Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wacky Day

As Ellie nears the end of her preschool year, it seems the theme days are starting up.  Last week she had Pajama Day.  Even though Riley does not attend the school, she insisted on also having pajama day.  Only Riley picked out pajamas that were about 2 sizes too small so she ran errands with me wearing capri pants and a belly shirt.  We received a couple odd looks.

Yesterday was Wacky Day!  Ellie was pretty excited for this day and woke up with a wacky attitude to match her attire.

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She picked out her outfit, we put pony tails all over her head (7 total), spray painted her hair pink, I drew stripes on her face and polka dots on her arms (then she requested polka dots on her face too), she also wore two different shoes, and walked into school with her backpack on her front…a bellypack. 

Riley originally thought she also wanted to participate in wacky day, which was good since the outfit she picked out was fairly wacky (an everyday occurrence for her).  But, Ellie’s pink hair freaked her out a bit and she lost all notions of joining in the fun.  I offered to draw a flower on her cheek but she said that wasn’t “wacky” and declined.

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The best part of the day was after preschool when I ran a few errands with the girls (still wacky).  I went into a salon to get something and one of the ladies working there had a couple pink strips of hair on one side of her head and purple on the other side.  She had an eye brow ring, and the ear I could see had no less than 10 earrings.  Ellie’s eyes widened and I just knew what was going to happen before any words were spoken.

Stylist:  Wow!  Look at you, you look great!

Me:  It’s Wacky Day at school today.

Stylist:  I bet you were the wackiest one there….were you?

Ellie:  Yeah, I think I was.  Are you the wackiest one working here?

The stylist took it in stride.  I’m pretty sure if you accessorize like she did, you are used to an odd comment here and there.  I don’t think I need to worry about Riley going “punk” anytime soon as so was scared of this stylist (and Ellie’s pink hair).  Ellie on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed her pink hair.  Hopefully that is not a sign of things to come!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Good Report

Yesterday afternoon Rob and I went to Ellie’s end of the year conferences for preschool.  She loves her preschool and absolutely loves learning!  At the beginning of the year we had a conference but I think the teachers were still getting to know all the students.  I prefer the end of the year conferences because the teachers know the kids and all their idiosyncrasies. 

I am proud to say that Ellie received a glowing review.  Her teacher had samples of her work from the beginning of the year and compared them to samples from the end of the year.  For example:

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That is Ellie’s self portrait from September.

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And that is her self portrait from last week.  She now has an outline of a body (rather than just arms).  Progress! Right?  She has a belly button and zombie-esk eyes in both pictures.  But, she added a goatee.  Her name is a bit more controlled at the top of the page and she was close to getting her number right!

All joking aside, she truly did have a great report.  She counted to 29, recognized all her letters and numbers, wrote all her letters and numbers (up to 10), knew her shapes, cut on the line, and is starting to read small words.  Best of all she is friendly and kind everyone.  They said she has no trouble playing with anyone and she loves to speak up in class and share stories unabashed.

Ellie is really excited for Kindergarten!  I am too.  I love watching my children learn new things.  Watching Austin really grasp reading this past year has been amazing.  I hope Ellie’s love of learning continues for a long time to come!

I told Ellie she could choose a special treat after her conferences for doing so well.  I was sending her telepathic messages that she wanted frozen yogurt, but her choice was to go to the gas station to pick out some candy.  I guess she still has some things to work on.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fun in the Dirt!

My parents are putting up a fence right now and last Saturday my dad requested help from the guys (and girls if we wanted).  Rob went over on Saturday morning and the kids and I were lured over later with the promise of McDonald’s!  As we pulled up, Austin was elated to see the Murphy cousins were there.  He didn’t waste any time seeking out Jake and soon they were all outside running around. 

After about an hour I spotted Austin eyeing the huge mound of dirt in the lot next door (there is a new house going up).  I knew he was dying to climb all over it so I told him to go for it.  He said he was going to get Jake and I was sure to announce that I said “Austin” go climb it…but that Jake would have to ask his mom.  I wasn’t getting any dirty looks!  But, as I suspected, Kerry didn’t care either and pretty soon all the cousins were sitting atop of the mountain!

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Meditating, of course.

They played on this thing forever!  Riley was quite the little daredevil sliding down the steepest parts.  And, of course, by the time they were done, they were filthy!  Ellie was the first to wear out (though, being the girly girl she is, she was never that into it) and she came and first fell asleep on my lap.  Grandma went and got a blanket for the grass and Ellie made her way over there.  She literally flopped down and collapsed.

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We eventually covered her up.

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We dragged her into the shade too….she slept through it all; including my dads screechy chop saw.  When I woke her up a couple hours later (yes, I had to wake her up!) I asked if she had a good rest and I got a very emphatic “YES!” from her.  I guess sleeping in the outdoors is just what she needed!

Once the allure of the mountain wore off the kids came back to check out the progress of the fence.  This is when they discovered the holes. 

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They all took their turns popping into these post holes.  It was like a game of whac-a-mole.  You can just barely see Riley’s head peeking out of the one hole.  She thought this was great!

The guys got all the kinks worked out on the fence and the progress is coming along.  I didn’t do a darn thing that Saturday (except eat McDonald’s), but I have been back twice to help since to redeem my laziness.  On the way home from our latest trip Austin was eyeing the dirt pile again.  As I remembered the amount of sand I washed off little bodies that night I said he could not go in it that day, but that he could play in it again on Grandpa’s birthday (this Sunday).  To which I received a hissing ‘Yesssss!”.  Then I said “Grandpa is going to be 65!“ and Austin stopped short and said “Whoa! I had no idea he was that young!”  I wasn’t sure if my dad would like that statement or not!  It’s nice that 65 is “that young” but it also means Austin thinks he looks like an old geezer.  Just sayin’….

Saturday, April 7, 2012

San Diego–Day 5

Sadly, Day 5 was our last day. And it was a short day, at that.  Our flight for home left at 2:30 and we wanted to be out of Carrie’s apartment on and our way to the airport by 12:30.

We spent the morning cleaning and packing and then decided to walk to the beach right by Carrie’s apartment for one last dip in the ocean.

The beach by Carrie’s apartment appeared to be a bit of a surfer’s hangout.  As the surfers were coming and going, in their FULL wetsuits, they eyed us as obvious tourists.  It wasn’t exactly a warm day, and the ocean is freezing all the time anyway.  One guy even stopped me and the girls (seeing them in their swimsuits) and said “I hope you’re not expecting warm water!” and then did an exaggerated shiver.  I assured him I was not and told him my kids just didn’t care, they loved the waves!  He smiled and nodded, as a surfer I’m sure he could appreciate that.

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This beach went on forever.  Kind of rocky.  But also, the surfers walking out into the ocean walked out waist high in the water for a long way before they’d hop on their board so if it were warmer, it probably would have been a good area for the kids to get into the ocean a little more (since it was so shallow for such a long way out).

However, it was not warm.

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I stayed huddled in my sweatshirt.  Only able to stand my feet in the water for small amounts of time before they were frozen.  Austin spent his time running in and out of the water being chased by waves.  Ellie spent her time digging in the sand for shells (or anything that looked interesting).  Riley spent her time running between the two activities.

Austin finally did concede that it was a little chilly and went back to one of his favorite beach activities:

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That’s my boy!

We headed back to Carrie’s after an hour or so to do the final packing and walk through.  I knew we would forget something because we can never leave a place with all our belongings, but we did as much of a scouring of the apartment as possible looking for hidden toys.

(As it turns out, we did leave behind Abigail, Ellie’s newly acquired dolphin, but about a week later Carrie found it stuffed in the crack between her fridge and wall.  Kinda serves Ellie right to be missing that one!)

The flight home was fairly uneventful.  Austin and Rob were lucky enough to have a row of seats to themselves and the girls and I took up the other side.  Five days of “go go go” and no naps was just a bit much for them and they both crashed about 2 hours into the flight.

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My leg was pretty numb from Riley laying on it, but it beat “Are we there yet?” every 10 minutes.

All in all, I’d say our first family vacation was a success!  Of course they had their moments, but overall I think our kids did fantastic and it was a really enjoyable time for us as a family.  I think we all came back with spring fever and are anxiously awaiting Summer Break! 

The kids caught a little bit of the travel bug and are already planning our next trip!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

San Diego–Day 4

Day 4 brought us to Sea World.  I chose to leave Sea World for Monday in hopes of it being less crowded on a weekday.  It wasn’t bad at all so I think it worked.  Sea World is only about 10 minutes from Carrie’s apartment and they didn’t open until 10am so we had plenty of time in the morning to get ready. I went for a nice walk in the morning for a Starbucks.  I love walking in her neighborhood in the morning.  So pretty and peaceful!

We got to Sea World a little before it opened.  Right when we got inside we found out the Dolphin exhibit is closed for repairs so my plan to feed the dolphins was foiled.  We chose to feed the Sea Lions instead.  I read somewhere that you should do this first thing in the morning because the animals are good and hungry and willing to try a bit harder (get a bit closer) for their fishy treats.

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I don’t know what they were…little frozen fish of some kind.  But, the birds in the area sure knew what we had in our little trays and if you didn’t guard them with your life they were not shy about taking them right out of your hand.

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Ellie only wanted to touch a few of the fish, but this one was waiting for Riley’s fish for quite some time.  The kids had a lot of fun doing this.

After feeding the sea lions and checking out the schedule of shows, we decided we had some time to explore before getting in line for a show.  Sea World has a huge Sesame Street play area.

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Rob and the kids climbed around in those nets for awhile and then came down and jumped on the giant pillow for awhile.

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Austin also tried out those swinging bags in the background of this picture.  After that, it was just about time to get seats for our first show, but we took a pit stop to see the Sea Turtles first.

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Our first show was Shamu.  I’ve been to Sea World a handful of times in my life, mostly in high school with various band trips, and I have to say, I’m pretty sure this show has not changed a bit in 15 years.  Except that the trainers no longer get in the water with the orcas.  Still, they are always a sight to see!

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From here on out, I really didn’t take many pictures.  I think I was sick of having the camera out.  But, we went to the Sea Lion show (which I think, was a family favorite.  Very funny!), and we also went to the dolphin show.  This one has changed since I last saw it.  It has dolphins and birds in it.  And it was also kind of theatrical with people dressed up as birds doing acrobatics and high diving.  It was pretty cool and I think the kids really liked it.  Riley was a little preoccupied with thoughts of her next stuffed animal purchase so she asked after every act if that was the end, but I think she liked it nonetheless.

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In addition to meditating, I guess Austin is also a bit hippy.

That night everyone was really tired.  Also, that night Carrie came back into town.  She stayed at her friends place our last night in her apartment, but I did get to meet her for dinner which was really nice.  We went to a yummy mexican restaurant that I’ll be sure to visit during my next stay in San Diego.

Only one day left of the trip!

Monday, April 2, 2012

San Diego–Day 3

Day 3 was Sunday.  And just like on Day 2, our kids were up right before 6am.  They never did adjust to the 2 hour time change.  For Sunday’s activities we had planned on the Zoo Safari Park and the Birch Aquarium.  The Safari Park is not to be confused with the regular San Diego Zoo.  After doing some research and talking to other families that have recently been to the San Diego, I decided we would skip the zoo, and instead focus on the Safari Park (located about 40 minutes from Carrie’s).  The reason I decided this is because my kids and I go to the MN zoo all the time.  They love it, but because they see these animals in a traditional zoo setting so often, I just didn’t think they would think the San Diego zoo was all that special.  If we ever go back, we’ll try it out, but due to the time constraints on our 3 day pass, it just wasn’t in the works this trip.

The Safari Park is run by the zoo, but tries to emulate the animals natural habitats much more closely.  The animals are given a wider berth to run in and many of the animals that can be (ex: herbivores) are contained together as they would be in the wild. 

The lady who took our tickets advised us to go directly to the tram tour first thing.  She said a line would form soon and if we went right away, we could avoid the line.  Sounded good to me!  There are several safari options that cost extra and get you a bit closer to the animals, but we opted for the traditional (and included) tram ride.  It was more like a jungle trolley.  We saw a lot of animals we don’t get to see at the MN Zoo, like giraffes, cheetahs, wildebeests, and rhinos.

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I’m not sure why Ellie was so grumpy at the start of our safari, but she definitely was (as the picture represents).

 

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This rhino is a white northern rhino and apparently there are only 8 of them left in the world.  I guess we were lucky to see one before they go extinct!

As for the rest of the Safari Park, I felt it had a lot of potential, but it was a crazy, jumbled mess.  A million paths leading in different direction.  And, if you decided to leave your stroller outside one attraction, it seemed the end of the attraction dumped you off no where near your stroller.  It was a bit frustrating.  Actually, we missed out on some of the cooler animals (elephants for one) because by the end of our time there we just couldn’t be bothered to find our way through one more maze.  Lazy I guess.

We did go into a Butterfly garden.  For those of you who know about my irrational fear of butterflies, yes, I went in too.  Yes, I realize they are beautiful, harmless creatures.  But, if you look really close at them, and I have, they just look like a bug. I don’t like bugs.  What makes butterflies worse than other bugs to me is their random flight pattern.  I just think they are creepy.  But, alas, I went in with the family.  Within a minute a butterfly landed on Rob’s backpack.

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There were thousands of these brown butterflies everywhere.  When they fly they have a very pretty blue color on their wings.  I mostly concentrated on my feet while I shuffled through the area.  Turns out my kids aren’t that keen on the beasts either.  We probably went through the display in record time.

After lunch, we checked out the bats.

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These two were the cutest there.

A highlight for our kids was the petting area.  It was filled with goats while we were there, but someone near me said they change out the animals throughout the day.  My children had no fear about the goats.  I’m certain I wouldn’t have been the same way at their age (I know that’s shocking considering I’m spooked by a butterfly).

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We spent about 5 hours at the Safari Park before we called it a day and headed to the Birch Aquarium.  I didn’t take any pictures at the aquarium, but it was a nice smaller place with a absolutely beautiful view of the ocean.  It was pretty windy the day we were there so we didn’t linger long.  I think we were all tired from the safari park and were ready to head back to the apartment.

Ellie got ahold of my camera after dinner and the rest of the pictures are from her. 

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(This is Austin meditating on me….I told you…everywhere!)

It was a busy day 3 and I think we all fell asleep pretty fast.  After all, day 4 was going to start at 6am!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

San Diego–Day 2

Normally on vacations, I’m not much of a planner.  But, I normally don’t take my kids with me either.  So, I did do a bit of planning for this trip.  Part of that plan included purchasing a 3 day Go San Diego card for each of us.  With this card we had a list of over 50 places that we gained admittance to.  The clincher is that you only have 3 days (you can buy 5 or 7 day cards too) and they have to be consecutive days.  So, starting Saturday, we ran the kids ragged trying to visit our top picks of places.  Saturday brought us to Legoland.  Warning: LOTS of pictures.  Go grab a cup of coffee before you get started.

It was about 40 minutes from Carrie’s apartment and we got there right when it opened at 9am.  This place was much larger than I thought it was going to be.  It boasts 60 some rides, but the waits for these rides was fairly ridiculous considering how short in duration the rides actually were.  Rob and I have always said the downfall to an odd number of kids is that when you go to places with rides, one kid is always going to be the odd one out.  The other two will each have a parent with them.  And, until the girls reach a certain height, that odd one is almost certainly going to be Austin.  I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel about this, but he took it like a champ. 

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We hit a few rides, but then the kids didn’t really want to wait in any more lines.  I guess they weighed the con of waiting in line with the short duration/excitement of the rides and decided it wasn’t worth it.  Which was fine.  Even without rides we stayed busy all day.

They had a giant outdoor park that made chutes and ladders pale in comparison.  Rob posted himself on one of the higher levels and I made camp at the bottom which we thought was the only exit (we learned later it was not….what a dumb design for a park made for kids).  The kids had a blast running around in there!

Being Legoland, as you can imagine, there were Lego statues everywhere.  Some of them were quite amazing.  Ellie took it upon herself to get her photograph with almost all of them.  Here’s just a few of the snapshots she requested:

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The other two requested their fare share of photos too, but not as much as Ellie.

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I think Ellie would say the highlight of Legoland for her was getting her driver’s license.  Both Ellie and Riley (and Rob) waited in line to drive cars in the Tot’s Driving School.  It wasn’t a terrible wait, but once they got to their turn Riley chickened out.  Not Ellie.

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These little cars were completely controlled by the kids.  Ellie spent her first lap figuring out the gas pedal and steering and then breaking away from the pack of other drivers.  She spent her remaining laps singing “The Wheels on the Car” and zig-zagging all over the place.  When her time was up, she was awarded her driver’s license.

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Since returning home, we haven’t had a day yet where she hasn’t bragged to someone (Target cashier, neighbors, teachers, librarian, etc.) that she has her driver’s license.

Although Austin really enjoyed seeing one of his Hero Factory guys (and yes, Ellie also had her picture taken with him):

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I think it’s safe to say that his favorite part was all of the Star Wars lego attractions.

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I swear Riley was here with us.  Looking back at the pictures it doesn’t seem like it.  She must have been enjoying some downtime in the stroller.

Back to Star Wars.  Legoland has a whole section called “Miniland”.  They have amazingly detailed scenes from various cities around the country.

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This was DC.  Everything (except the trees) is Legos.  It was really cool.  All throughout the miniland, they hid little Darth Maul figures.  It was a special scavenger hunt they were hosting the day we were there.  I think this was Riley’s favorite part.  She was pretty good at spotting him….no easy task sometimes!  But, I digress once again, in addition to the Miniland USA, they have recently unveiled a Miniland Star Wars.  Actually, part of it is still being constructed.  But, what they did have available, Rob and Austin were enamored with!  Rob played the part of the proud dad whose son knew EVERYTHING about the scenes they had constructed.

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We ended up leaving Legoland around 5pm.  A full eight hours there, and we didn’t even go on 90% of the rides, or venture into the water park, or aquarium (both were extra).  If you’re headed to the area, Legoland should be on your list of places to go.  Especially if you have a lego fan in the family.  But, even if you don’t, there is something for everyone:

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Even princesses and stuffed animal junkies enjoy it.