Monday, December 21, 2009

for your listening pleasure

video

Ryan's Christmas Concert

We didn't have the tripod with us, so you may want to just listen, especially if you are prone to motion sickness.

for those of you hoping to see a photo of ainsley with santa claus, this will have to do



She completely freaked out when she saw the box that contains our big, dancing Santa, and she wouldn't go near the Santa house at the tree farm. She even got a little clingy at Ryan's band concert because there was a man sitting close to us with a white beard who was wearing a red shirt and a Santa hat.

Ironically, her very favorite song to sing is "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town!"

Monday, December 7, 2009

on the plus side, he does give me a lot of blog material

Last weekend, we took a trip to the mountains to pick out our Christmas tree (post forthcoming). We had some hotel points at our disposal, so we decided to spend the night in Asheville and meet the rest of the group at the tree farm on Saturday. I asked Ryan and Emily to put their things on my bed before they left for school on Friday morning because I was going to pack everything so we could leave as soon as school was out. And this is what my teenager packed. For an overnight trip. To the mountains. Where it was supposed to snow.

1 pair long pants
1 long sleeved shirt
2 short sleeved shirts
4 pairs of underwear

no socks
no pj's
no toothbrush, toothpaste, contact lens case, glasses

Seriously.

____________________________________________

Today I had to take Emily, Jackson and Ainsley to the dentist. Our appointment was at 4:00pm and so I needed Ryan to hurry out to the carpool line so I could pick him up and still have enough time to make it to the appointment.

Me: So, please hurry as fast as you can to the car. I'm going early, so I'll already be waiting. Just come straight out to the car as quickly as you possibly can, okay?

Ryan: Okay. I mean, I'll try to go fast. But just so you know, I'm going to be very irritated if I go as fast as I can, possibly tripping over people, running and carrying my heavy bag and clarinet and then we drive to the dentist and are, like, 10 minutes early to the appointment or something.

Me: ... ... ...

Ryan: ...

Me: Okay, son. Tell you what. You do your best getting to the car, and I'll do my best making sure I don't inconvenience you in any way, like not picking you up at all and making you walk home. Deal?

Ryan: ...

Me: That's what I thought.

Friday, December 4, 2009

keeping the peace in these here parts


Okay...I have to give him an A+ for imagination...



While it may look to you like he's wearing a pair of shorts on his head, pj's, and rain boots, this is how Jack dresses up to be The Sheriff! The shorts are his cowboy hat, the pj's are his "sheriff clothes," and the boots are his cowboy boots. You may also see his badge at the top of his shirt, which is a large coin he brought home from the treasure box at school and is secured to his shirt with a paper clip. And, of course, the Star Wars blaster completes the look. Well, actually, his facial expression is really what completes the look.

Rest easy, family. There's a new Sheriff in town.

trying to explain a power outage to a two-year-old


"Mama, can I watch Yo Gabba Gabba?"

"Not right now, the TV isn't working."

"It works!"

"Well, it doesn't right now because the power went out. We don't have any power right now."

"We have power!"

"We don't right now."

"But the candles are working."

"Yes, the candles are working, but that's different. That's not the power. See? The lights aren't working and the TV isn't working because we don't have power. But we will soon. And then the lights will work and the TV will work."

"Oooohhhh. Okay. Mama?"

"Yes, angelfish?"

"Can I watch Charlie Brown?"


Thursday, December 3, 2009

the jackson dictionary


Jackson's homework for yesterday was to count to 30 using pennies. When he had finished, he asked, "Mom, now can I keep all of these golden monies?"

"You mean pennies?"

"Well, I just call them golden monies."


coca-cola chapstick








Thursday, November 26, 2009

Birthday #13




Hello Everybody! Teenager boy here. You know, the one whose mom has been moaning " Oh, no a Teenager!" on her facebook account? I am here to blog about my birthday and my presents. And yes, there was a Snuggie involved.

It all started at about 7:00 on October 23, 2009. I woke up, thinking Wow, in 9 hours, I'm a teenager. Before I went to bed that night I expected to have some sort of deep revelation of myself, some sentimental memories, and some flashbacks of my preschool years.
I didn't.

Nope, just a typical, ordinary Friday morning, except it was my birthday. I went downstairs and found a box of Krispy-Kreme doughnuts with my name on them. Emily was already downstairs and as her own little birthday gift, she let me turn on the kitchen lights! I know, you're thinking What?? , but my sister prefers it very dark in the morning. Don't ask me HOW she makes herself breakfast, but hey, everybody has their quirks. Anyway, after my doughnuts, I headed off to school and my friends wished me a happy birthday. Other then that, my day STUNK. In gym, we were doing badminton and I could not serve the ball or hit it and I got run over by some rowdy jocks. Joy. So then my demon math teacher ( when I say demon, I'm not kidding. There's a rumor going around she's a vampire. ) assigned us 5 pages of homework, over the weekend! Then my science teacher gave the class a big lecture on respect and responsibility. But then I got home, where my grandparents were waiting, and even got to open some of my presents! Then we went to Emily's scrimmage soccer game, and then back home. At home we had my favorite dinner ( Sloppy Joes with coleslaw, and mozzarella sticks ). Then came present time. 13 presents for a 13 year old. I got:

1. 1 package A AA batteries
2. New headphones for my Ipod that actually stay in my ear
3. A new reading light
4. 5 pens and 1 pencil
5. The Mummy on Blu-Ray
6. A jar shaped like a skull ( comical and Decor for Halloween )
7. The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness
8. New slippers
9. New pajama pants
10. 2 bags of Lindor Truffles ( Best Chocolate on Earth)
11. A Shower kit complete with a body puff
12. A Brain Teaser game for Nintendo DS
13. and 1 Blue fleece, Adult sized Snuggie





Then some other presents:

14. Diary of a Wimpy Kid 4: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney
15. 2 Composition notebooks
16. and a couple of cool cards and checks averaging around $30 each

So then I realize that with my box-tops contest winnings( $100) plus birthday cash ( $100) I could afford an iPod touch which was the first thing I wanted for my birthday. So mom asks me I have enough for it, I said yes and mom said to go upstairs and get my money so we can order it tonight. I was pretty excited about that, but even MORE excited when I came downstairs with my money to find mom and dad already purchased one and gave it to me the second I handed over the money, already fully charged and ready to play with. And then The Best Birthday Cake I've ever had the pleasure of digging into. So in summary:



16 awesome gifts + 1 Ipod touch + 1 super cool cake = 1 really happy birthday boy



Monday, November 16, 2009

beautiful


Toes, painted by Mommy - Cover Girl Boundless Color in Fuchsia Girl



Fingers, painted by Ainsley - Elmer's Disney Princess Stamp & Paintbrush Markers in Cinderella Blue and Jasmine Purple with just a hint of Ariel Green

if he asks next saturday, i think i'll keep my mouth shut

This past weekend was supposed to be our last soccer event of the season...a tournament in Greensboro, NC. But last Monday we received word that one of the other teams had pulled out, leaving only our team and one other. Not exactly the season ending tournament we were looking for. So our team decided not to go, which left us in an unfamiliar situation. An entire weekend with absolutely no plans whatsoever! First on the agenda was resuming Pizza-Movie night, which we had to abandon several months ago to accommodate Friday night soccer practices. We woke up on Saturday morning to the sun shining and the birds chirping and the air crisp, but not cold ...and we were still plan-less. Doug looked at me and asked, "Well, what should we do today?" And knowing it was supposed to be a gorgeous weekend, and probably one of the last of the season, I replied, "Well, we could repaint the shutters..."

Now, don't get me wrong...it's not that I really wanted to paint the shutters. It's just that we've been talking about painting the shutters since we moved into this house. And every year when we get the letter from the Homeowner's Association detailing things we can do to keep up our curb appeal, like giving our shutters a fresh coat of paint, I know the letter goes to everyone on the street, but I always feel like they are really talking about us! And after we (and by we, I mean Doug) got the garage cleaned out last weekend, I felt like we could be on a roll here...tackling projects left and right! And besides, it's not like it is a really huge project...just 10 shutters to take down, clean, paint and put back up! So, yes, I suggested it and Doug jumped on it. Within minutes he was up and off to Home Depot for the paint and a scrub brush. As soon as he got home, we got down the ladder and he started up with his screwdriver to take the shutters down. And after he removed one screw, he remembered how much he really hates to be on a ladder. I'd kind of forgotten about that part. Doug doesn't do ladders. But I wasn't going to let that stop us! I told him he was just going to have to man-up and get it done. No, I didn't really. I told him I'd be happy to get up there and take the shutters down. He seemed very reluctant to let me, but hey, I haven't been playing those balance games on the Wii Fit for nothing! And I know you probably don't believe me, but yes, I did get up on that ladder, I took down every shutter and after Doug and Emily cleaned and painted them, I got back on that ladder and hung them back up. And you know what? It was actually kind of fun. It's not very often that I get to get up on ladders and wield power tools (the drill to put the shutters back up) and while it's not like I want to quit my day job and become a contractor or anything (STOP LAUGHING), it was kind of empowering for me to find out I can do things like that if the need arises.

I really wish I had taken a "before" picture of the house...but I did manage to take a "before" and "after" of the shutters:



And then I remembered I did have a picture of the house. This is from September 2007, right after we moved in...


And here is the house now:



Not bad, eh?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

for those of you needing your jackson fix

We had Jack's first school conference just before Halloween. Turns out his teacher thinks he's very sweet and a lot of fun! Quite the social butterfly...friends with everyone! I know...you're shocked, right?? Anyway, she told us that report cards would be going out this week and after Jack got in the car and buckled his seat belt this afternoon, he piped up from the backseat, "Mom, guess what? I got my first credit card!!"

And the Grandmas will get a kick out of this one...as will anyone else who has had the pleasure of sharing sleeping space with Jackson...

Ainsley now sleeps in a toddler bed...that is to say we took the front off of her convertible crib, so now she can get in and out of bed by herself. We have had a few issues at nap time (meaning she hasn't taken a nap since she's been able to get in and out by herself), but we have had no problems at all at bed time. Which is why I was surprised the other night when Emily came downstairs after I had tucked the littles into bed and said, "Um, Mom? I think we have a problem." Turns out, Ainsley decided she was going to sleep with Jackson, except Jackson was less than thrilled about it. Honestly, I was a little surprised, since he loves to snuggle with her and has even climbed into her bed on occasion. I said, "Jack, you don't want Ainsley to sleep with you? Why not?" And he replied, "Ugh, she takes up too much room and she's in my space! And she kicks!"

Yes, my friends, that is the pot calling the kettle black...


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

because sometimes love is a choice

"You didn't bring the mail in, did you?"

"No...why? You didn't get the mail today?"

"No."

"Seriously? I mean, I know you said you didn't do anything today, but really?"

"No, I said I didn't do anything except write a new blog post. Besides, you know I don't do rain."

Later, after dinner...

"So, you're going to clean up, right? And then take the kids up for a bath? And while they are in the bath you're going to fold the laundry?"

"Seriously...what did you do today??"

this one's for you, maya quandt!

Wow! You're still here? I know, you probably thought I forgot that I had this little blog, right? I can assure you that I didn't forget. It's just that, well, October kind of swallowed me whole. I knew it was going to be a busy month, full of an out-of-town soccer tournament and loads and loads of soccer practices and soccer games and acting classes and school conferences and visitors and birthdays! I mean, I knew in my head that it was going to be crazy, but I had no idea how crazy. Kind of like how when we found out we were expecting Ainsley...we knew things were going to be nuts with 4 kids, but honestly, we had NO IDEA! And I wanted to write, to share with you the exciting stuff that was going on here but then Doug wanted to upgrade the computer with a new hard drive. And when he was finished the computer was faster and quieter, but I couldn't find my pictures. And then I found my pictures, but my photo uploader was gone, and I had about 100 pictures on my camera. I mean, there were blog posts just waiting to happen, but I couldn't possibly write them without my pictures. So, I finally figured out how to upload the pictures, but then too much time had passed. And the thought of posting something seemed daunting, not fun and exciting. And then I thought, well, maybe everyone else is super busy too and they don't even realize I haven't posted anything for months. And then I got the text. The angry text. In all caps. UPDATE YOUR BLOG! So here I am. Updating my blog. And here are the highlights of what you may have missed while I've been away:

1.) The entire soccer season!
Man, it was a good one! Remember the Fury team from last fall that only won 1 game all season? Well, I barely do thanks to the Fury team of this season! Emily and her teammates went 7 - 0 - 1 this fall! First place in their division! It was so much fun to watch. The girls really play well together and when they bring it, there's no stopping them! We have a bit of a break now...no practices until after the holidays. Our spring season should be fun!

And the Greyhounds had a great season too! I'll admit it was a bit dicey at first. Jackson appeared to be more interested in karate-chopping the opposing team instead of focusing on the ball. And while most of the time he still seems content to just run with the pack, he did manage to break away and score a couple of goals. He even seems excited to play again in the spring! And I'm glad he's playing in the spring...it will give me a chance to take pictures of him playing, since I didn't seem to take any this fall. Please don't judge...he's #3 of 4...he's kind of lucky we remember to feed him...

2.) There is a teenager in the house.
I know, right? When did that happen? It's still a bit surreal to me. Yes, I realize he's a great kid. Not likely to give us much trouble. But he's still a teenager, with the hormones and the angst and well, I'm sorry. I just can't talk about it anymore. Except to say that I will be devoting an entire post to the celebration. It was fun. There was even a Snuggie involved.

3.) School is AWESOME.
All three of the kids are having a great year so far. Jackson really likes his teacher, especially the fact that she rides a motorcycle to school on sunny days! He's up to about 25 words he can read, which is quite amazing given the fact that at the beginning of the year, Ainsley could say the alphabet better than he could. He's working hard and soaking everything up and having a blast. Emily is enjoying her first year in the Talent Development program. She's being challenged, loves her teacher and is making new friends in her new school. Ryan loves his new school too. He's reconnected with some old friends and made some new ones. I think his favorite class is his Musical Theater class, which comes as no surprise to me, but he's really doing well in all his classes and seems to like this school better than the one he attended last year. Not that I want to say I told him so or anything. Oh, who am I kidding...of course that's exactly what I want to say!!

4.) The death of a loved one.
R.I.P. Summit. You will be missed. But only for about another day or two. Because Doug is totally in love with his new Kia Forte. The fact that it starts every time would have been enough, but the fact that it has Bluetooth, a sunroof, Sirius satellite radio AND he can plug in his iPod??? He's on Cloud 9! Within 24 hours after buying it, he had purchased the new hanging shelves for the garage and it only took a day for him to install those shelves and completely clean out the garage so that both cars can be parked there. If only all projects around here were tackled with such gusto...

5.) Other helpful information...
You will not even be able to have a conversation with Ainsley unless you are well versed in the subjects of Yo Gabba Gabba, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid and A Charlie Brown Christmas. It will also be to your advantage if repetition doesn't make your head explode. On the plus side, she's really cute when she sings "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!"

6.) The 2 year anniversary of this blog.
On November 6, 2007, I started this blog with a post about Marie Osmond. The kids spent some time yesterday going through the archives. This post started out funny, but Emily said, "I don't think I can watch two minutes of this." This one is one of my personal favorites. This one had Ryan cracking up, practically rolling on the floor! And I think this is one of Doug's favorites. How about you? What are your favorites?

I've got some fun things planned for this blog. Nothing too drastic, just a few changes here and there. Probably some more posts about food, some product reviews, my life list and even giveaways! Thanks for being patient while I figure out how to make this fun for me again. And as for you not-so-patient ones? (Yes, I'm looking at you, Maya!!) Thanks for giving me the kick in the pants I needed to start writing again!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Ryan Miller Book Awards

Hello Everybody!

First off, I would like to thank everybody who contributed to my box tops contest! You really helped and I won the second prize of 100 dollars. That and some birthday money and POOF! I have myself a brandspankin' new ( well I wouldn't say new, it was refurbished) 16 gigabyte iPod Touch. Thanks so much!!


Secondly, I have gotten some requests to do a new book list. I really want to but somehow, I can't seem to get any good new reads yet. ( Shocking, I know) Don't worry, I'm requesting some new ( hopefully good ) reads from the library. So in the mean time, I'm doing

*The First Annual Ryan Miller Book Awards*

The awards that go to anything readable, interesting, and cool.

Without further ado, Here are the winners!!:

Fantasy

1st: The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
2nd: The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer
3rd: The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull

Suspense

1st: The 39 Clues series by Multiple Authors
2nd: On the Run series by Gordan Korman
3rd: Island series by Gordan Korman

Humor

1st: Diary Of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
2nd: Tales of a Forth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
3rd: Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume

Short Story

1st: The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
2nd: The Twits by Roald Dahl
3rd: All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury

Fiction

1st: Regarding the... series by Kate Klise
2nd: Bridge to Terabithia by Kathleen Paterson
3rd: Holes by Louis Sacher

Non-Fiction

1st: The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Vanness
2nd: Explorers Wanted: The Jungle by Simon Chapman
3rd: Greek Mythology by Greek Philosophers


Well those are the awards. Trust me, Some of those were really close. For instance, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button almost replaced All Summer in a Day. But Curious sort of dragged along.

Pretty soon I'll have enough books to compile another reading list. Until then, keep reading!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

musical theater

One of Ryan's classes this year is Musical Theater, which he's pretty excited about. In class, they have been starting to learn the music to this year's production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

"Well, I'm officially a Soprano!" he said when I picked him up from school one day last week. "But I'm pretty sure that's only because I haven't gotten my "man-voice" yet."

Monday, September 7, 2009

how the crock pot saves me on soccer nights, part 1 - pot roast

Welcome to the first of a series of posts about how my crock pot saves me on soccer nights! Jackson and Emily have soccer practice on the same nights, two nights a week. One of those nights is Friday, so we usually end up ordering pizza or picking up something, but the other night is earlier in the week, and if I don't plan ahead, we end up eating very late and getting everyone to bed very late. Know what's worse than the over-tired "But I'm not tired!" screaming meltdown right before bed? The "I don't want to go to school!" screaming meltdown in the morning! And if we are late to eat and late to bed, we usually get both!

So, Pot Roast!! I know...it's a little early in the season for something as hearty as a pot roast, but our grocery store had a special on the meat, and soccer season is in full swing, so what's a girl to do??

What cut of meat? I use either chuck roast or rump roast...and I think this particular day I used a chuck roast.

To brown or not to brown? I have made it both ways, and the difference in the final result was so minimal that I normally do not brown! Because really? That's just one more pan to scrub and we're trying to keep things simple, right?

As for all the other stuff...

Usually I season the meat and let it sit while I chop up all the veggies. I have used dry onion soup mix, but if you don't have any of that on hand, you can also use a good grill seasoning. (I like McCormick's Spicy Montreal Steak seasoning, which I almost always have for burgers, steaks and the homemade sloppy joes I sometimes make...ooh, I wonder how that would be in the crock pot??)

For the veggies, I use whatever I happen to have, which is usually a mix of potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and celery. This week I happened to have some mushrooms so I added those as well. I toss everything into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Next comes putting it all together...first, put some of the veggies in the crock pot, set the seasoned roast on top and then add the rest of the veggies all around. You'll also need a bit of liquid, about a cup or so. I've used beef broth, water, wine and, on this day, I used beer. Again, whatever you have on hand. They are all great! (Although my personal favorite is beer!) If you felt like adding any other herbs (thyme and parsley for me), this would be a good time to sprinkle them on top.


Let's get a closer look...


Mmmm...

Just set it on low for 6-8 hours and you have dinner!

I usually eat just the veggies with just a small serving of the roast the first night. They are my favorite part and no one in the house likes to eat them as leftovers. One of these days I'm going to try to make my potato soup with the leftovers...And speaking of leftovers...the best thing to do the next day is a BBQ Beef Panini! Some of the roast, shredded, with a bit of BBQ sauce and some cheddar cheese between slices of buttered bread! And if you don't happen to have a panini press (I don't!) but you do have a grill pan (I do!), you can do this...



Put a piece of foil over the sandwich and then use a pot or pan with soup cans as weights! Worked like a charm!

Have a favorite crock pot recipe that saves you during the week? Send an email to millerfam06@carolina.rr.com and I'll use it in this series!

Next week...Crock Pot Tacos!


quite possibly the only reason i could never be a vegetarian

Jalapenos, stuffed with cream cheese, wrapped in bacon.


I found the recipe on The Pioneer Woman's website and first made them last fall for a party. They disappeared in record time. We just discovered this summer that they are even better on the grill than they are in the oven. Be sure to make double what you think you will need. You'll just have to trust me on this one. Oh, and when you are prepping the jalapenos, wear gloves. Trust me on that one too!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

taking advantage of the situation

I can remember very well the summer before Ryan started Kindergarten. We had these Sesame Street computer games...one with number games and one with letter games. He used to want to play them all the time, and Emily would always pull up a chair and watch him. I would tell Ryan to make sure he gave Emily a turn, but she never wanted to play. She just wanted to watch. On the first day of school, we all went outside with Ryan to see him get on the bus. After the bus drove away, Doug and I stayed outside talking for a few minutes before he had to head back to work and Emily quickly went into the house. When I came in, I found her sitting at the computer, playing one of the computer games. I didn't know that she knew how to start it, but she had been watching all summer, soaking it all in, just waiting for her turn.

Last week when we returned home from dropping all the kids off at school, Ainsley went straight upstairs. I came up to check on her and found her all tucked into Jack's bed with her Game-boy, her animals and her book.


She had just been waiting for her turn.




first day of school - part two

Jackson was a little easier to wake up this morning, and was ready to go!


Hugs for Ainsley (who was quite annoyed she wasn't going to school!)!


I think he's really glad that his big sis will be at school with him...


Jack the Kindergartner!



And his cool Transformers backpack...


first day of school - part one

The first day of school for Ryan and Emily was yesterday! I had volunteered to go in early to help at Jackson & Emily's school...it's a brand new school and they just got their certificate of occupancy last Friday! So no students had been allowed in the building for tours or open house. The kindergartners only go one day this week on a staggered schedule, and even though yesterday wasn't Jack's day to go, I wanted him to go in early with me so he could see the school. He was not too fond of getting up early ("Why is it still dark??")!


So he snuggled on the couch while Emily got ready.


Emily the 5th grader...


Doug worked from home yesterday so he could take Ryan to school, since I was going to be at the elementary school.


Back in uniform...



Ryan the 7th grader!

Up next...first day of school - part two!

off to a great start

Wow! You all missed some fantastic soccer games this past weekend! Our girls took 2nd place in the tournament! We won our first three games and then lost (3-1) in the final. Emily wasn't able to play in the final game...she pulled a muscle in her calf earlier that morning and could hardly walk. She's doing a bit better. She's resting it the rest of the week and hopefully she'll be able to play this weekend! They sure played their little hearts out in the tournament and it was so much fun to watch! It's gonna be a fun season!! Go Fury!!



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

sweet tooth

Our neighbor, Kerry, bakes amazing cakes. She and her family went out of town a few weeks ago, and when they returned, she brought down a delicious cake to thank us for looking over their house while they were gone. It was a chocolate cake, with chunks of chocolate in it and a chocolate ganache over the top. Doug commented that he didn't know it was humanly possible to pack that much chocolate flavor into one cake. It was very good. And it didn't last very long. I think it was the third day when Ryan came down and asked if he could have the "last" piece...



...when this is how much was left...



Nice try, Ryan.

Monday, August 10, 2009

helpful


I asked Ainsley to pour some of her pool water into my pots and she was more than happy to help!




I probably should have specified I wanted her to pour water in the pots that actually contained plants...

overheard

Ryan: Jackson, do you even know what twins are?

Jackson: Um, yeah! They're kids who wear the same clothes!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

la la land

Almost 2 whole months ago (gasp! Man, time flies!!), I took a fabulous trip to Southern California. You may have heard me mention it a time or two before I left...something about how this was going to be the first time Doug and I were going to be away from the children since our last vacation together...8 YEARS AGO! And you may have even heard me gush after returning that it was one of my best weeks ever!! And I know some of you are starting to wonder if the trip really happened, since there have been no posts or pictures on this website. I've been meaning to write about it...really, I have. It's just that every time I sit down to write, I feel blocked. Because I know I won't be able to do it justice. Because it wasn't just the fun happenings, it was also the quiet happenings...the peaceful, calming feelings that take over when you realize that the only person you have to take care of for the time being is yourself. But because I had more fun than one should legally be allowed to have in one week, I feel like it's time for me to just get over myself and share my fabulous week with you!

So, here is what I love about Southern California...

(btw, these are mostly in chronological order...not in order of fabulousness...)

1. Santa Monica



After we landed at LAX, Doug and I rented a car and drove to Santa Monica. It was a Saturday, and very busy. Our first experience with LA traffic...FUN! But once we got there and found a place to park, we walked to the beach and it was all worth it. The beach, the activity, the shopping...so fun to watch everything. We had lunch at a fabulous Mexican restaurant right on the Pier and then did a little shopping. My favorite store?? Yummy Cupcakes! Check these out...



2. The Gibson Inn & Suites

After our day in Santa Monica, we made the "quick" 40 mile/2 hour jaunt over to Kate and John's apartment. It's nestled in the back of the complex, and surrounded by these awesomely huge trees with gorgeous purple flowers. Since you all know how well I do with tree identification, I won't even try...but really, they were beautiful! We had a very yummy dinner - spaghetti and meatballs, bread and of course, yummy cupcakes! We talked a lot, laughed a lot, ate a lot and listened to some really great music. A wonderful end to a great first day!

3. Del Mar

As much as I loved Santa Monica, it doesn't hold a candle to Del Mar. It's such a sweet little town just north of San Diego and only about an hour and a half or so from LA. With our husbands both working, Kate made plans for us to head down to Del Mar on Monday. She was going to be visiting one of her nearby stores on Tuesday, so she made reservations for us to spend the night at an amazing inn called Les Artistes, just blocks from the ocean and within walking distance to the heart of the town. We stayed in the Zen Room and the room totally delivered on it's promise of a calming and relaxing experience!


We walked into town that evening and had dinner outside, over looking the ocean, at an amazing restaurant called Pacifica Del Mar. I don't know if it was the ocean, the wine, the food, the company...probably a combination of all...but it was probably one of the best dinners of my life!



The next morning, Kate went to work and I stayed behind to do a bit of exploring in Del Mar. I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed to the beach! I couldn't believe how blue the water was...nothing like Santa Monica. I sat on a bench for awhile, listening to my iPod and watching the surfers, the people playing volleyball, and there was even someone attempting to parasail. After a walk on the beach, I headed back into town, did a little window shopping, and then met Kate for lunch for one of my all-time favorite sandwiches: California BLT!

4. Hollywood

Okay, even if you don't get into the whole "celebrity" thing, Hollywood is still a very cool place to see. I loved seeing the Kodak Theater, which is the home of the Academy Awards, Grauman's Chinese Theater and the hand and foot prints outside, all the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and other landmarks I've seen on TV and in movies. Kate and I also took one of the bus tours through Hollywood, up Mulholland Drive, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive and of course, all the stars' homes. And we even managed to see Quentin Tarantino, in his car, fighting the same traffic we were!

5. Glen Ivy

I'm not much of a spa girl. I've only ever had one massage in my life and I'm not normally one for manicures/pedicures. So I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about spending the day at a spa. But Glen Ivy is simply amazing and not like anything I could have imagined. After Kate and I checked in, we grabbed a couple of chairs by one of the outdoor pools and began our day of total relaxation. Reading by the pool, floating on a raft in the pool, a couple of drinks at the pool bar, lunch on the terrace, Club Mud, The Grotto...I don't believe there was one ounce of tension left in my body when we left.

6. Disneyland

I think Doug and I love Disney just as much, if not more, than our kids do and we would have loved to have had an opportunity to spend a day at Disneyland. Unfortunately, we didn't have an entire day to spend there, but on Thursday night, Kate dropped me off at Doug's hotel, which was within walking distance to the park. We decided to spend the evening at Downtown Disney, which is basically a lot of shops and restaurants. After walking around for a bit, we settled on eating at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen for dinner and waited a few minutes for a table out on the upstairs balcony. So glad we did that, because just before dessert, the Disneyland Fireworks started and we had a front row seat!

On Friday, we had a few hours to kill before heading back to Kate & John's, so we walked back to Downtown Disney to have lunch and see a movie. The movie, Star Trek, was phenomenal...and not just for the movie, but for the fact that I didn't have to get up once to take anyone to the bathroom or to get more popcorn. Plus, it wasn't animated, so that helped too!!

6. In-N-Out / Sprouts

Two places I would frequent if they were anywhere near here...so I guess it's a good thing for my waistline and wallet that we don't have them on this coast!

If you ever have an opportunity to eat an In-N-Out burger, you should. No, you must. Even you vegetarians, you can still have the fries! I mean, we have good burgers here (Five Guys!), but there's just something about this place. It took every ounce of my willpower not to make Kate drive me back there 5 more times!

And Kate's store, Sprouts Farmer's Market is wonderful...just wonderful.

But the absolute best thing about Southern California and the entire trip was...






My sweet sister Kate. It has been way too long since we've had a chance to hang out...just the two of us. She made everything about the trip even better and I think my cheeks still hurt a little from all the laughs.

So thanks to my wonderful husband for working for a company that has conferences in cool places (next summer, Washington DC!), and for letting me tag along. And thanks to Dennis and Mary, who spent the week wrangling all four kids and taking such good care of them that I didn't have to worry about a thing. And thanks to Kate, for knowing exactly what I needed, even when I didn't...from the hummus & pretzel chips to healing my soul and everything in between.

If you want to see all the pictures, just click here.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

a lesson learned that was taught by my 5 year-old brother

Hey Everyone! Special Guest Blogger Ryan here. Just to entertain you with a story from this afternoon...

So, me and Emily were in charge of Jack & Ainsley for a while this afternoon. Unfortunately they aren't old enough for me to crack that whip and make them clean my room, so we actually had to entertain them. A couple minutes into playing "let's trash Jackson's bed," Jack turned to me and asked a simple question: " Hey! Ryan! Can we do Au-Plex?" Au-Plex is JackandAinsley-ese for: "let's run down to the end of the upstairs hall and then run at lightning speed (well, almost ) back to Jack's bedroom and jump onto his bed" And wise brother Ryan said something like "Oh, what the heck, sure."

At first I was like Aw, little kids and their odd little quirks... but when it was my turn to Au-Plex, I loved it. When you're running as fast as you can, the air whips around your head. When you jump, you feel like you're flying and you land for a soft landing. It was quite addictive.

Lesson: Do your younger sibling's odd little physical activities. They may turn out to be very enjoyable!

summer fun in indiana

And here are the pictures from the Indiana portion of our trip! This time I managed to pull the camera out twice...once for a pool party at Rachael & Jeff's house and the other for our day at Dad & Kay's house.


The Southern California pictures are coming...there are quite a few more of those!

summer fun in kansas

Here are the pictures from the first part of our vacation in Kansas! Unfortunately, I only pulled out my camera for one day, but I still managed to get some great shots of the kids (and adults!) having a blast!


Friday, July 17, 2009

and just in case you haven't had your fill of jackson stories this week...

We were eating corn on the cob for dinner tonight. Emily took a bite and I could see juice flying across the table. She and I looked at each other and we both started to giggle a little. And then Jackson said, "Um, I just felt a raindrop on my face!"

another miscommunication

At the grocery store this afternoon...

Jackson: Hey Mom, do you think you can get me those lockers?

Me: Lockers?

Jackson: Yeah, those locker things...

Me: Like you put things in?

Jackson: No, like the police officers use to take the bad guys away!

Me: You want handcuffs??

Jackson: Yeah, handcuffs!

Later I asked him what he would do with the handcuffs.

Jackson: (giggling) I want to lock Ryan with them!

Which was kind of what I was afraid of...

quite possibly the yummiest thing i've ever made with leftover grilled chicken

Personally, I love leftovers. Most of the time, there is just a serving or so of the previous night's dinner. Sometimes I make something like enchiladas or lasagna and that will be lunch for a couple of days. But most of the time I have to try to come up with a new way to serve the leftovers because, unfortunately, no one else in the house shares my enthusiasm for them. Taco meat becomes taco salad, a tray of veggies becomes stir-fry, and so on. We grilled chicken the other night and I made too much, as usual. Instead of just slicing it for salad or quesadillas like I sometimes do, I thought I'd try a pasta salad.

Here's what I had to work with**:

2 grilled chicken breasts
1/2 box penne pasta
fresh roma tomatoes from my neighbor's garden (Thanks Wini!)
a tub of pesto
lemon

Here's what I did:

Cooked the pasta, saved about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and then drained it.

Sliced the chicken breasts.

Seeded and diced the tomatoes.

Combined the reserved pasta water with 1/2 cup of pesto. Then added the zest of the lemon, the juice from 1/2 the lemon, about a tablespoon of olive oil, and a little salt and pepper.

Tossed the pasta with the pesto mixture and then folded in the chicken and tomatoes.

YUM! It was great for dinner that night. Even better for lunch the next day. And still even better for lunch today! Normally, I would be annoyed that no one else even wanted to try it, but in this case I'm glad...more for me!

**Know what else would have been good? If I had added some roasted red peppers. Or maybe some mozzarella cheese. Or take out the chicken and add tuna instead.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

the post that starts with my heart melting and ends with me unplugging the tv

Jackson and I were walking through the library yesterday, looking at books when he turned to me and said, "Mom, would you like a snuggle?" I smiled and said, "That would be nice! You mean when we get home, just me and you?" And he said, "Yeah! Well, you can hold your other children too. And the telephone. Or even read a book."

I thought about that for a minute and asked, "Jack, do you mean a Snuggie? The blanket with the arm holes?"

He laughed and replied, "Yeah! They are so cool! You can even operate a remote control AND it's good for cold-weather camp-outs!"

Sigh.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

all by herself

It's getting harder and harder to pretend she's still a baby...This morning, she refused all help getting dressed, including putting on her own Pull-Up. (We are easing into the potty training thing while we have company, but are kicking it up a notch next week. That should make for some fantastic blog material! Stay tuned!) Anyway, this is Ainsley after she got her own cup of water...


And a view from behind...


Thursday, July 9, 2009

diva

I woke up at 4:00 am to the sound of Ainsley crying. I walked into her room and she was lying on her back, an actual tear falling down her sweet cheek.

Me: What's the matter, sweetie?

Ainsley: Blanket!

I look in her crib and notice that her blanket is right next to her. It looks like it just slipped off to the side because it's not bunched up or in a ball at her feet or anything.

Me: (confused) You want your blanket?

Ainsley: Yeah...

So I pull her blanket up over her and she snuggles in and is back asleep before I even leave the room.

Wonder how that little maneuver will work for me the next time I sit down to watch TV and realize I've left my water in the kitchen...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

lunch at our house - a one act play

Me: What does everyone want for lunch?

Ainsley: Mac cheese!

Me: Okay...anyone else want mac and cheese?

Ryan: I'll eat some.

Emily: Me too.

Me: Jackson? Do you want mac and cheese?

Jackson: Ugh. Is it leftover?

Me: No, I'm making it fresh right now.

Jackson: Okay...I'll have some.

Ryan: I'm really hungry, so I think I'm going to make a turkey sandwich too.

Emily: I'm really hungry too...can I have a yogurt?

Me: Sure.

Ryan starts making his sandwich and Emily gets her yogurt.

Ainsley: I yogurt!

Jackson: Is my mac and cheese ready yet?

Me: Almost!

Ryan finishes his sandwich as I make a salad with leftover grilled chicken and honey mustard dressing.

Ryan: Mmm...that salad looks really good. Can I have that too?

Me: Well, there isn't anymore grilled chicken, but you can have this one.

Ryan: Are you sure?

Ainsley: I salad!

Me: Yeah...I'll just make a taco salad.

Emily: Ooohh...taco salad! Can I have one of those?

Me: Sure.

So I give Ryan the grilled chicken salad, steal a piece of the chicken to make a smaller version for Ainsley, warm up the leftover taco meat and put most of it on Emily's salad and save a bit for mine. And now the mac & cheese is ready.

Jackson: Can I have a taco too?

Me: Sure.

Ainsley: I taco!

I look at Ainsley's half eaten yogurt, half eaten salad and half eaten bowl of mac & cheese.

Me: Sorry Ainsley, no taco.

I use the rest of the taco meat for Jack's taco and then remember we have some leftover shredded chicken so I can still have my taco salad. I make my salad and sit down with the kids and take a bite.

Jackson: Can I have some apple juice?

Ainsley: I appa booce!

Me: Sure.

I get the juices and sit back down.

Jackson: Cheers everybody!

So we all do cheers and finish eating.

The end. Until dinner.