Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mommy, you can hear their feet!

Last night Riley, Mary Beth and I went to the ballet with our friends to experience Jewels. If your experience with the ballet is like mine--meaning you've only seen it on PBS as you are channel surfing--you might not realize how much noise the ballerinas' feet make as they are performing. During the first act, Emeralds, Mary Beth commented to me how loud their feet were, and I couldn't help but agree. My friend, who is very familiar with the ballet, told us that this noise was nothing compared with some performances she has seen.

We went to the ballet as part of a program offered to our school district. The seats were very reasonably priced, so we decided to give it a shot. After last week's experience at The Magic Tree House the Musical, we knew we'd be in for a bit of culture shock, and that was okay. However, it was a little disconcerting when I read the playbill describing the performance as "a grand-scale work whose presentation is made complex by its length and its multiple styles." Uhhhh, this could be trouble, considering we have 3 school girls, and this started at 8 p.m. (a.k.a. bedtime). Jewels is comprised of three acts--Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds, each "representative of a different period and/or style" of ballet. Rubies was quite a treat--the costumes were magnificent (I love ALL things red), and the dancing was fun and playful, apparently it reprensented the American style characteristic of Jewels' creator Balanchine (notice how I drop the name as though I'm quite familiar with his work? Thank goodness for Playbills!). I think the girls would have been happy to leave after Rubies--they were tired. But how could we skip Diamonds? It featured the classical Russian style of dancing and costumes. We were glad we stayed, because it was really very beautiful and dazzling.

The performance was in Boston's Wang Theater. It was beyond pretty. I took pictures with my little $50 purse camera--I'm sorry, they don't do any justice to its beauty.

We left in rain. Bleck... The girls were looking forward to practicing some ballerina moves through the Common.

I don't know if I would have ever associated solitaire with the ballet, but it was what the girl in front of me did during all the intermissions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

We're All Just Ducky

A few weeks ago our 3 oldest kids took part in our library's annual Duck Days. Participants use a yellow rubber ducky and transform it into a book character. Of course, they are then displayed and voted on with winners declared in each of the various categories. Here are our entries. Can you tell which character each duck represents?

They did it, for the most part, by themselves, using model magic and paint to create their masterducks. Mary Beth needed a little help with the hair on her character--she doesn't have braiding down yet--but she did use Aunt Amanda's yarn doll technique to get the yarn ready for me to braid.

Then came the tough/fun part. Only one of our kids' ducks was declared a winner. That child received a prize. Luckily, the prize was a book, Eric Carle's "10 Little Rubber Ducks," so we could all share it, but it still cut to the core of the other two, who were now, if not winners, 'losers.' This same scenario played out the other day when the 3 oldest kids were staging a dog show (Westminster had its influence) in our living room with their stuffed animals. They asked Ted to be the judge and to declare Best in Show. They were proudly standing with their dogs each eagerly anticipating being named champion. Ted announced the winner who beamed with joy. The other two? They started crying and screaming and declaring that it was no fair!!! What to do, what to do. My solution? Quick! Run to the play room and whip up two more awards--Best Toy Dog and Best Large Breed Dog. That seemed to pacify them. The Duck award was just one of those life lessons everyone has to learn. We won't always win awards, but we can enjoy each other's wins, and we can take pride in a job well done. I mean, just look at those adorable ducks!

On a side note, one of Lucy's cutest words is her word for duck.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

STAY-cation #5 Everything was still. Absolutely still.

For those of you with young elementarty kids, the title may sound strangely familiar. It's the line in Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House stories that follows Jack and Annie's whirlwind trips in their Magic Tree House. Tonight we were lucky enough to be able to go to Boston's Colonial Theater, to watch a production of Magic Tree House the Musical, largely based on the Christmas in Camelot story. We first learned of the opportunity from one of the Chick-Fil-A kids' meal toys, which was a CD of Pirates Past Noon with a teaser for the musical. Our kids instantly wanted to go to this, so I did my research and found when it would be in our area. How perfect that it fit in to our STAY-cation week...kind of the icing on the cake.

I took Riley, Mary Beth and Cory, and we also went with some friends--so 8 of us in all. After only getting a little lost on the way in to the city, we got to our seats in the theater with just a minute to spare--literally. I got up with some for a restroom stop, and on our way out the lights dimmed for the start of the show.

The show was fabulous. For being a production geared for kids (which you would expect and hope to remain more simplistic), I was impressed with its visual interest and creativity. At about the 3rd scene of the first act Cory asked me when it would be over--he wanted it to be a pirate story. Uhhhh...this could be a long show. But the scenes were well paced and the action picked up quite a bit, and Cory really started to enjoy himself. Especially when the knights showed up. The dragon fight really won him over. The girls really loved the Irish dancing in the show, and they danced their way through the Boston Common back to our van.

The show ended with Jack saying the famous line from the book..."Everything was still. Absolutely still." The best part of it was that you could hear all the kids (and some parents, too) saying the line with him.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Clearly not from the South

I love to have my drinks poured over ice. It's part of me and my personality you might say. I just think most drinks taste better poured over ice. I chalk it up to my Southern upbringing.

I've had to make a few adjustments to that part of my life here in New England. They just don't think the same way. Drinks that are not supposed to be ice cold apparently. The other day when we went into Boston we had lunch at the Fanueil Hall foodcourt. I had to search a little, but I was able to find one vendor that sold Dr Pepper. Of course it was in a bottle and just barely cold. I asked the lady behind the counter for a cup of ice. She says sure and turns away to fill my order. She has to go in the back but eventually returns with a receptacle and ice. I just had to roll my eyes and walk away. Here's a pic.

In case you can't really make it out. The receptacle is actually a small bowl for ice cream. Not a drinking cup. I'm not sure what she expected me to do with the 2 bottles of DP and the BOWL of ice. But at least I had ice. You can also see K's shrimp roll in the background. I had "fresh" peel-n-eat shrimp. We debated how fresh the fish really was (being served in a shopping center food court - even though we were less than a mile from the Boston Bay), but regardless it was tasty. Next time I'll just have to bring along my own 52 oz Bubba keg.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

STAY - cation #4--more benefits

Here's another benefit of having our vacation at home--we have our babysitters available! So, Ted and I went out to dinner tonight. As is typical for our dates, we went to dinner and shopping. It's really not very glamorous, I suppose, but it's what we do. Several weeks ago we went out while friends kept our kids. That's always bonus because we don't have to pay (well, we pay in reciprocity). So you'd think that we would step it's how that one played out. We headed to Natick where they have a very nice mall. It's really two malls in one--the normal mall with food court, Sears, Claire's, Limited, etc, and then the upscale half of the mall with small boutiques I've never heard of. We went there because they have a P.F. Chang's, but they had over a 2 hour wait, so we tried The Cheesecake Factory-also a 2 hour wait. It was at this point that we ended up at the Barbecue restaurant we mentioned earlier. This is where it gets even sadder. After barbecue we went to Wal-Mart. WAL-MART!!!
And we were happy about it. It was the first time I had been to one in about 5 months, which is probably why I was happy, and what can I say--we're from Arkansas--my college town had one of the very first Super Wal-Mart stores way back when.

So that was our date a month or so ago. Tonight we went to Border Cafe. Halfway through the day I started to think that I might need to cancel the babysitter--Ted was in mucho pain from sinuses and was dead asleep. I didn't think that he would really want to leave the house. But he did, and Border Cafe has Dr. Pepper and Mexican--our favorites. On my brother's recommendation this past summer, I had the carne asada tacos. Very good--thanks Brad. Afterwards, we went to Lowe's for lightbulbs and Office Depot for tax software. How sad are we?

Earlier today we went to a Children's Museum in Easton. The driving force for this visit was the fact that they have the area's Fetch! lab--based on one of our kids' favorite PBS tv shows Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman. It's a very small museum housed in one of Easton's old firehouses. It was small but PACKED! Kids everywhere. And LOUD. Which probably didn't help Ted's headache. That and the fact that I sent him into the woodworking room with the kids to pound nails into boards. hmmmmmm...probably wasn't our best plan.

The museum had a table with face paints and a mirror on the wall that the kids could use to paint their faces, which explains the funny markings on the girls.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

STAY-cation #3--benefits

After spending an entire day in museums, walking city streets and navigating the subway system, we are very glad that we'll be sleeping in our very own beds tonight. In fact, at this point I can hardly wait to fall into mine. That is a huge benefit of our STAY-cation plan.

We started this morning out the door at 8:30 and arrived at Boston's Museum of Science just after 9:00--right when they opened. We hit Cliff the triceratops first (okay, we didn't really hit him) so we could get some good looks at him without a large crowd.
Then we wandered aimlessly for a little before ending up in the Frog exhibit. It was at this point that I realized what a difference the hour made. In just one hour we went from freely roaming the exhibits to fighting our way through crowds to catch a glimpse of a bullfrog.

By 11 o'clock the crowds were growing exponentially, so we decided to go to the next part of our plan for the day. We headed out of the museum and walked a couple of blocks to the nearest T station (that's Boston's subway). After we figured out how to purchase tickets we proceeded to the platform to wait. Cory was super excited. He's been asking us when he would be able to take a train for a few days now. We took the T to the North End--where Paul Revere's home and the Old North Church are. We detoured a bit to Quincy Market for a quick lunch, and then walked to the North End. Paul Revere's home is pretty small and not a hugely impressive site, but we figured it was something that would appropriate for our kids' interest levels, and we could hit it at an off-peak time. From there we walked to the Old North Church, following the Freedom Trail path. Freedom Trail is one of the coolest things in Boston.

Since we were already in the North End, a stop at Mike's was an absolute must--don't tell the neighborhood we went without bringing home a box of canolis to share. Yum. Yum. Yum. Must exercise tomorrow.

At this point, I get it in my little brain that since we've seen Revere's home and the church that set up his famous ride, we ought to also walk to the Granary Burying Ground to see Revere's burial site. Thank goodness for that Freedom's like following the yellow brick road, only it's red. The kids were amazing troopers at this point. The two big girls were pretty entertained by following the Trail. Lucy managed to finally catch a little shuteye in the stroller, and Cory alternated walking and being carried by Daddy.

After the Granary it was back to a T station. We took it back to the Science Museum and arrived there around 3. This couldn't have worked out better. The crowds had thinned out incredibly, and we were able to really enjoy and learn from several more exhibits. Plus, Lucy's 40 winks were all she needed to be merry and bright again. We all enjoyed an optical illusion exhibit. We saw straight lines bend, black and white pictures turn into color and old women become young ladies. Cory explained to me how this window was turning.

We left the museum around 5:30 completely worn out, but happy. We had an absolutely fabulous day--we generally don't get to stay out all day long like that because we still have a napper. This morning Cory requested that we stay in the city until dark today--he got his wish. We drove home in the dark with snow falling. He also got his wish to ride a train. He told us later that now that he's gotten to ride a train, he's going to start wishing to go on a boat. Whale watching anyone?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stimulus - Shimulus - STAYcation post #2

I know there are economic hard times in the country. All I have to do is look at my retirement accounts and the kids' college funds to see that significant drops in the investment markets have lowered people's "wealth." What I have not seen is a commensurate drop in spending across the local area. Everywhere we've gone this week places are loaded down with people. No one seems to be pinching pennies or cutting back. Our STAYcation trips to shop and eat out have highlighted the lack of sacrifice going on around here.

I had to wait in a 15 min line to shell out $100 for a kid's doll. I had to wait so long because the 4 checkers could not swipe credit cards fast enough to keep up so the line snaked through the store. Never mind that the same scenario is playing out on the second floor of the same shop with another set of 4 checkers. No one was second guessing the spendulus in that store. Restaurants...people everywhere waiting in line for a table because they are already full with people splurging and eating out.

Today we went to the local Chuck E. Cheese kids' pizza place. Kids and parents everywhere.

I know many people have lost jobs and for some life is extremely tough, but I seem to be surrounded by the opposite extreme. When I hear politicians say, "I know you are hurting, the American people are hurting!" I wonder where do they get that? It's not around here. People are shopping and buying just as they have for the last decade. Maybe that's why MA Congressman Frank is so clueless about how to "help" the banks. MA does not seem to have a problem.

I skimmed the Stimulus package verbiage thanks to a relative's blog. The wording or lack thereof is appalling to me. $XXX,XXX,XXX to this agency and $YYY,YYY,YYY to that agency. No rules on how to spend, when to spend or any other restrictions for the few hundred pages I skimmed. Just, "Here's a check." Truth in lending leads me to say that there are many millions in there for AF research and development, military construction, housing, and child care centers. Thanks. But know that I am very concerned the country has lost its way. Fiscal responsibility begins with spending less than you make. At any level that seems a simple truth to me, but we cannot manage it in Government. People are not good stewards of the taxpayer dollars. I see how easy it is to fall into that trap in my career. It's like funny money--the values and amounts are so large you can't imagine it. But at some point you have to consider would you make the same decision if it were your money?

Monday, February 16, 2009

STAY- cation

Welcome to our stay-cation. The kids have this week off of school for February break. This might come as a bit of a surpise to anyone who has never lived in New England, but it is a standard vacation for Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont schools. We guess it serves one of two purposes--either (a) giving families a chance to go skiing (kind of like extra days off in the south for the start of deer season) or (b) giving families a chance to head someplace warm and keep their sanity in the dead of winter up here. Either way, we find this little quirk of New England endearing. Ted has even decided to take some leave from work and enjoy the week with us, so we planned a vacation at home.

Yesterday we kicked off the week with a little experiment. I purchased these 'crystal growing kits' last year with all kinds of good intentions, but found them still in the closet months later. When we pulled them out, I thought this week might be a good time to use them, so yesterday after church we got the kids suited up in their safety gear and began measuring, heating, mixing and observing.

We'll post pictures of the finished products later.

Today we headed to American Girl so the girls could spend some of the money they've been saving. Riley has been saving diligently, and was just a few dollars from being able to purchase a new doll. We decided to float her some money (unlike the gov't, we actually have the money to float her) so she could buy a doll. Mary Beth was eager to get one of the "chairs" they have for the dolls to be able to sit at a table next to you. Even though I had explained that these chairs won't fit onto our table, she was insistent. Quite honestly, of our children, she's notorious for being indecisive, so the fact that she had something in her head that she knew without a doubt she wanted, made it easy for me to just go with it.

Of course, we couldn't just go to the American Girl store--Cory is old enough now to know that there are much cooler toys for him, so we journeyed to Wal-Mart so he could pick out something from their toy department. He found some Hot Wheels accessories that would connect to something he got at Christmas, so he's good now, too.
And now Ted and I have a pile of coins from the kids --they spent their own money on these things, today, and very little of their money is ever anything but quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sweet Tea

In the ebb and flow of our continual goal to live a healthier life, Ted and I decided to omit the sugar from our tea making process. Because, as you probably know, all things white are not good for you. So we gave it a shot...we even had lemon slices to substitute. But it ain't happenin' my friends. I am not ready to be this radical.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chipotle Chick

We're very excited because a new Chipotle recently opened up nearby. Now, when I say "nearby," I really mean 20 minutes away, but in New England that's pretty darn close. Until a month ago, the other area Chipotle was 30 minutes away, and in an unfamiliar area, so we rarely went. The new one is right across the street from Target. Bonus. So, today while the three big kids were at school, and Ted had a day of leave, we had the pleasure of going to Chipotle with just the baby. We ordered a couple of bowls for us(Veggie for me, Carnitas for Ted) and had them make a cheese quesadilla for Lucy, plus the all-important chips and salsa.

Now, for those of you who haven't (gasp) had the pleasure of eating at a Chipotle, one thing I might mention is that their food has a bit of a bite to it. So, you can imagine my concern when Lucy decided that she would rather have Ted's spicy carnitas bowl than her mild quesadilla.

Now, in fairness, the carnitas are their mildest meat, but Ted also adds one of their spicier salsas, so it's still a little warm.

And then she wanted some salsa--but not with the chip. She would motion for Ted to put some of the chunks on her chip, then she'd eat the salsa off the chip, hand the empty chip back to Ted and motion for more.

She owns us. It wasn't long before she was drinking our beverage, too. Obviously she's the spoiled rotten fourth kid.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Trouble with Snow

The trouble with snow is that eventually this:

turns into this:

and requires this:

which really only lasts until you drive again because 50 degree weather causes all of the black snow to become a nasty slush that we drive in and track into the van all over again. Bleck.

The warmer temps also make this:

melt. :( (that's not a slick, smooth surface, but a layer of melted ice)

And possibly the saddest part of the heat wave (which, by the way, has us all in t-shirts walking around with an extra spring in our step) is that we all know it's all just a cruel tease, and we'll be cold and miserable again soon! It's a long, long winter. We'll just have to do our best to recognize that our glass is half full --we have a home and heat to protect us from the cruel elements, and on these unseasonably warm days, we get to have fun playing outside without having to wear a thousand layers.
The girls were making "slush." They were using snowball makers and buckets to transport snow to a hole for it to melt in...great--just what we need, more slush.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Tonight was the first game of intramural basketball. I did not get a chance to play last year - I was in the Command Section on the base and worked all the time (whine), plus the "staff" didn't have lots of eager B-Ball players. The wing I am in this year has many eager players, about 15 on the team roster. That seems like too many but with travel and out of town meetings there will be time when it is tough to form a team. Turns out there were 12 players there tonight. I'm completely an unknown to these guys. On top of that, I'm not the youngest, tallest or basketbally looking kind of guy - I was guessing I would not play much. I did get to play in the first half for just a few minutes. A few touches but nothing spectacular. With under 5 minutes in the second half in a closely contested game I got a second chance. I had two consecutive plays where I came off a pick under the basket, caught the ball on the wing and drove in for a layup. Wahoo! I'll add that I went around this giant of a guy on the opposing team in my best up and under small guy move. He had swatted out a few other players' shots - but we were trying to force into him and get him fouled out. I played another possession or two and then came out. I had my few minutes of fame and wanted to share the love. We won. 1-0 to start the season - Wahoo. I was jersey #4 and scored 4 points. Coincidence? I don't think so.
(The pic is from way back in 2004 - but it is a similar representation of the dazzling display of skills put on tonight)