Monday, May 9, 2016

Boston & New York

Back in early April Rob had a conference to attend in Boston.  Lucky for me, he travels enough that we were able to turn it into a fun, long, almost free weekend for both of us!

We arrived Wednesday night and just did a little bit of walking around.  We stopped at the Parish Cafe for lunch.  Mine was awesome, and Rob's was only so-so.  We did some more exploring.  We had both been to Boston before (another of Rob's work trips) 10 years ago and not much has changed so we didn't re-walk the whole freedom trail but just stopped along some of our favorite parts and then found a nice place for dinner.

Thursday Rob had his conference all day so I was on my own.  I decided to go on a food tour.  There is a lady that has lived in the North End for over 15 years and each day she runs a tour that starts at 11am right outside Paul Revere's house and then she walks you around the North End stopping at 5 or 6 different restaurants where you sample some of their more popular dishes and while you eat she gives you the history of the area.  It was really interesting and delicious!  And, of course, pretty.  Boston's rich history is really fascinating but also beautiful.

This is right outside the Revere house facing North Square Park.  It's the original cobblestone from the 1600s.  I really didn't take much in the way of pictures.  I have never been big of taking pictures of everything so you'll just have to take my word for it.  It's pretty.

After he finish up the conference Rob and I headed back out to the North End (we were staying in the Seaport District).  It's all very walkable, which I love.  I tried to retrace the steps of my tour and tell him all I learned but I was not very successful.  But our tour guide did give us a recommendation for dinner that was a little hole in the wall Italian place that sat about 20.  Service, not surprisingly, was slow, but the food was delicious.  

Friday morning we caught the Amtrak to New York City!

I had never been to New York so I was very excited about this last stage of our trip.  I also had never been on a train.  The jury is still out on whether or not I enjoyed it.  It was a bit too rattling for my liking but it was far less hassle than flying and I liked that a lot.

Friday was supposed to be a rainy day in New York but in turned out to be a gorgeous day.  About 80 degrees with a light breeze!  We had already planned to check out Central Park so it was a bonus that the weather cooperated.

We walked around until about 5pm and then we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for our night.  We stayed that the Hilton Times Square so our location was perfect.  Walking distance to everything.  Friday night we had tickets to go see Wicked.  We debated quite a bit about whether we buy tickets for something we've already seen or risk seeing something new (and maybe not liking it).  In the end we decided to see Wicked.  We have seen it before, but just once (unlike Les Miserable, which we have seen half a dozen times).  Honestly, I thought it was only so-so.  I thought the cast we had when we saw it the first time was much better.  Of course it was still great, just not the "wow" I was expecting from  New York/Broadway show.  Afterwards we headed to a piano bar called "Don't Tell Mama".  That was incredibly fun.  Probably my favorite part of New York City.  The piano man sing, the waitresses sing (as they take orders), and patrons sing too.  Only, the "patrons" are all professional broadway singers so every song was amazing.  Definitely not your standard karaoke singing!  

Saturday we slept in and then headed out to "Best Bagel and Coffee" on 35th street....true to their word, those were awesome bagels!  It was rainy but there were no shortage of umbrellas for sale.  Once I had my umbrella (Rob brought his own...seasoned travel that he is) we jumped on the subway and headed down to Battery Park.  I caught a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.

If you look close it's in the really have to squint!

We walked all the way from Battery Park, through Midtown, Lower Manhatten, Greenich Village, SoHo, NoHo, Hell's Kitchen......all the way back to Times Square.  Where we promptly fell into bed and took a long nap.  We woke up around 7pm and headed out for some sushi for dinner.  Apparently while we were eating (a couple blocks west of Times Square) the police squad team evacuated all of Times Square due to a suspicious truck that was left running and unattended.  We didn't even notice.  That's how many people there are at all times.  Even a mass exodus of Times Square didn't seem like more people than normal.

For that reason, New York is the first big city I've been to that did not leave me with a desire to live in a big city for awhile.  There's just too much of everything there.

Sunday we got up and headed right to Rockefeller Center.  We paid to go to the "Top of the Rock".  It's the observation deck on the top of the world!  That was awesome!  The views were amazing.  It was crazy windy though.  We stuck around long enough to get some snapshots of it all and then it was time to go back to the hotel, pack up, and head home.

Central Park:

Empire State Building:


It was so great to go on a trip with just Rob!  We had equal parts adventure and relaxation!  He'll have to keep traveling for work so we can do it all again!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day!

Well, I'm behind again on the happenings around our house but before I go backwards, I'll post our present day adventures!  Happy Mother's Day to me!  And to you (if you're a mom).

I got donuts and coffee in bed, with the paper and all the time I wanted to just sit and enjoy it!  Once I finally emerged I decided we'd all head out to Minnehaha Falls to do some exploring and have a picnic.  We also decided to bring Loki.

Loki turned out to be the star of the show.  I don't want to brag or anything, but he's pretty cute!  I was just telling Rob that not a day goes by when someone doesn't stop me and ask what kind of dog he is, or just to tell me he's cute.  I'm sure when I told Rob this he did a mental eye roll because of course I am biased.  But, today Rob got to see it with his own eyes.  We lost track of the number of people who stopped us to comment on Loki. At least two people asked for the breeder's information and one guy even stopped me and asked if he could take a picture of my dog.  Loki was quite a hit!

But, back to our adventure. It was a gorgeous day to be outside!  After we ate up our Boston Market picnic we headed to the falls, only we parked not anywhere near it, so it was a bit of a hike.  The kids loved it!

 And, of course, what's a trip to Minnehaha without going in the "restricted" area.  We're teaching the kids to live on the edge!

The kids had so much fun climbing around.  I knew they would think it was cool, but I underestimated how much they would want to climb around and explore.  They did a little bit of wading in the river a little further downstream but it was getting late, Loki was hot, and we only paid for 2 hours of parking (which had already come and gone) so we had to head out.  But it is definitely on our list of places to go again this summer!  We'll leave Loki behind so the paw-parazzi doesn't follow us around (see what I did there!)

I'm one lucky mom!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Noodle Rat Rotten Hat

On Thursday, February 4th Austin and Ellie tried out for a play through the Prior Lake Players. It was called Noodle Rat Rotten Hat, and other than that, we didn't know much about it. And at 9:30 that night they called and offered the role of "Binky Bear" to Ellie and "Brother Bear" to Austin. In the morning I told them about the offers and they were both disappointed. They always go into a play audition eager to receive the top role. I suppose in a way that it's nice they set their sights high, but they have yet to learn that they are fairly young and only have a couple plays under their belts so it will be awhile before they get the top spots. But, they agreed to do the play with the assigned parts. That night, Friday, they had their first read-through. They would only have 13 rehearsals to pull it all together.

When they got to the read through Ellie received an actual script. This made her very excited because only "real" parts get scripts....the rest of the cast gets copies of scripts. So, she was immediately appeased. When I went with Austin to get his script the director pulled him aside and had a chat with him, then came back and told me she was going to have him read the part for the kind of a "call-back" (there was a snow storm during auditions so there was no chance for call-backs). This made him very excited because the Wolf was one of the 6 main characters. However, when we opened up his script and started reading his lines I got very nervous for him. None of his lines made any sense. For example, his opening line is:

"Show, ratchet, ratchet, tea woof's beehive dew! Glisten pimples, Me yam woof, ski? Me post to scratch disk noodle grill."

Say what???

Somehow he made it through the read-through with little help from me and he got the part.

The next month was a whirlwind of rehearsals on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday's from about 6-9ish. And a whirlwind of trying to coordinate who was taking which kid and where. And our daily dinners each night became a free for all. It was a crazy month, but the kids were having a blast so On With the Show!!!

The week before the show I joined a group of moms that were coordinating costumes. We sewed bear paws, ears, and tails. And then the director gave me a couple yards of fake fur, a vest that was a few sizes too large, and a hat with a plea to put wolf ears on the hat and make a vest that fit, a tail, and some leg cuffs. I took it to my mom and we had it done in no time. I drew out the pieces and she sewed the together. My dad threw some wire in the tail to make it stick out and we had a wolf costume! For Ellie's bonnet and bib I was not that involved. That was more of a "here's some fabric mom....pretty please make a big baby bonnet and bib!" Of course she did a great job!

Ellie and Austin both had so much fun throughout the whole month. There was never any complaining about going to practice, or practicing their lines at home. Austin did have a song he had to sing, which did cause quite a few grumbles out of him, but he pulled it off in the opposed to Ellie who sang songs with the Bears and we couldn't get her to stop!

Here's my Binky Bear:

And my Wolf:

And the rest of the Bears:

And the witch attacking my Binky Bear:

For such a quick turnaround on the show (usually practices are double this amount of time) it ended up being one of my favorites. A very quirky and cute show. They had a great turnout for both performances. My kids were happy with their cheering section:

And on Saturday night all three of my kids were delighted to see their favorite teacher show up. I forgot to snap a picture with her. But, she's recently had some fairly severe health problems and they haven't seen her in months, so for her to make a special trip just to see these kids was awesome!

Austin is already asking when he can be in another play.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Brace Yourself

This cutie got braces yesterday!

Just on the top four (for now). We went to the dentist about a month ago and I explained that Riley has not lost her two bottom middle teeth yet but she has lost several others. I was only concerned because usually those two bottom middle teeth are the first to go. They agreed that was odd and did an x-ray. What we found out was that Riley is missing her adult bottom middle teeth. In addition, she is also missing her adult top lateral teeth. They told us it would be wise to consult with an orthodontist sooner rather than later.

We met with an orthodontist about a week later, and she confirmed all of the above. She also pointed out that Riley's top middle tooth came in where the lateral tooth should have which is why she lost that baby tooth. That is a tooth she will never get it. Also, the middle tooth came in behind her bottom teeth instead of in front (when she closes her jaw). The orthodontist was concerned that as the tooth moved forward it would knock out another one of her permanent teeth down below. As she put it "this girl cannot afford to lose any more adult teeth!". And so, Riley has braces.

The plan is to get her front top teeth in better alignment. Then she is going to wear a retainer until she has lost all the remaining of her baby teeth. Then she'll get braces again, and at that time we'll figure out what to do with all the missing teeth, or rather the spaces where those teeth should be.

Hurray for good dental insurance.

The dentist also gave me a referral for both Austin and Ellie. They have their orthodontist appointments in six weeks. Cross your fingers they have more normal mouths!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Okiboji Winter Games

The kids didn't have school last Friday so we used the opportunity to travel to Iowa. We drove to West Bend on Friday night to stay with Rob's parents. It was a quick visit but a good time. Bob and I schooled Rob and Patti in a few games of 500. That was probably all due to Bob because I know I don't play in the "traditional" fashion...laying certain cards when others wouldn't. But, maybe that's my secret weapon! The girls were happy to go on a walk with Grandpa to the Grotto and Austin passed the time drawing Clones and various Star Wars characters for us.

Saturday morning we jumped back in the car and headed to Spirit Lake to stay with Rob's uncle and aunt (Rick and Jan) at their cabin and as a bonus Jaci (his cousin) was visiting too! They bought the cabin/house last summer and have completely redone it. It looks amazing! We went this particular weekend because it was the University of Okiboji Winter Games. Apparently there is no University of Okiboji and that is just a joke (that is lost on me). Anyway, lots of fun activities planned for the weekend! Our first order of business was to join 1-2 hundred other people (I could be way off on this number...I'm terrible at estimating large group numbers) in forming a large goldfinch in a field. Then an aerial photographer flew over and took our picture:

The kids did a great job being patient with this. We were some of the first people out on the field and had to stand out there in the snow until everyone else took their places and while the plane flew back and forth several times to take the picture. It turned out pretty cool though!

After that we headed to where all the main activities were taking place. They had motorbike races, flag football, sled dogs, helicopter rides, human sled races, a giant tubing hill for the kids (and adults!), and much more we didn't even see! Quite a party! We also got to meet up with Rob's sister's family for a bit. The girls really enjoyed making friends with the sled dogs.

Once we made it back to the house the kids were all anxious to try their hand at ice fishing. Rick and Rob headed out with them. After about an hour I glanced out and saw Riley playing out on the lake. Assuming she was bored I walked out there to check in. She was bored and graciously gave up her seat for me. Rob walked back with her and I stayed to try fishing too. Austin and Rick both caught a walleye. Austin was the next to give up and head in. Ellie was die hard but came up empty (so did I).

The next morning everyone was eager to get back out on the ice for more fishing. Including myself. Turns out I think ice fishing is way more fun than regular fishing. Doesn't hurt that we had a gorgeous day for it. We didn't even need a shack. Austin had his line in less than a minute when he pulled out the first perch. Large enough to get him on the Dehner record board. And then we were all rewarded about an hour later when a school of perch came by and I think we got 7 or 8 more.

I don't think Rob caught any, but he was pretty busy helping all of us with bait and what not. And Riley didn't catch any, but she wasn't fishing at the time the school came by. Ellie ended up knocking Austin off the board with an 11" perch so she was quite satisfied.

She was definitely the most patient person out there. Well, her and Rick. I'm sure it's not all that fun to go fishing with my family when there is only one of us who baits a hook but several of us who have no trouble losing our bait. Jaci lent Ellie her awesome pink hat and decided she looked so cute in it she should keep it. Ellie just loves it and has worn it every day since!

After a yummy lunch and some shopping for Jan and I it was time to head home. It was a great weekend and hopefully one we can repeat some day! Maybe the Okiboji Games will be a new tradition for us! A big thank you to Rick and Jan for having us!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Date Day with Riley

No school today means I'm free to have a date with one of the kids and today was Riley's turn! All weekend she has wanted to do our date and I promised we'd do it today, despite the cold. Unfortunately her chosen date activity was ice skating.

Well, a promise is a promise so skating it was!

Never mind the winchill of -23. We probably didn't last much longer than 20 minutes. But she did well for our first time out this season. Hopefully it's a little warmer the next time we try.

After skating we decided to warm up with some Caribou. We picked up Austin first because we felt bad leaving him at home (Ellie was at her friends house). Generous of Riley to allow him on her date!

We dropped Austin back at home and headed to Joann Fabrics for some stuffing so she could see a pillow but instead we fell in love with some incredibly soft fabrics and decided a blanket was a better project. Her baby blankets are more holes than anything so this is her replacement.

Riley got a sewing machine for Christmas. She is still getting the hang of it and sews at an incredibly fast speed. It's a work in progress.

She did a great job. Not so eager to work with the pins but still great. Next up is a matching pillow that we might stuff with her ratty old blankets.

Another successful date!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ellie's Debut Song

All December Ellie was asking me what I wanted for Christmas.  She was dead set on the idea that she was going to use her own money to buy each of us a Christmas present.  It was very sweet but I didn't want her to spend her money on us so I kept coming up with silly things I wanted...."for you to hang up your coat for a whole month"..."a giant hug"....."your best drawing of a penguin", etc.  Then one day I was cleaning up their papers of doodles when I started reading one of Ellie's sheet.  Ellie has always liked to write lists and often writes little poems on her drawings.

As a side note, Ellie has always been our little "holy roller".  And I'm not suggesting there is anything wrong with that, it just always throws us off a bit and makes us smile when, out of no where, she brings Jesus into the conversation.

So, I was not surprised to find her latest poem had to do with the birth of Jesus. It was close to Christmas and all so it was on her mind.  But, her latest poem was a bit more insightful than her others.  When I told her I really liked it she explained it was a song.  The next time she asked me what I wanted for Christmas I told her I wanted her to write music to go with her lyrics.  This was finally an acceptable gift in Ellie's mind.

Next my sister joined the game.  Not only is she Ellie's Aunt, but also her piano teacher.  Also, she has written her fair share of music.  I had sent the song to my mom and sister in an email earlier in the week so when Ellie approached Kerry "secretly" about writing the music she wasn't totally caught off guard.  On the Monday before Christmas Kerry came and picked up Ellie and Ellie told me she had to go practice a Christmas duet with her.  But really they worked on my song (and really, I knew this all along but Ellie really wanted it to be a surprise).  And when all the work was done Ellie came home with a folder in her hand, with a bow on it, and put it under the tree.  Then she nonchalantly told me that she was pretty sure there was a new gift for me under the tree. A file folder with penguins drawn all over it.  Who could it be from????

And on Christmas I received my gift!

(I had to make it a "video" to be able to post it here)

Of course I got a little teary both as I read the dedication to me on the front page and when I sat down at the piano to play the song while she sang for me.  She is just too sweet.

Kerry gave me the details of the writing process and so thank you to her too because it sounds like Ellie definitely had some opinions on how she wanted things to sound so I'm sure the process wasn't quick.

Now you can all say "I knew her when..." when she achieves her goal of becoming a famous rock star someday.