Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rock, Paper, Scissors

The kids have been excited lately about playing Rock, Paper, Scissors. Today, Calvin gathered all of the supplies and asked Autumn to play a literal version with him. It didn't work as well as he had hoped, but it was fun to watch.
(the rocks are a bit camouflaged by the carpet.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

New Haircuts

 Calvin in the silver airplane

 Autumn in the pink car

 Looking cute with their balloons, suckers, and new looks from Cookie Cutters.

Update: I forgot to mention the best part of the day. Cookie Cutters is about 30 minutes from our house, and it's right next to a Texas Roadhouse, so we usually wait until Andy's in town and then make a trip of it and eat after haircuts. Today when we finished eating and went back to the car, Andy and I both opened the back doors at the same time to put the kids in. It was really windy outside, and the wind tunnel we created sucked the balloons right out. I grabbed one of them right away, but the other one took off. I ran after it, but Andy is faster, and he told me to go back to the car and he would get it. I watched him chase this crazy, erratic balloon all over the parking lot (it had a weight on the bottom, thank goodness!). People were watching and laughing. I was laughing. Andy was leaping and lunging and sprinting after this stupid balloon as the wind kept whipping it all over the place. I didn't think he would ever catch it, but he did. It was so funny to watch, but I was super in love with him afterward. He always goes to great lengths to make sure the kids are happy. I adore that about him.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Easter Package

Today we received a fun package in the mail from our Pennsylvania grandparents. The kids were so excited!

Inside were cute boxes

 filled with all kinds of delicious popcorn and candies.

 I made them wait to eat any of it until we took a picture, but after this, they dove right in and devoured the goodies.

And they couldn't have been happier.

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa Nelson! The packages were such a fun surprise!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cemeteries and Zombies

I've mentioned before that my kids have a weird obsession with zombies. They talk about them all the time. I don't really understand their level of interest in zombies because they haven't been exposed to them THAT much. They've played Plants vs. Zombies, seen ParaNorman, and watched a few zombie songs on YouTube. Maybe that's too much for kids their age, but it's not like they're watching The Walking Dead or Zombieland or any of the gory, crazy, hardcore stuff.

We've had a lot of deep conversations because of zombies. Calvin wants to know what happens after you die, and why people die, and if Jesus is a zombie since he died and came to life again. When we were in Pennsylvania in the fall visiting his grandparents, he saw tons of old cemeteries. He called the tombstones "Zombie Signs." We thought it was funny.

Lately he's been asking about graveyards and if all dead people turn into zombies. We talk about them being pretend and that graveyards are just a resting place for people who have died. People who have not, do not, and never will turn into zombies.

Today I asked the kids if they wanted to go to the park. Calvin asked to go to the cemetery instead. He said he wanted to make sure for himself that there were no zombies there.

So we spent a lovely afternoon hanging out at the cemetery.

We had a long talk about being respectful. 
 At first they did great. 

 And then they started sitting on things.

 And then they started tampering with things. 

 And then they started hiding in things.

 And then they turned into full-fledged zombies. 

My favorite part, though, was when we saw this tombstone:
I have a sister named Mary Ruth. 
Calvin saw this marker and freaked out. "Mary Ruth died? When did Mary Ruth die?!? What happened?!?" I laughed and said it was a different Mary Ruth and our Mary Ruth was fine, but it took him a minute to calm down. 
(R.I.P Mary Ruth Taylor. I'm sure you were lovely)

It was actually fun. It was a pretty day, and I'm glad Calvin is now at peace about the lack of zombies in our local cemetery. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Redeeming Christmas Gift Cards

For Christmas the kids' Uncle Gary and Aunt Gretchen sent them each a gift card to Toys R Us. Today we took them to redeem their present. Calvin chose a Sonic racing car and Autumn chose Little Mermaid Legos. They were so excited. It couldn't have been a better present--especially since it was three months after the onslaught of other Christmas gifts. They were something new and fun during the doldrums of late winter. Thank you Gary and Gretchen!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Disneyland Day #5

On day #5 we decided that perhaps 3-4 days is the ideal amount of time to spend at Disneyland/California Adventure. We had done everything we'd wanted to do, and all of us were kind of tired.

We checked out of our hotel early, had breakfast, and caught the shuttle (the new driver lady, by the way, took us this crazy route all through Anaheim, and the normally five minute drive took thirty minutes. We were worried she was taking us somewhere to kill us.). The plan was to spend the day at the parks, and then check into our new hotel in Newport Beach and spend Saturday at the beach. We planned to drive home Saturday night or Sunday morning.

Right when we walked into California Adventure, we met these guys:
Big hugs and lots of smiles. Autumn grabbed one of their noses, so they tweaked hers. She thought it was hilarious.

Unanimously, we had all decided that we wanted to go on the Cars ride one more time. After Autumn's rejections yesterday, we took matters into our own hands and folded up some cardboard pieces, stuck them in the bottom of her shoe, and gave her an extra inch. No, we are not ashamed. They shouldn't have let her go on it all week and then changed their minds. We were helping them be consistent.

We stood in line for the Fast Pass for Radiator Springs Racers. Our return time was 7pm! That was 8 hours from when we picked up our pass. We decided to try our luck with standing in the regular line. It took us an hour, but I enjoyed it. Really.

I mean, look at this place:
The details are amazing. 

I especially loved the antique oil bottles made into art. It reminded me of a stained glass piece my brother-in-law is making me out of the bottoms of wine bottles.

I'm seriously going to look into a job designing for Disney (not really. I like to at least be qualified before I open myself to rejection).

The ride was awesome, and I'm glad we just went for it instead of waiting until 7pm.

As soon as we sat down in the ride, we felt the first drops of rain. By the time we were done, it was coming down like crazy. The rain didn't last long, but we were all completely soaked. We tried to talk them into one more ride on Splash Mountain or some of our other favorites, but both of them just wanted to go home. I told them we could go to our new hotel and go to the beach tomorrow. Calvin said, "Mom, I zero percent want to go to the beach. I one-hundred percent just want to go home."

Right outside of the gates, the highlight of the day was splashing in rain puddles. We probably could have done it all day.

So, we took the shuttle back to the hotel, ready to go home. And the car wouldn't start. Someone must have left a light on because the battery was completely drained. We asked the hotel and a few random strangers, but nobody had jumper cables. We called our insurance company and they sent a guy over. We waited an hour for him to show up, but he had the car started in less than a minute. We were on our way.

We made three failed attempts to eat at Baja Fresh. Two were in convention centers and one was a wrong address, so we headed out of town.

And drove 10 miles an hour for the next three hours in California, Friday afternoon traffic.

We finally found our Baja Fresh in Barstow, a small town on the border between CA and NV. It was even better than usual because we were hungry and had been waiting for it for so long. By then it was 6pm-ish and we'd already been on the road for hours without making much progress.

We drove straight through Vegas without stopping.

At 11pm we hit St. George and it was raining pretty hard. Strange for Southern Utah where it is usually hot and dry. We gassed up, took a bathroom break, bought some snacks, and put the kids in their pjs. We watched a show and then tucked them in for the night. They went right to sleep.

A couple of minutes later, we were in a crazy, out of nowhere blizzard. Cars were sliding off of the road everywhere, but luckily, it was late and not many people were out. The driving was extremely slow and tense. We pulled into home at just before 4am.

It was a long drive--much longer than usual with traffic and snow--but we were so glad to be back and happy that we'd decided to just do it. 

It was a wonderful vacation. We loved (almost) every second. But, there's no place like home.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Disneyland Day #4

Princess Tangent: In every Disneyland commercial, you always see a little girl running into the arms of Cinderella or some other princess who is unoccupied and thrilled to see the happy little girl.

Autumn is a sweet, unassuming, non-demanding little girl who doesn't ask for much out of life. The ONLY thing she was looking forward to on this trip was meeting princesses. She talked about it for weeks: how she was going to run up and give her favorites a big hug. She was going to tell them about her princess dolls. She was going to ask them questions. They were going to love her, and she was going to love them. It was all she hoped for.

But then you get to Disneyland and seeing an actual, living (pretend) princess, especially one that you can walk up to and talk with, is like sighting a unicorn. It's impossible. Even the few princesses we did see "in the wild" were standing with LONG lines. Which is fine. I would stand in a line all day for Autumn to meet a princess, but they only lasted ten or fifteen minutes, and then they would cut the line off and either you would stand there for a long time and just not get to meet her, or they would tell you that you weren't allowed to stand in the line because they had cut it off two minutes earlier. We bought her the dumb autograph book and a fancy Cinderella pen. We waited in lines. We looked up princess viewing times online. Still, by day three, we hadn't "met" even one. It was very frustrating.

So then I read up online about princess encounters, and the biggest suggestion was to go to Ariel's Grotto, a restaurant where you were guaranteed to meet five princesses--Ariel and four of her friends. I booked a reservation yesterday (they apparently fill up really fast), and I hoped it would be everything she ever dreamed of.

Another thing I didn't know was that little girls wear their princess dresses to Disneyland. I wish I had even considered it might be a possibility. Autumn has half a dozen of the beautiful, well-made, elaborate princess dresses--even a brand new Ariel one from her PA grandparents for Christmas. They sold dresses in Disneyland, of course, but they were an entirely different line and they just weren't as pretty. The ones from the Disney Stores are sparkly and gauzy and pretty. The Disney Park dresses looked cottony with massive sequins. They looked so different from each other, and I really like the Disney store better. I didn't want to blow $70 on a dress that she had a repeat of at home or that wasn't as cute as one she could have if she waited. I know, more than you ever wanted to know about princess dresses.

So this morning we decided to take it a bit easy, not rushing to the parks until later than usual because our lunch wasn't until 2:30pm, and the kids were burned out. 

The kids wanted to go swimming. I wanted to walk across the street to Target and see if they had a cheap princess dress. This is one example of why I love Andrew. It was so cold outside. Nothing sounded more miserable than hanging out in the outdoor pool with the wind blowing and no sun shining. But Andy went swimming with them, and I went to Target. I found a flimsy little Belle dress. It wasn't ideal, but I knew that Autumn would think it was perfect. She loved it.

We got to the park around noon, and then we tried to kill the next two hours until our lunch date.

Bugs Land:
Sitting on the benches, enjoying her prim and proper dress

We started out at California Adventure since that's where Ariel's Grotto is located. We did several of the usual things (Bugs Life, Ariel), but then we went on California Screamin'--a fun simulation of flying over California and seeing some of the most famous landmarks. We went over to "Paradise Pier" where we planned to hit Goofy's Sky School and a couple of things we hadn't hit yet.

We went to Jumpin' Jellyfish, which has a height requirement of 40". Autumn is almost exactly 40" and has been allowed on the rides all week with that height requirement (including CA Screamin' 5 minutes earlier). But they wouldn't let her go.

Calvin and Andy went on Goofy's Sky School. She was too small.

She was sad that she kept getting rejected, so I took her on the Ariel ride a dozen times, then we went to the bathroom and tidied up her hair, and then went to Ariel's Grotto. The place was packed. We watched a dozen people get turned away because they didn't have reservations, and they were booked up for the entire day. We were glad we had planned ahead. 

We walked down a tall, winding staircase (with sea life pictures on the carpet), and were greeted by Ariel at the bottom. Autumn showed Ariel her doll, and the real Ariel sat on the floor and chatted with her. She was adorable. She acted so excited to see Autumn, and I think that Ariel being Autumn's favorite princess made a difference because Ariel spent longer with her than she had the other girls.

The professional Ariel shot:
Complete with Autumn's doll she'd brought for the occasion

They handed the kids paper crowns, stickers to decorate them, an activity sheet, and crayons, and then led us to our table. Our waitress told us that we were special because ours was the first table that each princess visited. After the fact, we decided that being first wasn't great because the princesses hadn't hit their grove yet. We were in the center of the room, and they all seemed nervous when they came to us, but more relaxed as they made their rounds.

Anyway, we sat down at our table and were super excited:

 They brought us a tier of appetizers:
Top: Fruits, jello, and string cheese; Middle: Prosciutto, shrimp salad, Mediterranean olives, fancy cheeses, and dried mangoes; Bottom: salad with vinaigrette.

It was all really good.

Then we ordered our food, and they brought a sourdough bread flower and some yummy dipping sauces. 

Our food followed quickly:
 Autumn: Seashell Pasta (mac-n-cheese with fish crackers and fruit)

  Calvin: Meatball Lollipops (turkey balls with spaghetti, Marinara, and fruit)
 Emma: Herb Chicken, Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, and squash.

  Andy: Cioppino 

The food was actually really good. The servers were fast (they're trying to shift you through the whole process in an hour flat), and the place had a great ambiance. 

 Then every couple of minutes, an announcer would tell us about the new princess coming out.

We liked Belle. She was sweet. At this point I don't think Autumn knew quite what to expect. She didn't talk much and was sad when Belle had to hurry on to the next table. Belle did rave about Autumn's chintzy little Belle dress, so Autumn was pleased about that, and I'm glad she was at least in a princess dress. Belle is one of her favorites.

Sleeping Beauty:
I'm pretty sure she actually thought she was a princess. She seemed snooty and disinterested, which seem like bad character traits if your job is making little girls feel special. She took a picture and moved on. Nothing personable. 

She was our favorite. She was so sweet and adorable. Right when she walked up, she said, "Oh my gosh, you are darling!" and then she sat on the floor and interacted for several minutes.

Listening to Autumn chatter

 Giving hugs
Tucking her hair

She was so personable and wonderful. I wanted to put her in my pocket and take her home.

Then we had a mini-crisis. Mulan came out next, and she walked right past our table without stopping. 

Autumn looked liked she was going to cry. She woudn't touch her food. She watched Mulan around the ENTIRE room with this look on her face:

I had read in someone's review on Yelp that their daughter was devestated when one of the princesses passed by their table. I wasn't about to let that happen. I watched Mulan the entire time too, and as soon as she was done with the last table, I stepped right in front of her on her way to the exit and pulled Autumn out to meet her.

She turned out to be super sweet. She spent several minutes with Autumn as well.

For a few minutes Autumn was sad she didn't see Tiana or Jasmine or Rapunzel, but then I explained that Ariel brought different friends every time (should have done that ahead of time), and she settled in and enjoyed her meal now that meeting her heroes was out of the way.

Calvin colored the whole time and was oblivious to everything. He could not have cared less.

 Loving the strawberries. She ate Calvin's too.

 Posing in the crown she decorated (And falling out of her too-big dress)

I had some cute shots of Calvin in his crown, but he deleted them from my phone. I was super angry. He swore never to do it again.

Then they brought the dessert tray:
Autumn licked this cupcake. And then Calvin ate it.

...and all of the rest of them.

Andy and I got the lava cake and the fruit. We took the white chocolate Ariel and seashell with us, but ended up tossing them not too long later because they were a pain to carry around. Everything was cute and delicious.

It all ended happily. We hugged princesses, ate good food, and made the day of a 3 year old. Overall, it was a great experience and we were really glad we did it.

We tried to go on Radiotor Springs Racers again, but this time they wouldn't let Autumn on. It was so weird that she had ridden these rides all weeks, and all of a sudden they were turning her away on everything. She was disappointed, but we told the boys to go anyway.

 The ride that might have been...

The boys wanted to do some things at California Adventure, but Autumn wanted to do Disneyland, so we split up again.

 Wet and cold, but loving Grizzly Rapids

 Leaving the park at night

Entering the park. Autumn wanted a picture with Mickey, and then some guy offered to take one of both of us.

Once we got onto Main Street, she was happy just to climb on everything.
 the cannon

 riding the hitching post

Since she was feeling photogenic, I wanted to get one of her in front of the Fantasyland castle:
I could not get one single decent shot. She was doing the robot, the moon walk, the swim, and everything in between. At least she was having a good time with it.

After the obligitaory time in Fantasyland, Autumn and I went to Toontown for the first time. It was a lot of fun.
 The little roller coaster, just her size

  Meeting Pluto

 Driving funky cars

As we made our way out of the park, Autumn asked every few seconds for some popcorn. I told her no becasue we were going to get something to eat as soon as we left. And then we got outside, and there was Calvin, eating popcorn. So I made Andy go back into the park and buy some popcorn for Autumn. Sometimes I'm mean like that. Here they are enjoying a snack before catching the shuttle.

 And remember that $7.00 balloon Autumn wanted so badly yesterday? Someone had left one in the hotel lobby. It was even pink. The string was cut off with a key, so we figured it had been attached to a stroller and they were ditching it before catching a flight. We happily gave it a new home, and Autumn was convinced that we were, in fact, the best parents ever today.

Another night of pizza and hanging out in our room before going to bed.