Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rock Star

Presently, being a rock star is at the top of Ellie’s career list.  She absolutely loves to sing.  The other day we were driving around in the car and she was beyond tired and falling asleep in her seat.  But, she couldn’t stop singing.  Her head would nod down but she kept mumbling the words in her sleep.

She received a guitar for her birthday this summer.  I’ve tuned it a few times in hopes of the open fret chord to be something pleasant but since it was all of $30 it holds it’s tune for about 10 minutes.  That doesn’t stop Ellie though.

She tends to drive Austin a little crazy with her constant singing and playing but his grumbling doesn’t stop her.  Last night she gave us this little ditty:

 

The recording leaves much to be desired, especially when Riley blocks the whole screen, but you get the picture.

Ellie started piano lessons a couple weeks ago.  Maybe in another few years we’ll add the guitar!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Corn Maze and Wine!

We had another fantastic weekend.  Back by popular demand was a trip to Sever’s Corn Maze.  We picked up Austin from school on Friday and headed directly to Sever’s.  This is the first year they have been open on Fridays and it was fantastic!  Hardly anyone was there (which might make it the last year they are open on Fridays) so the kids didn’t have to wait in any lines, they had front row seats at the magic and wild animal show, and when we splurged and gave them each $2 to go down the giant slide the girls operating the slide let them go down at least 10 times (instead of once).

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They all loved the slide.  I thought Riley would be done after her first trip down since she went a little airborne on the last hump but she loved it.

Not quite as much as she loved riding Oreo:

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That girl loooooves horses!  Actually, all animals.  When we went into the petting zoo she ran around and fed all the animals out of her hand.  Even the giant cow type thing with huge horns and a sign recommending you use a spoon if you want to feed him.  And then at the goat cage she stuffed both her arms through the fence, grabbed a goat by the neck and pulled him in for a hug.  Then got mad when he bit her jacket and quickly forgave him with another hug attempt.  No fear.

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My returning favorite was still the corn pit.  I am hopeful that I have just today gotten the last kernel of corn out of my washing machine.

We, of course, did the corn maze.  And then the hay bale maze.  We also watched pig races (which was really lame and something I’ll try to skip next year).

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Ellie can’t resist a good photo op and took her picture in all of these.  Those are just a couple of them.  Rob was there with us, but since his iPhone camera seems better than my normal point and shoot he is now the main picture taker.

We capped off the evening with a trip to the Lions Tap…yum!

Saturday evening we headed to a nearby winery (Crofut Winery) for their annual Vineman Burning.  We had never been, but Kerry and Mike’s neighbors are regulars and told us about it.  Kerry offered free babysitting from Maddie if all the kids hung out together, so we were definitely ready to go!  It was a fun night.  I’ve been to this particular winery 2-3 times before for tastings.  This particular night was more like “speed tasting” and left me feeling a little sick.  There are probably 3-4 wines there I like though (out of the 10 they make).  Kerry and Mike bought a case and shared a bottle with me the rest of the night.  Someone else bought some cheese and crackers to share (Creamy Havarti might be my new favorite cheese! Thanks Kristy’s mom!) so we were set.

The Vineman burning is about what it sounds like.  They winery has someone construct a 32 foot man made out of old grape vines:

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And then when it’s dark, they burn him:

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And everyone just stands around and watches him burn until he falls over.  Note for next year…stand up wind of the ashes.

We capped off the weekend on Sunday with a Vikings pizza party (and it was a great game). 

Weekends like that make it difficult to start over with Monday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath

It’s one of the “classics” that I’ve always loved.  But, after this past weekend, the words have a whole new meaning to me.
Rewind a few weeks.  Groupon had a deal that sparked my interest.  For $49 (51% off, mind you!) we could go to a nearby vineyard and learn the whole process of wine-making.  We’d harvest grapes, stomp grapes (ala Lucille Ball), watch how grapes are now crushed, add yeast, etc.  We’d also have a pizza lunch (with wine) and get to take home two bottles of wine from last years harvest.  It sounded like a full, but fun day so I bought it.  Well, Rob started taking classes on Saturdays so he couldn’t go with me, but luckily my sister could!
After a 30 minute drive we arrived on location ready for some fun!  We were greeted, handed instructions (that we didn’t comprehend at all) and signed a waiver (that neither of us read one word of…I mean, how dangerous can wine-making be?).  Once the rest of the participants arrived (about 20 of us total) we headed into the vineyards to harvest some grapes.
We were given a very quick demonstration (it’s about what you think it would be…pick the grapes, but them in a bin) and then headed down the rows of vines to get to work.  Work involved sitting on a 5 gallon bucket.  One with a cushion duct taped on it if you were lucky.  You reached up into the vines, found a bunch of grapes and picked them off.  Some were easier than others to get off.  Some required a bit of a wrestling match.  For the first hour, it was interesting.  After 3 hours, not so much.
Yes, 3 hours!!!  For 3 hours we sat on buckets and harvested grapes.  The man behind this vineyard is a genius!  I paid him $50 so that my sister and I could come and do his work.  Furthermore, this is the first time he’d ever heard of Groupon and had anyone besides friends come and harvest his grapes, so “51% off” was a giant crock!  He’d never had anyone pay him so he just put down a price and called it a discount!
Once the harvest was done (and I will say that we were told the 20 of us harvested well over 4,000 pounds!), we had pizza and wine.  This is when the afternoon started to look up.  It could possibly have been the “hard labor-induced famine”, but that was probably the best pizza I’ve ever had.  And the wine….delicious!  And even the owner’s description of the wine-making process and his Q&A was interesting.  The grape stomping was fun, but lasted all of 30 seconds. 

At least we each got a bottle of the golden nectar to take home and it isn’t a day I will soon forget.  Maybe someday I’ll channel my inner Steinbeck and come up with a brilliant novel surrounding it….nah, I’ll just drink the wine.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pet owners!

Well, the Runchey’s have finally succumbed to our children’s pleas for a pet.  Only, not quite what they expected.  Well, maybe just not what Riley expected.  That girl would LOVE a dog.  She got a fish.  We all did.

I had an aquarium or two in my room growing up.  The length of time I had said aquarium is fuzzy but it was at least 5 years.  I remember it being fairly easy.  Feed them, turn on/off the light, clean the tank out once a month or so.  Nothing to it!

I set up a 5 gallon aquarium.  Kind of small, but it’s what we had room for.  I talked to the pet store people and they said I could put 5 guppies in the aquarium.  I thought that was perfect; each person in our family could have their own fish!

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So, we all went to the pet store and each picked out a male “fancy tail” guppy.  All males because apparently guppies are like rabbits.  From left to right you see Ariel (Ellie’s – orange), Snake Eyes (Austin’s – black tail – ala G.I. Joe), Flounder (Riley’s – yellow), Freckles (mine), and Big Poppa (Rob’s –orange/blue tail).  Everyone picked their own names.  Yes, even Big Poppa’s owner.

Well, I’m finding this endeavor to be completely stressful.  I mean, they’re fish, it should be easy.  It certainly never stressed me out growing up.  I just went to the pet store, found fish I thought were pretty or interesting and threw them in the tank.  That was all before the internet so there was no one to tell me any different.  Now it’s a whole gaggle of experts stating certain fish can’t be with others, how many fish can be in a tank, the best foods, best medications, what the ammonium, nitrate, and nitrite levels should be, etc.  The solution would be to stay off the internet regarding our fish and just see what happens, only Ellie’s fish is mean so I turned to google to see what I could do.

Ariel, the orange one, picks on Flounder to no end.  All the live long day Ariel nips at Flounders belly (and I’ve doubled checked and Flounder and Ariel are both males).  It’s to the point now that Flounder just retreats to the bottom of the tank and breaths 10x faster than any of the other fish.  Clearly he is stressed. 

If it were just me and my fish, I’d just kick Ariel out of the tank.  Find a good home for him (or toilet) and carry on.  Only, it’s Ellie’s fish and I can’t just tell her “Sorry Ellie, your fish is a jerk so it needs to go!”.  In the meantime, I’ve told all the kids that if any of the fish should die, they can have Freckles.

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I’m hoping that their just establishing a dominance or something and things will calm down.  In the meantime, I’m thanking God we didn’t buy a “real” pet because this fish thing is stressful enough.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Karate Kid

This summer we started something new with Austin.  Since he continues to be disengaged with any sort of sport, and since we continue to think there are positive benefits to participating in something regularly, Rob and I signed him up for Karate.  I was sold on it once I met with his instructor.  He pulled us into his office for 15 minutes and discussed why we were thinking karate, why Austin was interested in it, why we were interested in it, what we wanted him to gain from his experience, etc.  We explained that Austin was a sensitive lad who was easily brought to tears when he was frustrated with not being able to do something.  The instructor, Jake, said he was like that as a child too and he explained why he thought karate would help.  It will give him self-confidence, more coordination, and his progression is all up to him.  He will progress as fast as he is willing to work at it.  All in all, it sounded like a good option.

He started in June.  Karate is 2 times per week for a half hour each time.  Austin was very intimidated at first with any bigger kids in his class but after about 3 weeks he earned his first belt.

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He was VERY excited about this.  With each belt you need to earn certain color stripes for various accomplishments.  Forms, Stances, and Self-defense (I think).  It works out well (and I’m sure they do it this way for a reason) because it seems every time Austin starts to get reluctant about going to karate he earns a stripe and that motivates him to the next stripe. 

We went through a small patch within the first few weeks where he was acting goofy in class with another student or two and not listening to the instructor.  This was cleared up rather quickly.  The instructor is pretty no-nonsense and does a great job of commanding respect (they have to answer him with “Yes Sir” or “No Sir”) while also being fun and positive.  He has even called Austin out on his “groaning” about something that was hard.  After he heard Austin’s groan he said “What was that Austin?  Did you say ‘Yes Sir?’  There’s no groaning or moaning in this class”.  Since then if Austin groans about something at home I usually just have to say “excuse me?” and he says “Okay mom” to whatever I’ve requested.

Last Wednesday he had his first belt graduation!  It was about a 45 minute ordeal.  We watched him do what he learned, and then watched all the various belts do what they learned.  Most of it was very impressive!  Especially the red belts and their bo skills!  Then there was a little audience participation.  Austin pulled Rob up to be his partner and got a chance to punch and kick his dad.

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But, in return, Rob also got to put Austin in a head lock so Austin could show him his self-defense for it (which maybe needs a little work).

In the end, we had one happy karate kid!

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Morning Funny

Most days of the week Riley can make it through the night without peeing.  As long as she doesn’t have a ton of liquids right before bed she is usually fine.  Last night I was on the fence.  She downed at least a pint of strawberry milk at dinner time.  For the child that barely drinks a half a cup of anything at any given time, that is a lot.  But, it was at dinner, 6pm, so I thought she’d make it.  I gave her the option of a pull-up and she declined. So be it.

This morning she trudged down the stairs and after my perfunctory good morning I asked if she stayed dry.  She looked at me, pausing because she wasn’t sure if I’d be mad, and cheerfully said “Yep!  Well, I just peed a little bit on the side of my bed (and quickly added!) But that’s okay because I liked it.  I’ve always wanted a water bed!”

 

Have a good morning….I’m going to go deconstruct a water bed now.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First Day of School 2012

Once again, I’m at least a few weeks behind on blogging.  I’ll back track and catch up later this week, but today was a big day so I’ll start with the present!  This morning I shipped off two kids to school!  Well, one is only there until noon, but it is still a step in the right direction! (That direction is the day when all 3 get on the bus for a full day and I breath a sigh of relief.)

We’ve had a wonderful summer together so up until this weekend (another post) I was kind of sad about school starting up.  The kids were pretty excited.  Austin probably wouldn’t admit it, but I could tell he had a little bounce in his step this morning.  And he wanted to go wait out at the bus stop at 8am for his 8:30 bus.  It’d be amazing if his enthusiasm lasted the whole year but I’m sure come winter I will be shoving him out the door while he’s still trying to zip his jacket.

Rob stayed home this morning to see them off, and here’s the snapshots of the morning:

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My handsome guys

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My spunky girl

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Trouble

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The Three Amigos!

We did a little last minute shopping and hit up the mall yesterday so Ellie could pick out a new outfit.

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I was a little worried about the dresses she was pulling off the shelf and kept trying to steer her towards this one but she was having none of it until I added some pink accessories to the mix.  Then she loved it!

Good thing Rob (and his spit) was around for a last minute touch-up on her face!

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Pretty soon the rest of the kids joined them at the bus-stop.  Each year our stop grows a little.

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Two of these little gals aren’t going to school yet but they had a blast running around with the big kids.  And then before I knew it the bus was there and they were off!

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She didn’t even glance back.  But, I did get a few kisses blown to me from the front seat.  Austin sat in the very first seat with her (after introducing her to Judy, the bus driver).

Ellie came home from school totally exhausted and crabby.  She immediately took a nap after lunch but still claims she did not have a good day because she didn’t make a best friend yet.  I worry about that kid when she’s a teenager…yikes!

Austin bounced off the bus and immediately resumed his turtle pace from last year.  He told me he had a great day but I didn’t get much more than that out of him.

Riley very much enjoyed her time with me.  She has gotten the wrong idea and is pretty sure she is going to be calling the shots around here while those two are gone.  First up, Panera Bread for a Chocolate Chip Cookie.  Next, Playworks to play, then home for lunchables.  Tomorrow she has us slated for the zoo.  She might be a little thrown off when she starts preschool on Friday!