Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Road Trippin'

Last weekend we went to visit my sister's family in Vermont.  We try to go every winter, in the hopes of at least one chance to ski each year.  Plus it is serious cousin time.

Last year I had such a horrible time with Poppy up there - she got carsick on the way up, then screamed all night every night - that I vowed to never travel with her until she was at least three.  But she's come a long way in a year, and she was up for it; we all were.  And it all went fine. 

I'm going to write about our time there, but first a word about road trippin'.  It can be a beast.  Better than airplanes because you have more space, and no strangers to worry about.  But it's long.  Usually 10 hours each way, though we made slightly better time. 

I started prepping early by collecting or inventing activities the kids have never seen, or not in a long time.  I borrowed all-new (to us) DVD's from a friend's extensive library (and now the girls are hooked on Princess Sing Alongs, yikes!)  I did everyone's laundry.  Got books on CD from the library.  Mopped the floors, compiled a pretty nice snack box, including Younce classic trail mix (with Poppy's help.)

The girls in back had a bin between them that held fresh new notebooks, a bucket of colored pencils, clipboards, and a few books.  Also two Tupperware containers that doubled as both snack bowls and barf bowls, as the need may arise (sometimes we get carsick, but thankfully no occurrences this trip!)

To make the time, and activities, last, once we were on the road, we alternated - food, show, activity, quiet time/music.  With some pit stops thrown in, natch.  Naps were also encouraged. 

I guess I'm writing this because my preparation paid off.  We didn't get through everything I brought, which is great - save them for another trip or desperate day this summer.  But in case you're interested, I put all the things we've tried and liked in a list on Amazon (you know I love my lists.) 

As for me, I brought a huge stack of all my magazines that have been piling up - I didn't count but it must have been at least a dozen - and one by one worked my way through each, so at the end I was left with only this stack of articles and recipes to file, and thankfully a few new ideas for Dinner Swap!

So next time you go road trippin', celebrate!  With some preparation, patience, and threats as needed, it can be a big success!

Monday, February 27, 2012

5th Annual Easter Basket Exchange

 Hot dog!  It is already time for EBX!

Deadline to sign up is Saturday, March 10.  I will get the assignments out as soon as possible after that so you have almost a month to put them together and mail them.  Easter is April 8.  Leave a comment here or email me to get in on the action.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about - confused, yet...intrigued - see here for all the info.  Pretty much same rules apply.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Eyelash Tinting. As Promised.

My make-up regimen is simple and minimal.  On Sundays, date nights, or other special occasions, a neutral creme eye shadow, smoky brown liner, mascara, some color on the lips.  On most other days, a tinted moisturizer and mascara.  Except in the spring, when my eyes are so red and itchy from allergies that I am forced to go au naturel.  And now that I'm old, and my eyelashes are thinner and lighter than they used to be, it just ain't pretty.

I mentioned before that my friend took me for an eyelash-tinting this week.  My first time.  So of course I brought my camera.

We met at Salon Cielo in Pentagon City mall (first level, by the Nordstrom cafe.)  She went first while I watched the kids - she had her eyebrows waxed and lashes dyed.
 Not bad, right?  When it was my turn, she said, "Just be sure to close your eyes and hold really still.  Just enjoy the music."  I guess I didn't know what to expect - I thought maybe a salon chair or a tilt-back chair like they have at the eyebrow threading kiosk.  I was excited to see what my lashes would look like.

But what I didn't expect was to be led into a private room with a table like where they do facials and massages, with an aromatherapy scent and trickling-brook-music, and to lay down totally horizontal on my back, and close my eyes for approximately twenty whole minutes while my lovely beautician Jasmine gently stroked each lash with what felt like a liquid eyeliner brush.  I didn't even care what she was doing to me.  I was lying still with my eyes closed in the middle of the day for consecutive minutes.  Priceless.

And on top of all that, I also walked out with darker lashes!
 So you can definitely see a difference.  The lashes are darker for sure.  It doesn't thicken and lengthen like mascara, but the darker color does make them look like there's been some kind of effort.  Even Ed noticed that night, that after I'd washed my face and come to bed, it still looked like I had make-up on.  Which will be PERFECT in about a month and a half when the allergens descend and I can't help constantly rubbing my eyes.
The details:  Jasmine at Salon Cielo did a great job, I would recommend her.  Tinting costs $35 and I am told lasts 5 to 6 weeks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's

It's all pink, love, chocolate, and lollipops around here today.  So much candy.  Here's how we celebrated.

I set my alarm extra early this morning to make everyone cinnamon-chip-and-red-hot pancakes for breakfast.  Starting the day off the way I'm sure we will end it - sugar.  Plus I bought the girls each a small red heart box of chocolates (3 per box) and put it with a love note by their pillows to wake up to.  It's important to set their expectations for Valentine's Day.

Later in the morning we went to the grocery store and splurged on some Valentine's balloons.  Which we clipped to the stroller when we went to pick up Hazel, and which popped because the girls were batting them so much, which sent Ginger into an inevitable sugar crash a little sooner than expected.

But before that, while Poppy was napping, Ginger and I had some good one-on-one time playing a game I got for my birthday, Chocolate Fix.  Very Valentine's-appropriate, and a seriously excellent exercise in deductive logic.  I swear some of the challenge cards are harder than GRE problems.

No dinner swap tonight so I ordered Thai for the grown-ups and made butterfly pasta for the kids - their favorite.  Chocolate-dipped strawberry Peeps for dessert.

This morning I met my friend Sheri at the mall and we took turns watching the kids and having our eyelashes tinted, ooh la la!  My next post will be more about that.

I also checked the mail - my once-a-week venture over there - and found a surprise super fun Valentine's/birthday package from my friend Kat, chocolatier extraordinaire.  She sent me a necklace, lots of hand-dipped chocolates, and a card with purses on the front to represent how she misses me as her personal shopper.  That makes two of us.  Thanks, man.

The Thai for dinner was a little self-love as well.  Don't usually splurge like that.  But sometimes a little red curry chicken is just what I want.  And deserve.

Ed and I were not very romantic today.  It's a Tuesday!  And we just had our birthdays.  Which, I haven't mentioned, he rocked.  He (finally) had my wedding rings re-sized to fit over my, ahem, motherly knuckles.  I haven't worn them since I was pregnant with Hazel...SEVEN years ago.  I feel like a new bride again, and it feels amazing.  I forgot the thrill of having the diamond catch the light while my hand is on the steering wheel, and having little sparkles bedazzle the car interior.

And we went out on Saturday - dinner and a movie, our favorite.  Dinner at a local Indian place, and movie, The Artist.  Which I think deserves all the great press it has gotten.  Charming. 

Ed works with the youth in our church, and they always have activities Tuesday nights, so he came home for about 5 minutes to switch cars, then was off to the big stake youth activity, which, among other things, promised to include cookie decorating and "speed-friending."  So I am putting the kids to bed (after reading Lilly's Chocolate Heart and a few chapters of The Children of Noisy Village), washing the dishes, and settling in for a little TV and an early bedtime. 


At dinner, Hazel graced us with her version of how Valentine's Day came to be.  I recorded it.  Too cute to not share, here it is in her own words.

It, it was in "agent" something, I don't remember.  Um, when there was two celebrations, one about a goddess, who...I think it was "agent" Greece, one about a goddess who was a goddess about love and marriage, and the other one about hope.  And then, 100 years later, it came all to a man named Valentine.

And, and Valentine...but the king didn't want any young men to get married because he wanted them to get soldiers, and if they got soldiers, he was afraid that the young men would be sort of sad with their families.  

So Valentine secretly did marry a few young women and young men, he helped them get married in a secret imagine forest, and um, he um, but when the king found out, he put it into prison, he put him in the prison, and um, but people would still throw flowers and messages at him.  He would catch them.  And those count as the ones for Valentine, those Valentines.  They're Valentines.  And that's how Valentine's Day started.  The End.  Can I listen to it?

Monday, February 13, 2012

The 5-Year-Old

 A couple of weeks ago, our little Ginger turned 5.  Here's how we celebrated.

As is tradition, we took treats into her class for her birthday.  Would you believe, out of every treat in my repertoire, Ginger chose Zucchini & Carrot muffins - they are her absolute fav.  Plus she likes to help make them. 
 Luckily we got most of the veggies grated before my processor bowl broke to pieces.

 You can stop trying to unscramble the secret message now.  To dress them up a little, we piped each child's first initial on with cream cheese frosting, and added a conversation heart for good measure.

After the birthday party fiascoes of 2011, which I think I was too upset to even write about, I gave the girls a choice this year:  a SMALL party at our house with a theme and several friends OR take ONE friend to Chuck E. Cheese.  Of course I'm not really a Chuck E. Cheese kind of Mom.  But if it means I can get out of throwing a party I'm up for it once a year.

Ginger had never been to Chuck E. Cheese, but had seen commercials on TV, so there was no hesitation that's what she wanted.  So that's what we did.
 Now that it's over, a few words about the Chuck.
First, I was pleasantly surprised that today's CEC is a far cry from the sketchy, dark & dingy, stale-smelling arcade of my day.  The place was clean and bright, though still as loud as ever.
 Second, I learned the perfect way to do a Chuck E. Cheese party.  Do it on a Saturday when there's been an ice storm, so all but the bravest (and/or those with a reserved party) will stay home.
 Next, schedule the earliest party of the day - 9:30 a.m., to be precise.  Not only will you get a bonus 100 game tokens, but you will have the place totally to yourselves until much later in the morning - about the time you're ready to leave.  Maybe that means you're eating pizza and cake at 10:30, but is that really a bad thing?
 Finally, do it with cousins.  When I asked Ginger who her one friend was that she wanted to invite, she said she wanted a cousin and she couldn't decide which one.  I melted.  I said if it's cousins, she can invite the whole family, so we had a nice little party of six kids (plus baby Freya) and four adults.  Pretty nice supervisory ratio.
 Initially we were just going to go to the place, not do a reserved party.  But a party comes with a few perks, so we sprung for it.  The one Ginger was most looking forward to was the Ticket Blaster Booth, which was indeed pretty cool.  Especially since she caught the 1,000-ticket ticket!  Seriously, the party couldn't have gone better.
 Even Ed had fun.

On Ginger's actual birthday, we had our own little family party.  Per her request, we made a brownie cake with mint frosting, and she decorated it herself with halved peppermint patties.

 Among her favorite gifts were this game, a pogo stick she is too small for, and some Slushy Magic shakers.

Ooh, just love that "candlelight" setting on my new camera!
Here's a vid I took of her on the walk to school one day.  She was wearing rainbow stripes from head to toe, and skipping, hair flying.  I couldn't resist.

And finally, we had her five-year-old video interview about a week later.  Here are some highlights:
How old are you?  Five!
Tell me about your birthday.  (Excited gasp) Well...(excited expression slowly turns to scowl)...that's too hard.
What is your favorite color?  Purple
What is your favorite food?  That's too hard, too
Tell me a few of your favorite foods.  Spaghetti, pizza, and mac & cheese
What are some of your favorite books?  Well I have one of them that I really want to tell you - The Doubtful Guest
Can you tell me what your favorite outfit is?  Um, that one I got for my birthday from you
Who are your friends?  Adelyn, Sid and Nadia
What do you like to do?  My cutting and maze book.  Or watch TV.  Or play on the computer.
What do you like to play on the computer?  ABCMouse.com, Nick Jr. and Starfall
What do you love about school?  Doing art
What do you not like about school?  Music class (she doesn't like the teacher)
What do you want to be when you grow up?  I have lots of things, but, but one of the things that I really want to be from my list is a dentist
What's the difference between boys and girls?  They have different things they like.  Give me an example.  Well, usually at school, if there's a friend I want to play with that's a boy, I might, I might be a little shy of their games.
Can you tell me the story of The Doubtful Guest?  That's too hard.  Tell me what you can remember. Well, he hides all the towels from the bath.
What's your favorite game?  I'll just say Cariboo.
Cariboo's a good one.  Can you explain how to play it?  You put in the balls and then you pick a card and then whatever color or shape or number or letter is on then card, then...for example, if I picked up a red triangle, if I picked up the color red, a red circle, then that, then I would, um, go around with the key to something that's red.  Then I'd put the key in the little thing of the hole.  Then it would open the little box up.  Then if I found a ball I would put it in this, like, little with a treasure chest at the end, that's treasure when you put the last ball in.  Um, um, and then you, and then, um, you go around and just keep getting cards and putting in the key.  And then whoever puts the last ball in is the winner, so, and when you put the last ball in, it's kind of hard to press it in, but when you do, there's a treasure chest at the end, and when it opens, there's a little purple jewel inside.
There's no way to completely describe a person, to capture their every aspect, but a few of my own comments about Ginger at this age -
She is more organized and voluntarily helpful than her older sister.  She likes to clean the bathroom, so that is always her job when we get around to it, or when we have to do a quick-clean because someone's coming over.

As referred to in her interview, there's a boy at school that she has tried time and again to be friends with, but she just doesn't understand the way he plays.  I talked to her teacher about facilitating play, and she has tried, but in the end she suggested it is a Venus vs. Mars situation - he just likes to run around with no rules, and Ginger is a more organized player.  They're not on the same planet.  In other platonic news, there is a new boy at church that has a - I don't want to say crush at this age, I guess - let's say an interest in Ginger and they have had a few playdates.  He brings her cards and pictures he has made her each Sunday.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The 37-Year-Old

The other day I was driving and Ed was in the passenger seat, staring at me.  "What?" I asked him, hoping there was admiration on his mind.  He narrowed his eyes.  "You're turning thirty-seven this year."  Shoot. 

I feel generally OK about it.  Just had a physical and things are clockwork.  Just recently started making some healthy lifestyle changes...again.  Got a good marriage, three super kids that I finally feel rested enough to give 100%...some days.  I never really knew what I thought the line between not-old and old was, but when Ed said it like that, I realized thirty-seven sounds a lot older than thirty-six - undeniably LATE MID-THIRTIES now.  But it's OK.  I don't have a lot of time to think about it anyway.

Last year I started a tradition of birthday interviews with the girls, as a way of snapshotting each age, and charting changes over time.  I'm behind on posting Ginger's, but it's coming.  In the meantime, here's a little interview snapshot of the matriarch of this clan, the 37-year-old.

What are you currently reading?  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

What are you currently watching?  Downton Abbey, Project Runway All-Stars, Top Chef, Once Upon a Time, and we've got Moneyball from Netflix, just waiting for us to come up with 2 hours when we can both stay awake to watch it.

What's your current favorite treat?  Pain au chocolat - and I am working my way up to trying to make it myself.

Favorite color?  Green, always and forever green

What do you want to accomplish this year?  I don't do goals or resolutions, but I still have plans.  Give the house a makeover - you should see posts on that in the coming months.  Get more sleep and lose some weight (I already have apps for both.)  Improve the quality - and quantity - of time spent with my girls.

What did you do for your birthday?  In the olden days, I would take the day off school or work.  Read a book, go out to lunch, maybe a movie.  Throw myself a party when I was really organized.  Live it up.  Things are a bit modified these days.  But yesterday my friend treated me to an eyebrow threading at the mall followed by some Yogen Fruz (mango pineapple with white chocolate chips.)  My eyebrows are probably my favorite feature, and definitely when I've just been threaded.

Ed's parents and sister are visiting, too.  So today we had a big pancake breakfast, and took Ginger to gymnastics (where some of my fellow moms had gifties for me, thanks guys!)  Then alone, I went to the UPS store and got myself du pain au chocolat at a new bakery in town, LeoNora's.  YUM.

I came home and started dipping pretzel rods for a friend's baby shower the next night. 
Helped everyone get some lunch, but I was still full from my pancakes and special treat, so I didn't eat.  A little after noon, my friend Andrea showed up with balloons and TWO plates of cinnamon rolls.  "One," she said, "is for you; the other is for everyone else."  Amazing.  

Once Poppy was down for a nap, Ed took Ginger and the Hickman clan to the Newseum, and I settled down to a gloriously quiet afternoon.  I had a cinnamon roll and read my book (see above, a deliciously dark and magical circus-based fairy-ish tale) for over an hour, almost two, until Poppy woke up.  I settled her with a snack in front of Peppa Pig and continued my reading until it was over, then we watched a back episode of Top Chef until it was time to go pick up Hazel.  Also my friend Shanna, and all her kids, called and sang me their special extended version of "Happy Birthday." 

Once we, and then everyone else, got home, we headed over to Silverado for dinner, where we all had lots of meat (I had ribs, mmm...)  Ginger suggested we not stay for dessert so they could get home and have a tea party with Grandma (this is a special thing they always do when Grandma Marsha comes to visit - tea parties almost every day, with special cookies and petit fours we only buy for that occasion.)  I was a bit bummed to not get my flourless chocolate waffle for my birthday, but since I'd had an entire day of white flour treats, I conceded.  

Which is just as well because when I got home there was yet another surprise for me - a plate full of HUGE peanut butter chocolate Rice Krispy treats, one of my other very favorite treats, and best made by my friend Julia, who remembers every February 2.  My friends are the best.  So the little girls had their tea party with Grandma while the rest of us ate RKtreats, and then I wrote this post. 

What did you wear today?  One of my favorite go-to's - black t-shirt, burgundy cords, metallic orange birks, hair in various black scrunchie arrangements throughout the day.

Any other thoughts?  It's easy to feel old when you turn another year.  It lends itself to reflection and perusing memories.  The many Facebook birthday wishes I received led to memories as well.  So many sweet friends and memories.  So many years since I was the age I still feel.  But today I also considered my present and future, and it put me in a resplendently happy mood.  

I think my day, and current mindset, can be summed up by a comment I received from a complete stranger tonight.  The girls had gotten restless in the restaurant, so I took them outside for a walk while the others finished.  As we strolled down the sidewalk, Hazel in her long hair and red flowered coat, Ginger with her signature skip-gallop stride and doodly hum, and Poppy with her flyaway scraggly mop and love-for-life kamikaze run, a man passed us and paused.  "You're a lucky lady," he said.  For a moment, I looked down and saw what he saw.  "Thank you, I am," I answered.  He walked on, and I flushed with pride at my brood.

Then he called over his shoulder, "Tired, but lucky!"
I couldn't have said it better myself.
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