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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Not-so-terrible two

Boy, Oh Boy, Guess Who's TWO!? 

I look back on my kids' birthdays with a lot of nostalgia and emotion.  After all, I am a huge sap.  But, they were hugely important days in my life too!  So on this, my son's second birthday, I wanted to tell you a little bit about the little person known as my baby Bam Bam.  These years are passing too darn quickly, and I don't want to forget what it was like when my babies turned 2... or 5… or 10…  So to commemorate each milestone, I'll write about it, take lots of pictures, and hope that my memory doesn't fail me.  Because these are truly precious times.

It was a warm spring day two years ago when Noah Grey decided to join the world, just a few weeks ahead of schedule.  He has maintained that 'head start' approach since then, by doing everything as early as possible.  Noah's not always the most patient kid, but when he accomplishes something he celebrates like nobody's business!  The dude's got a fiery temper with a short fuse, but he is quick to forgive and is pretty easily distracted which balances pretty nicely.    He loves sleeping.  He loves eating.  He's a content little kid, but if he's ever unhappy he's pretty easy to please, because it's almost always one of those two things that will satisfy him: food or sleep.  His sense of humor is really starting to develop now. He's quite the little tease, and loves to watch our reactions when he's being silly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Family Vacation, A Little Like the Griswold's, Only Not As Funny...

It got a little floody around here this past weekend.  After almost 6 months of constant snow cover and subzero temps, we welcomed spring with open arms... and hip waders.  And sand bags, and dump trucks, and helicopters, and police escorted flatbeds filled with... more sand bags.  The weather was quite nice, but unfortunately it was far too soggy to be playing outside.  It's tough for a kid to enjoy the outdoors when most of the playgrounds in your neighborhood look like this:

So we decided that we'd had enough fun with the ol' Red River for a bit, and skipped town, heading east bound to the Twin Cities.

The Red River bridge on I-94, day before the crest
Thank goodness for portable DVD players!
The decision to head out of town was the single most spontaneous thing our family has ever done. While eating lunch, I commented to Daddy that the kids had been exceptionally good that morning. He got that "thinkin' look" on his face, then brought up the suggestion that we take them to Nickelodeon Land at the Mall of America (we had talked about doing so for quite awhile) as a "thanks-for-being-good and happy-early-birthday" treat. We took Asha there last summer for a mini-vacation. We had the best time and thought Noah was old enough now to enjoy it as well. So we hastily threw in a change of clothes, filled the car with that precious $4/gallon gas (yowch), and eased on down the road.
Though passing out is almost as good a time killer on road trips
I very much appreciated our access to modern technology on this trip more than ever.  As we drove out of town, I booked a hotel through Expedia on my handy dandy new Windows Phone.  I got a sweet "last-minute" deal at a nice hotel just a couple miles from the Mall of America (who says frugality isn't fun?!)  The kids were silent the whole way, occupied by their portable DVD players.  When we got closer to the city, we punched the hotels' address into the phones' GPS system and were led right up to the front door!  After we checked in, we found the closest Denny's, grabbed some grub, stopped at WalMart (yup, we forgot Asha's socks in our rush to leave town), and found the quickest route to the MOA, all from our phone.  Nifty!

The dim spot in our weekend was the night in the hotel.  It was a great place, don't get me wrong.  The kids loved the pool, and the rooms were nice & roomy.  Just not roomy enough for a toddler who loves (and I mean LOVES) sleeping in his own bed. Or for a big girl who insists upon sleeping with her bony knees shoved into your spine.  We booked a King room, knowing that Ash would end up in bed with us anyway, and that Noah would probably follow suit.  We were all exhausted by 7:30, so we took advantage and tried to get them down for the night then. "Not a chance, suckas!", they seemed to say.  Noah babbled, giggled, crawled all over us, begged for "TV on!" and was just being a royal pain in the pooper.  Asha whined about his wiggling; so he sat on her head and soon both began to wail.  Daddy To The Rescue jumped up and dialed the front desk, "Yeah, can we get a crib up here?"

45 agonizing minutes later, the hotel staff finally showed up with that magical crib, with its four wonderful walls that held Monster Man captive until at last he drifted off to sleep.  Sister was out moments later... too bad Mom & Dad didn't get a wink of sleep that night.  The tricky thermostat kept the room temp ranging from rain forest to arctic tundra in a matter of minutes.  Kneecaps McGee and Baby Mouth Breather ensured that we didn't get too much rest.  6:30am rolled around, and Ash was up with the birds as usual.  She & Dad went down to check out the continental breakfast.  Bless Daddy's heart, he kept her down there and allowed Mama & Noah to sleep until 8:00.  2 hours later, we headed over to the Mall, to begin our day of fun!

The plan was for Mom & Asha to hit the theme park right away, while Dad & Noah would visit the aquarium.  The boys had a blast, Noah loved all the "fsssshh" and sharks. We girls didn't waste any time getting started on the rides...

I love this! The kids on both sides of her were flipping out (this did NOT appear to be a scary ride) and Asha just kept grinning and looking at them like, "what is the problem, nerds?"
She started on the mini-coaster, then immediately graduated to the BIG one!
Wheeeeee! Crazy wild- haired Mama and her calm, collected daughter on the roller coaster!

Captivated by the train, he kept yelling "All Aboard!"
The boys wrapped up their tour of the aquarium and joined us for the remainder of the day.  Dad & Asha decided they wanted to go on some scary rides, so I took Bam Bam and headed to the rides geared toward the Dora/Diego crowd.  The little man was hilarious on his first ride, I wish I could've read his mind.  He never once cracked a smile, but didn't seem the least bit afraid. He was simply fascinated by the whole concept!

Excuse me, you're gonna do WHAT with this thing!?
Noah was brave enough to go on a couple of the kiddie rides on his own, but I was never quite sure if he was going to cry, puke, or burst out into giggles.  My normally chatty little dude was mostly silent, just taking in all the sights and sounds.  He'd get off one ride, then run along to the next one and hop right in line, so I was pretty sure he wanted to go on them... at least I hope so, or else I'm losing my Mom of the Year trophy if the kid was miserable.  He recognized all the familiar cartoon characters, and thoroughly loved running full-speed ahead and watching Mama try to keep up with him!
Favorite picture. Ever. The poor child looks milliseconds away from barfing, but there were no tears and otherwise no outward panic whatsoever. In fact, he was pretty rad, especially for a not-quite-2-year-old!

If it's all the same to you, I think I'd rather play Legos
Little trucker
LOVED the semi truck ride, we hit that one up at least 5 times
Daddy & Asha swingin'
I was bummed that I missed out on snapping pics of our other two brave adventurers, but I heard they had a wild time. It's a lucky thing Asha is very tall for her age, she was juuuuust tall enough to ride the "kindof-scary" rides. We quickly learned that our daughter has NO FEAR whatsoever. She convinced me to go on the "Fairly OddParents" rollercoaster. I very nearly lost my cookies, as did the 40-something guy and his pre-teen son who shared the ride car with us, but this little girl had an ear-to-ear grin the entire time!  She was a rockstar! We've never been so proud.

Chillin' with a little snack while the other two went on the scary rides
Running to the next ride
Freefalling and loving it!  Much giggling followed.
My favorite part of our day at the theme park was when big sister decided she would take a break from the big kids rides, and wanted to go on some (considerbly more babyish ones) with her little brother. That stoic little guy was suddenly all smiles when Big Sis was by his side. They decided their favorite was the Wonder Pets Flyboat -- a kid-friendly version of one of those "freefall" rides where you slowly go up, then get dropped down at high speed, reaching zero-G with your cheeks flapping in the wind! 

A highlight of the trip - worth every penny that they had this much fun together.
All in all, we had a really fantastic weekend. The trip home was of course long, everyone got a little tired and cranky, we got home way later than we wanted to, and came back to a mountain of laundry stared smack in the face of a Monday...
But it was worth every single hassle for all the fun we had and great memories we (hopefully) created for the kiddos. And despite the lack of sleep, expensive gas, and hassle of traveling with two nap-less kids, I loved every minute of our spontaneous little family vacation!

Friday, April 01, 2011

April Foolishness

We're getting a little antsy after being cooped up inside for the past 5 months!  So last night, in celebration of one of my favorite holidays (yeah, I know it's not a holiday, it's a just-plain-fun day!), we made some April Fool's treats to take to daycare.  My little sous chef helped me find the 'recipe' we were going to make:  Hamburger Cookies!  So we headed to the grocery store to pick up our ingredients:
  • 2 boxes Nilla wafers
  • 2 packages Keebler Grasshopper cookies
  • 2 tubes red frosting
  • 1 tube yellow frosting
  • 1 pkg. flaked coconut
  • Green food coloring
  • Gold cupcake sprinkles
I suppose we probably wouldn't have needed 2 boxes of wafers, but we're very particular about our buns.  (Har har har.)  I realized about 10 minutes into our project that this was going to be a crapload of cookies, but we had to make enough for both classrooms (about 24 w/teachers in each room).  This was a GREAT project for my little helper: there were plenty of steps she could do all by herself, and counting out the number we needed was good for sharpening her math skills too!

We started by placing 48 Nilla wafers flat side up for the bottom "bun".  Then, we piped a circle of yellow frosting around the bottom edge of a Grasshopper cookie (we quickly found that the frosting stuck much better to the smooth dipped cookie than it did the crumbly Nilla wafer)

and then smooshed the two cookies together so that the "cheese" (or maybe it's mustard, I dunno) oozed out the sides slightly:

While Mommy was busy piping frosting circles, Chef Asha dumped the bag of coconut in a covered bowl and put about 4 drops of green food coloring in, put the lid on, then tossed.  After the bottom half of the sandwich was assembled, we added the "lettuce", like so:

We were having so much fun up to that point.  Then came the "sesame seeds".  Not so much fun.  I put some Karo syrup in a little bowl and added about a tablespoon of water, then put it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it up. We used a little paintbrush to brush some syrup/water mixture onto the "bun lid", then dipped the lid into a pile of the sprinkles we had dumped onto a plate.  This was a lot more painstaking and sticky than the rest of the operation had been, but still not entirely that bad.

Once our lid was properly sesame seed'ed, we added a larger dollop of frosting, this time, red for "ketchup".  Of course we had to apply it to the 'lid' to act as the glue that holds the cookie together.  When we smooshed, it nicely adhered the top bun to the lettuce & patty, and actually looked a lot like ketchup!

And VOILA!!!  We haz cheeseburgers.

So then we made 47 more of them.  They actually held together really well!

Aren't they cute?  And my little Chef had to taste-test one just for good measure you know.  Mommy tried one too, and you know what?  They were actually pretty darn tasty, for store-bought cookies!

We really did have a blast making these together.  Probably not something I'd do every week for a project, but definitely a fun way to play a harmless little joke on their buddies.  Asha kept going, "it looks like a tiny cheeseburger, but it's a COOKIE!  GET IT!?" *hysterical laughter*  Both kids were so excited to take them to share with their friends today (a rare phenomenon when they both actually want to share!)  Noah kept saying "hangurger!", so I'm not quite sure what he'll think when he bits into one!  And I can't wait to hear what all the kiddos at daycare thought of our little April fool! 

Happy April Fool's Day!