Friday, December 12, 2014

#DubyaDoesFL

Why yes, I did, indeed, just use a hashtag in the title of my blog post, but only because: Dubya Did FL!! (And yes, that was the Insta hashtag that I used to document our trip!)

Remember the fabulous 11th birthday tradition my parents have with their grandchildren? Well, guess who just turned 11? Yup...my sweet, big hearted, non-stop talking, thrill ride loving middle child turned the big ONE-ONE.

So, without further ado, let me bring you up to speed on the whirlwind trip that is our 11th birthday FL tradition...(oh, and I "get" to go along, but I pay my own way!)

First up...Dubya's first airplane ride.


Gosh dang is it cute to watch a first time airplane rider. At least...I think it was cute. Maybe it was cute? I dunno...I was chillin' with a little Valium coursing through my veins, so who knows, really, how "cute" his first plane ride was. :)


(Actually, I don't get that zonked from the drugs...it just leaves me a little chill...a little "meh"...a little sleepy...and a lot less panicky.)

As we're soaring higher and higher into the sky he kept remarking about the cars..."Look how little they are!!!"...and thought it was the coolest thing in the whole wide world that we ALL, each and every single passenger, got our own TV screen to look at AND could choose a movie to watch! I chose "Divergent". His choice? "Willy Wonka"...you know, 'cuz he hasn't already seen THAT movie 87 times.


Somewhere over, oh, I dunno, Nebraska maybe? I took a nice long nap and missed the middle chunk of "Divergent" (thankfully, I read the book, so no worries) and woke up as the plane began to descend. We landed, got our car and took off to the hotel...the first night we were there? Downtown Disney, baby!


Day #1 in FL: Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. He loved the Yeti ride at Animal Kingdom...I nearly lost my delicious jalapeno cheese filled pretzel after we careened backwards for far longer than my brain could handle. My dad told me I looked a little green coming off that ride. Dubya though? Coulda stayed on it all dang day! Hollywood Studios brought the Tower of Terror (yay!!!) and Rockin' Rollercoaster (fun!!) and dinner at the Prime Time 50's cafe...which Dubya thought was the best thing since sliced bread. And then? the Osbourne Christmas Lights!! Wow.




Day #2: Seaworld. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blackfish. Bad stuff. Evil company. But still TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY fascinating to me. I nearly got my hand bitten off by a dolphin (true story...I think she liked the ring on my hand...thankfully my lightening fast reflexes kicked in and I was able to spare my hand) and the second time she came around, I sacrificed myself for my boy so that he could touch the dolphin. They are such amazing creatures. Ride highlights? Manta. A strap-you-in-so-tight you can't move ride that hurtles you, head first, through the park at the speed of sound. Or light. Or something. It was a thrill!! (And, I didn't get green afterward!!)



Day #3: HIGHLIGHT DAY!!! Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. As a huge Harry Potter fan, I could've stayed at these two parks ALL day and JUST done the Harry Potter stuff. It was absolutely amazing...Diagon Alley? I was awestruck!! I think I rattled my brain loose on one of the rollercoasters at Universal...but, to make up for it? Mannheim Steamroller was there for a concert!! I mean. I can't even. :) Dubya's fave ride of the day? The Hulk rollercoaster.





Day #4: Final day...Epcot and Magic Kingdom. And the weather was AWFUL. Cold, constant drizzle, cool wind. Gross. We spent a lot of time in the "countries" of Epcot (mostly because they had a lot of shops and we could be sheltered from the yuck outside). We headed over to Magic Kingdom where I had one goal: Dole Whip (and it did not disappoint!!). I think at this point in the trip, we were all exhausted. And cold. And damp. But, at the end of the night, they had a projection show on the castle that was absolutely jaw dropping. And fascinating...I mean, HOW do they do that??? It looked like the castle was on fire, then Wreck-it-Ralph wrecked it, then it was striped like a candy cane, then all different colors, all interspersed with a variety of Disney characters??? I was in awe. The rest of my party? Not so much...I mean, they thought it was cool and all, but I was riveted by it!




Day #5: Fly home day. And boy was I ready. I missed my husband. I missed my other babies. I missed my bed. So, we repeated the valium/nap/movie scenario and we were home before supper!


Now, we're nursing a multi-day Disney hangover. I'm still pooped. All I want is a day in my jammies at home and it doesn't look like its coming anytime soon.

Next up: Finish getting ready for Christmas!!

Eeeeek.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Baby, It's COLD Outside!

Actually, I digress, it's a bit warmer today. But anyway, back to regular scheduled programming...

Lemme tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, a young couple (that'd be me and Mr. Wonderful) and their little family (that'd be Pal, Belle, and Dubya) bought a house from a couple that had previously had a wood stove in aforementioned house and, hence, were eligible for "dual fuel", or "off peak" heat.

Quick factoid regarding "dual fuel" heat: you get a significant savings on your electric heat if you have a back up heat source and allow the electric company to turn off your heat (only for a couple of hours) during peak usage times. Another factoid: electric heat is SPENDY, so the inconvenience of the electric company shutting off your heat, temporarily, is well worth it.

Back to the story:

So, we also have fireplaces...more for looks, but they'd prob do in a pinch if we were in dire straights...so, we still qualify for the dual fuel thingamajig.

Anyway...so, we've made do. Noticed some chilly times here and there turning out 10 years here, but nothing we couldn't handle. AND THEN...we remodeled. And we knocked out walls and lost a baseboard heater. No big deal, right?


WRONG.

Oh, so wrong.

Our current baseboard status is sorely lacking...and the last "off peak" day just about offed me. 

I noticed a chill to the air the other evening...it was FRIGID outside, so figured we just had to wait it out. And then it got colder. And colder. And OHMYGOSHI'MGOINGTODIE colder. I had on leggings. Sweatpants. A cami. A Sweatshirt. Socks. Slippers. And my big fuzzy, fleece robe. AND IT WASN'T CUTTING IT PEOPLE.

We said bedtime prayers (mine included a "Please, Lord, Baby Jesus, please let me survive") and I sat down on the recliner. Then, my oldest daughter looked at me, giggled and said, "MOM! Your nose is RED!!"...I was so cold it looked like I had been out in the elements!

It was then (when I determined I was getting frost bite, dying from hypothermia, and slowly losing feeling of my appendages) that I threw in the towel. I changed into flannel jammies, kept my socks and robe on, snuggled up with my fleece footie jammied baby, had my hubby heat up our fave hot pack and hoped for the best.

Turned out, I over dressed...slightly...because, OF COURSE our heat kicked in and I woke up in the middle of the night SO FREAKING HOT!!!!

The outside temps have risen and so, we haven't yet experienced another cold snap/peak usage night but guys? If I got that cold when when the mercury hovered at 0 outside, what the heck is gonna happen when it plummets to -30 in January??????

Help.

Please send warmth...and a baseboard heater or five.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why "Title 1" Isn't a Four Letter Word.

Last year, at about this time, during conferences, our Baby Girl's teacher told us that according to her standardized test results she was "borderline qualifying" for Title 1 service.

Those words made me catch my breath. "WHAT??? MY daughter? Qualifying for Title 1? Couldn't be." And so, Mr. Wonderful and I talked it over, I talked with a few of my teacher friends, I scratched my head in confusion...she seemed to be at (if not further) the same "place" as our other children. The difference? Her personality. Shy (especially with strangers), where they were more outgoing. Stubborn, where they were "go with the flow". 



We all agreed...we'd wait it out. Let her get more accustomed to school, tests, etc. Let her get more confidence. And so, we rode it out until winter when we were informed, via letter, "According to your child's test results, she qualifies for Title 1 services which will start...". And just like that, my world was crushed.

I was CERTAIN it was something I had done wrong. SOMEHOW, I had failed my youngest born. I had let her down. And yet...I was STILL confused. She STILL seemed to be just as knowledgeable as our other kids...and when we sat down at home and went over the things they test in school, she KNEW them. A LOT of them. A LOT more than what she scored on those dang tests (yet another reason to kick standardized testing to the curb...but that's a whole 'nother post).

So, the Mr. and I talked again. He was still resistant to the idea of Title 1...I, on the other hand, was a bit more open to the idea. I knew she knew more than what those dang test results showed but...BUT I saw Title 1 in a different light. Perhaps, the closer attention with a different teacher would help build her confidence. Would help her realize she KNEW those answers, she just needed to be able to say them out loud.

I quickly saw her blossom...she adored her Title 1 teacher and the time she and a handful of her classmates had with Mrs. H. To be honest...I kind of think she thought it was pretty cool...getting to spend that extra time with someone else, that not everyone got to!

Kindergarten ended, summer started and flew by and before we knew it, it was time for her to start 1st grade.

Wanna know what's interesting? Her test scores are at, or above, where they want them to be! There's been no mention of Title 1 and the girl is reading like crazy! (Which, let me digress, is absolutely adorable...is there anything more precious than a new reader, walking into a store/building/office and reading ALL THE WORDS?! I mean. Her world just exploded with words! Anyway...)

In hindsight...Title 1 was not the "stigma", not the "four letter word", not all the bad stuff I thought it was. And no, she was not automatically "labeled" as Title 1 when she entered 1st grade, as I had worried she would be. 
Turns out, Title 1 was a pretty beneficial thing for our Babe.

And I had nothing to fear, afterall.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Christmas Kick-off!!

As we speak, my mom, SIL and myself are power shopping our way through the Mall of America! It's our annual Christmas shopping kick-off and man alive...was I due for a little "me" time!

After single-parenting it for the last two weekends (hubby was deer hunting), I was ready to have a night that I didn't need to worry about bedtime or supper or baths or laundry! Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE being a mom and very rarely "need" time away AND I have a husband that is "all in" when it comes to parenting, but sometimes? Sometimes a mama just needs a night away.

A dinner out, where she doesn't have to share even ONE bite of her salad. 

A bedtime where the ONLY person she needs to worry about brushing their teeth is HERSELF.

And that night was last night. At the Radison Blu...attached to the mall so we didn't even have to step foot outside and could haul bags to and from our room! Like a little slice of heaven, right here on earth. And BONUS: a Caribou coffee RIGHT at the mall entrance to our hotel!

The mall is decorated for Christmas (SANTA IS EVEN HERE!!!!) and this annual trip really kicks my Christmas spirit into high gear!

So...happy Monday to you! I'm off to find some "perfect" Christmas gifts!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Yes, I Did...And I'm Totally Not Ashamed.

Just finished up a fantastic weekend. Started with my least favorite holiday of the year and a bad attitude turned completely around...like when the Grinch's heart grew 3 sizes. 



For several years, I took our kids trick-or-treating in our town's business trick-or-treat event. And each year I grew more and more hateful toward Halloween until I realized it was the HORDES of people fighting in and out of small doorways for one small tootsie roll that were making me so stressed out!

So last year, I said ENOUGH! No more downtown trick-or-treating. Mama needs her sanity. We did our annual Gram's Chili and then the hubby took the kids around to a few houses near my grandparents. Well, this year, I decided (begrudgingly) to go along with them and guess what????

I actually found myself enjoying it! Watching my bundled up Elsa, dress billowing out from under her winter coat, run door to door, seeing my kids being all shy and uncertain at the first couple of houses and then, near the end, offering up an unprompted "Happy Halloween" to each house they visited! It was delightful.

I giggled. I beamed as I heard their "thank you"s being offered without any reminders. My heart swelled when, after one of those sincere "thank you"s, an nice old lady said, "Well, I sure like to hear that!". Turns out, Halloween isn't as bad as I thought!

Then Saturday, the Mr. and I helped my bestie and her Superman move into their new home and gosh, if I didn't realize how much I enjoyed moving, too! So rewarding to see so much progress in such a short period of time and the excitement. I remember moving and as stressful as it was, there's always that strong undercurrent of excitement. Of new beginnings and memories yet to be made.

Sunday brought with it the spontaneous idea to host supper for my parents and Gram and Gramp. I had promised my mom Carrot Gravy (sound gross, but just try it, it's amazing!) for her birthday (in August) and Sunday seemed like the perfect day.

While grabbing some groceries, I wandered down the "Seasonal" aisle at our local Walmart and was struck with a sudden and ferocious Christmas bug. So, I came home and promptly put Pandora on to the Country Christmas station.

Yes. I was listening to Christmas music. And I'm not even a little bit afraid to admit it! #iheartchristmas Wait. Did I just use a hashtag in a blog post?! What is this world coming to?! ;)

Anyway, I now have a houseful of kiddos who are eagerly anticipating Christmas, asking when we can decorate and starting to talk about their Christmas lists. I'm hoping to try to slow the Christmas season down this year and try to enjoy it more. It just goes too fast!!

Have a fabulous week...and good luck to the deer hunters next weekend!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Something I Haven't Done for Awhile...

Used to be that I'd share a picture now and then when I did a photo shoot. While my shoots are few and far between these days, I do have some to show you!

But first up...how do y'all store your photos? I've discovered my picture taking has WAY slacked off since my laptop ran out of memory. And, I'm not a fan of my external hard drive because it just DUMPS the pictures in there and, for example, leaves me with 5+ photos with the same title (DSC_0043 or something like that). Can I move them into folders? Will it take me 87 years? Is there some online storage solution that I can pull my photos back from (not Shutterfly, for example)?

I've tried uploading to Google, but it never works. (What am I doing wrong?) Help!!

Anyway, here's a few of my faves from my most recent shoots...





Happy Monday!

Monday, October 13, 2014

In Love.

We had Dr. J and her awesome family over this weekend, and as we were getting ready for them, I decided to decorate my mantle for fall.

Dubya hauled up my Rubbermaid tote full of fall decor for me and we began to set things out, feeling content and happy as I sprinkled my house with hues of orange, red, and yellow.

Prior to our remodel project, our fireplace was something I tolerated. Put up with. The Mr. and I had spoken, now and then, about refacing it with stone or some other kind of brick but it was my dad that spoke these wise words, "Just wait until you're done with your project...you might change your mind about it.".

Never. I NEVER thought I'd change my mind about our fireplace being something other than an object that I just put up with. I never thought that I could actually APPRECIATE our fireplace...but then? Something magical happened.

As things came together with the remodel project, I began to realize that our fireplace was starting to shine. I was kind of as if we "unearthed" it and instead of it being this big, behemoth of a structure that always seemed to be in the way and never appealed to me, suddenly I saw it in a whole new light! The colors we chose for the walls and the warmth of the wood floors have made our fireplace come to life!


One thing I have always loved about my fireplace was being able to decorate the mantle for various holidays and seasons. So, when we finished decorating the mantle and I stood back, my breath caught for a moment as I saw, with fresh eyes, the majesty and beauty of our fireplace, set in its new surroundings and, once again, I fell in love with our home.


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