

It looks like the "big storm" of the season, you know the one that the meteorologists have been forecasting for the last week or so, is going to be another big miss.  Although I wasn't too excited about the prospect of a foot-plus of snow, I had already braced and prepared myself for the worst.  So now that only about 2 inches (if that) is expected, along with a bunch of slushy crud, I find myself a bit disappointed...mostly because I was looking forward to being snowed in...watching movies, lounging in pj's, coloring, reading books, and just plain hanging out doing nothing. 

Although it is not snowing outside, the gloomy, cloudy weather definitely has left me with little to no energy, so I decided to have a snow day in spirit this afternoon.  While Olivia is snoozing away in her crib, I put in a movie for the kids and I to veg out on.  And since I can only take so much Tinkerbell before my brain feels like it may explode, I'm using movie time to mindlessly search the web. 

I haven't spent too much time here lately, but life has been truckin' along.  I know we've been having an amazingly mild winter by Minnesota standards, but it is always at about this time of year that regardless of the weather, I'm more than ready for Spring.  I feel like we've just been going through the motions lately and frankly, more days than not, I just plain flat feel exhausted...mentally and physically. 

It may have something to do with the fact that Olivia has finally blossomed into a runner...the kind that runs all over the house just looking for things to get into and rip apart.  She loves rifling through the bathroom cabinets, specifically in search of "her" little brush.  By the time she finds it, though, she has usually emptied the entire drawer or cabinet of all its belongings.  She also loves to empty out her clothing drawers and more often than not, she can be found in our room emptying out our drawers as well. 

The big kids keep me on my toes too, mostly because by this time of year they are plain, flat bored.  I'm no help either because I feel like I've run out of ideas and energy to keep them occupied. day today. 

We've gone through quite a few rounds of colds since the plague of three weeks' ago.  Thankfully the kids are better and I seemed to emerge unscathed, but Ben, who lost his voice almost completely this weekend, is still trying to get over his cold.  It probably does not help that work has been extremely busy.  Because of the milder weather, road crews have not yet taken a break for the winter season, meaning that at a time of year when Ben can usually focus his time on conferences, training, and planning for the upcoming season, he is instead busier than ever overseeing continuing work...and subsequently continuing problems that arise.   

Well, I think that about does it for today.  Thankfully, Spring is right around the corner and we have lots of fun things to look forward to in the next few months. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

An Afternoon at Como Park and Zoo

This past Friday, I decided to take advantage of the balmy 40-degree February weather by visiting Como Park and Zoo in St. Paul.  After picking Allie up from kindergarten, I took the kids to McDonald's for Happy Meals.  Since I'm not a huge fan of McD's, we don't go there very, needless to say, the kids were ecstatic to discover that was our lunchtime destination.  After devouring their cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, fries, apples, and chocolate milk, they were thrilled to receive their Happy Meal minis for the girls and an R2D2 spinner top for the boy.   

I was anticipating a big crowd at the Zoo, but was surprised to find an up-close parking spot and more people leaving than staying. Because it was so sunny and beautiful when we arrived, we decided to walk the outside portion of the zoo first...which was a great decision because by the time we were done seeing everything outside and devouring our Teddy Graham and apple juice snack inside, the clouds and cooler temperatures were rolling in.

The animals were as active as I have ever seen them, which made it extra fun for the kids.  The monkeys were swinging around like crazy, the tiger was roaring, the lions were pacing, the puffins were enjoying their fishy lunch, the bears were up and on the move, the sea lions were swimming all around, and Sparky the seal was putting on his own show by tossing a frisbee, throwing around a football, and leaping up and jumping on his little rock. 

While we were looking at the fish in the rainforest exhibit, Zach asked one of the volunteers if any fish could get out of the tank.  Chuckling to myself, I anticipated the obvious answer only to be completely surprised when the volunteer responded that there had indeed been two fish that had died because they jumped out of the tank one evening and were not found until the next morning!  Apparently, this particular type of fish is carnivorous and it is believed the pair were probably trying to "chase" a mouse and ended up not able to get back into the water.  Crazy....but, educational, nonetheless. 

After seeing all the animals, we had a fun time perusing through the greenhouses.  I'm always shocked at how much the kids love looking at all the plants and flowers.  We made sure to take a few pictures of all the beautiful stargazer lilies, my favorite flower.

We were looking for the pineapple plants, but didn't see any.  However, we did see a couple banana trees loaded with TONS of green bananas.   Allie also spotted a tree full of small oranges just beginning to ripen. 

Since Allie has started kindergarten and Zach has started preschool, we definitely have not had the opportunity to do as many of these outings as we used to.  I think we all enjoyed the break from the everyday routine with some time spent outside and a chance to see some pretty neat things together. 

I am especially thankful for Olivia's easy-going nature.  Although the only afternoon nap she got was a measly 15 minutes in the car, she was completely enamored the entire time and there wasn't any complaints from her at all! 

Actually, I was proud of all three kids, because unlike some of our more "challenging" days, everyone was extremely well-behaved, respectful, and actually listened like they had functioning ears.  Days like last Friday don't happen all the time, far from it, but on the particularly rough days, I'm thankful I have fond memories like these to recall. 

In fact, I have a feeling that as the kids grow, it will be these memories that I most want to hold onto.  Not that I won't remember when Allie slammed her bedroom door on Zach's hand or when Zach pushed Olivia into the side of the coffee table or how Olivia pulled out a rather decent-sized chunk of Allie's hair or how in a moment of complete frustration and impatience, I yelled something in anger that I later regretted...believe me, I have PLENTY of those memories to go around...and then some. 

But, there are just some of those moments, however few and far in between they occur, that seem as close to perfect as life can corny as it seems...a little reflection of heaven right here on earth.  And, if just the mere reflection is so wonderful, I can hardly begin to imagine the magnificence of the real thing. 

Valentine's Day Recap

Valentine's Day definitely did not disappoint this year. 

Well, actually, the roses that showed up half-dead were a bit disappointing, but Ben and I had a good laugh over the whole ordeal. It was thoughtful that he planned ahead and ordered the flowers weeks ago, but when a FedEx Truck showed up and we realized my flowers just may have been sealed in a box for that same amount of time, we couldn't help but laugh. 

Despite their wilty appearance, I insisted upon putting them in a vase even though half of them had to be tossed because the petals were brown and falling off. 

The absolute BEST part was when I picked up a stem to discover there was no rose attached at was simply a petal-less stem.  We were laughing so hard at this point we were crying and could barely speak! 

Lesson learned:  do not order from ProFlowers.  However, after Ben sent them a picture of the flowers along with a disappointed e-mail, they refunded him in full and then he made up for it with these:
Totally fine by me...I'm more of a chocolate girl than a flower girl anyway.

The kids were absolutely thrilled with their Valentine goodie boxes.

After breakfast and successfully carting everyone off to school, Ben arrived home to watch Olivia so that I could help out at Allie's Valentine's Day Party.  It was a lot of fun to see how excited the kids were for party day.  I was in charge of the ice cream sundae station along with another mom.  Needless to say, the kids were all pretty thrilled about eating ice cream at 10:30 in the morning!

After picking everyone up from school, we headed home for heart-shaped ham and cheese sandwiches complete with pink-sugar-sprinkled applesauce and our divine Valentine's cookies.  Olivia was THRILLED about the cookies.  Just seeing them in the cupboard made her giggle!
After just a few bites,she morphed into the cookie monster.
The kids were pretty excited to go through their Valentine goodie bags from school.  They spent the majority of the afternoon going through cards and candy, sticking on stickers and requesting help being temporarily tattooed. 

I decided to pose with my littlest Valentine before her afternoon nap time.
I was also impressed by the Valentine drawing Zach brought home of Mickey Mouse.  He is not really that much into arts/crafts or drawing in general, so we were all probably a little too excited to see that his drawing actually resembled a mouse!
We decided to be brave and go out for dinner...all five of us...on Valentine's evening.  I was a little concerned, but when we arrived at our favorite local Mexican food restaurant, we realized we weren't the only family with little kids who had the same idea!  We were relieved to see so many toddlers, babies, and preschoolers eating dinner with their parents.  The kids were thrilled with all the cheesy Valentine's decorations:  paper hearts and doilies, fake roses, and dozens upon dozens of helium balloons.  We all had a fun evening filled with more chips and queso than anyone should be allowed to eat! 

By the time we arrived home, it was nearly time to put the kids to bed.  After showers were taken, teeth brushed, Bible stories read, prayers prayed, and little heads were on pillows, Ben and I devoured every last one of those wonderful hand-dipped truffles without sharing a single morsel with the kids.  And, then we had gut-rot, but that is beside the point.  They were delicious.  Until next Valentine's Day, I suppose.....

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Best Part About Driving Home From Grandma and Grandpa's House

Valentine's Day Prep

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and we're excited!

In fact, I love Valentine's Day...always have and always will!

There is absolutely nothing a Valentine Scrooge can say that will sway my opinion.  In fact, if you're a Valentine-hater, you should just stop reading right now.  There will definitely be way more red and pink in this post than you may be able to stomach!

Pinterest gave me way, WAY more ideas than I was even able to conquer in preparation for Valentine's Day.  I just kept running across so many cute Valentine ideas and crafts in addition to countless yummy treats.  I think it will probably take at least 10 Valentine's Days before I utilize everything that I pinned. 

Anyway, I did follow through with two ideas. 

For the kids' classroom Valentines, I used the idea for paint-swatch Valentines and came up with these nifty Valentine bookmarks that the kids helped create:

I usually just buy the Valentines, but we all had a blast stamping and stickering these creations.  The kids will take these to school tomorrow, along with some Hershey Hugs and Kisses to share with their classmates.

I know the kids will have TONS of treats tomorrow, but I wanted to make something a little extra special to share at home.  I was looking for a treat with minimal preparation and came across these Sweet Swirl Cookies of Love.

The biggest reason I chose these cookies was because of the lack of frosting.  I assumed "no frosting" meant easy prep, and although these weren't too terribly hard to assemble, they were a bit putzy at times...especially as my dough kept ripping while I was creating the cookie roll.

We sampled a few after lunch today and unanimously agreed that they are just as delicious as they look!

I've already received one early Valentine from Allie:

And I had a lot of fun putting together little Valentine boxes for the kids to open tomorrow morning:  complete with candy, a Valentine, and a little prize. 

This past weekend my Valentine treated me to a fun getaway.  Ben's work had their annual awards ceremony and in addition to a delicious steak dinner and mouthwatering cheesecake for dessert, we also got to spend the night in the historic St. Paul Hotel.  It was fun to get all dressed up and have an adult-only night while the kids partied it up at Grandma and Grandpa's.  It was definitely perfect timing for a night away. 

On our way to pick up the kids on Sunday we were reminiscing about our newlywed days and decided to make a stop at the Donut Hut, the absolute BEST donut shop, that is located near where we used to live when we were first married. 

As we were devouring our donuts, we drove by our old apartment that we moved into almost nine years ago and talked about how everyone always tells you that time flies, but you don't really believe them until it happens to you. 

I mean, it seems like you get married one day, move into an apartment, start a job, get a cat, start grad school, get another cat, finish grad school, get another job, get pregnant, buy a house, have a baby, get rid of your cats, buy a mini van, have a second baby, paint your house, start another job, have a third baby, remodel your bathroom, trade in your mini van for a crossover, talk about planning your ten year anniversary getaway....and even though you still feel very much like those newly married 22 year olds, *bam* are now checking the age 30-35 box when filling out surveys or applications.  Pure craziness. 

However, this Valentine's Day and every day, I'm happier than ever to be sharing that craziness with my best friend! 

Cold Enough for Hats and Mittens?!

Yes...last week it was actually cold enough to wear hats and mittens.  I couldn't resist taking a picture of my favorite baby girl before we headed out the door for school. 

These were of course taken on Monday morning prior to the plague arrival.  Thankfully, everyone is doing MUCH better!  Ben never did come down with anything other than a stuffy nose...which Allie is also suffering from as well. 

Thankfully, though, we are all well enough to celebrate Valentine's Day tomorrow! 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kalahari Recap

While all three kids are sleeping (During the day?!  Yes!  I know!  I'm as in shock as anyone!), I finally have time to post about our trip last week. 

Wait...scratch that...Olivia just woke up.  It was a very glorious 15 minutes while it lasted. 

Anyway, since she does seem to be happily playing away in her crib despite the half emerged bottom left molar, I'm going to continue right along as if I'm ignorant to the fact that she's awake.  Ben is working late tonight and since it is still a very long time until the 8:00 pm kids' bedtime, I'm going to make the most of every single minute remaining of quiet time. 

Alright...Kalahari update time....

This year we were able to stay in a suite that had two separate bedrooms and it was nice to be able to put the kids to bed at their normal bedtimes while Ben and I stayed up a little later watching movies and eating peanut butter fudge ice cream.  Although I enjoy the time we got to spend as a family all together on vacation, I told Ben that my absolute favorite part of each day was collapsing on the bed next to him in my pj's, Styrofoam ice cream bowls with plastic spoons in hand, and watching movies until far too late knowing that the kids would still be up at the crack of dawn the next morning ready to hit the pool. 

During the day, though, there was much to see and do.  The kids were just as enamored by the surroundings of the resort as we were...

It's amazing that we can spend three days, never walk outside, yet not feel cooped up at all.  The place is gigantic...and with all the fountains, trees, sculptures, and animals (yes, one day they actually had live baby cheetahs and baby kangaroos) we almost felt like we had hopped a plane to the jungle...a very tame jungle, that is.

One of the kids' favorite things was the breakfast buffet each morning.  They loved picking their own pancake toppings that always included chocolate chips, M&Ms, whipped cream, and strawberries. They were even allowed to have a donut on the side. 
Olivia mostly enjoyed the coloring (and even insisted upon holding her crayon like the big kids!) and saying "cheese" for the camera while waiting for her food from the buffet.

Since Zach is definitely not a morning person, there were no shots taken of him at breakfast. 

Most of our time was spent at the pool.  While Olivia was initially hesitant of the water, she warmed up to it pretty fast.  The kids enjoyed swimming and going down the slides in the kid areas most of all, but we were able to coax them into going down a few family tube slides as well.  Another favorite was the wave pool, but Olivia and I enjoyed riding the waves best while safe and snug in our intertube.

When we weren't enjoying the water park, you could find us hanging out in the arcade where we played countless games and accumulated far too many tickets while Olivia kept begging to ride the Alvin and the Chipmunks car ride again and again.

Next to the arcade was "Camp Kalahari" where there were all kinds of fun and free activities for kids Allie and Zach's age.  They were able to paint wind chimes, enter a coloring contest, play BINGO, and decorate sugar cookies.  They loved it!

We also spent time at the amusement park riding the ferris wheel, go-karts, and carousel in addition to playing at the indoor play park.  Olivia LOVED the carousel and Ben and I each took her on it multiple times.

During our stay we also had fun painting pottery, having a pizza and movie night complete with blue popcorn (we bought this microwavable popcorn that pops blue...and oh my...what a huge mess!  I have never been more thankful to NOT be eating popcorn in the comfort of my own living room!), and generally just enjoying the break from every day life to play and have fun. 

Getting away definitely does wonders for me, especially in the wintertime when we do start to feel that cabin fever.  It is nice to have vacation at home, but sometimes I find it difficult to relax because I'm surrounded by reminders of everything I should be doing (like laundry, cooking, cleaning, organizing, picking up, etc).  It is so good for me to get away so that I can simply focus on having fun with my family with no other responsibilities or things to distract my attention.  Plus, being at home feels that much more wonderful after time spent away! 

That is, unless, you are blind sided by the plague.  Thankfully, though, I think we may be closer to getting better than I originally thought.  The kids even felt well enough to make some valentines for their classes this morning.  Granted, they only ate jello and Popsicles for lunch, but the baby steps here are what is  important for my sanity!