Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ghosts and Cows, But Not Ghost Cows

A few photos that I meant to post over the weekend, but didn't get around to because M. and I had a Sunday afternoon date (yay!) that involved looking at hardwood flooring samples (also yay!), during which I came down with a raging case of what turned out to be strep throat (not so yay). So I am home from work today, three doses of antibiotics into my course, and steadfastly ignoring my work computer so I can "convalesce" (aka fool around on the internet) some more. Also, I would like to publically thank M. for being such a rock star during this - he put the kids to bed last night and Sunday night, got them both up and out the door this morning, cooked dinner for everyone last night (including some "easy on the throat" invalid-type food for me), made ice cream from scratch with Finn, and picked up the entire house to get ready for the cleaning lady who came this morning - all without complaint, and all without me asking. He just KNEW all the things that needed to get done (and then some), and did them. The hottie I married in grad school is also a GREAT guy - lucky me!

Alright, on to the photos. First up, a special edition of "Breakfast for Dinner," jazzed up a bit from an idea I found on Pinterest (from here: http://www.gourmetmomonthego.com/2008/10/ghostly-pancakes.html). I pinned it to use around Halloween, but couldn't resist trying it out a little early - Ghost Pancakes!

Isn't it cute?

Lucy's Plate

Finn's Plate - can you tell he's an egg lover?

Finn doing some homework from his Jumpstart program last week:

Erasing so earnestly.

Learning to use tally marks to count.

Not to be outdone, Lucy got her own time in front of the camera:

Hiding behind her hair.

Spacey eyes.

A smile, for once.

Followed soon after by the more common camera pout.

We took the kids to a former dairy farm that was converted to a "Mooseum" that is near our house. We all enjoyed the little (free!) interactive museum, and left feeling a bit hungry for some dairy-rich food:

Milking a fake cow

Arts and crafts

Misuse of the bean bag toss game board

But so cute!

An action shot of the bean bag game being properly used.

Finally, some photos of the kids from around the grounds and the nearby playground:

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Dress Rehearsal for Fall

Fresh new notebooks full of blank pages.

Textbooks covered in perfectly folded paper bags.

A brand new Trapper Keeper properly adorned with a girl-appropriate photo. Like this one:

(I'm pretty sure I actually owned this exact one)

The excitement of wondering which friends would be in my classes for the year.

Picking out a new outfit to wear.

Denim. Waning sunlight. Leaves tinged with red and yellow.

A crisp edge to the air.

Oh, I love the beginning of the school year! Is that crazy? I mean, don't get me wrong, I really, REALLY like the start of summer, too. But there's just something so exciting and full of potential about the start of a school year.

So why do I have school on the brain down here, in the middle of summer, in muggy and humid Maryland, where the air is decidedly NOT crisp yet?

Because of this little big guy:

Finn's school offers a "Jumpstart" program for the Kindergarteners, and we more than happily enrolled him. For the next two weeks, he will be at the school from 8:30 until 11:30 everyday, doing some light schoolwork/activities, and meeting some of the teachers and other students. I LOVE that they offer this - not so much for the academic preparation, but for the social aspect. Finn's daycare is a good 10-15 minute drive from our neighborhood, well outside our school district. I know of only one other child in his daycare class that will be attending our elementary school - and with 5 kindergarten classes, the odds of them being in the same class are pretty low. So this will give Finn plenty of friendly faces to see on his first REAL day of school when it arrives in 5 weeks.

One day down, and he seems to be having fun. He was certainly excited about it - this shining face appeared in our bedroom at 5:58 this morning, convinced it was 7 am and time to get up:

I didn't exactly CRY when I dropped him off, though it was close. I had to walk by a few parents with my head down so they wouldn't see my watery eyes. But I figure by the end of the week (M. is on Jumpstart duty next week), I'll be a pro at the school drop off thing, and the first day of his actual Kindergarten class will be a piece of cake. Right?

The only challenging part is entertaining Finn each day once he's back home, as I balance keeping him occupied with my need to work. It was a little rough today, and I'm not terribly proud of the amount of TV I let him watch so that I could be on my computer. He's never been exactly KNOWN for his ability to entertain himself - quite the opposite, in fact. But we'll manage, I'm sure. Though I am thinking that perhaps taking the week at home with Finn that also coincides with an upswing in the, ahem, lady hormones, was not such a good idea. Live and learn.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Happy Blogday To Me!

This blog was started, as many great things are, as a result of healthy sibling rivalry. My sister, MommyEsq, was pregnant with twins, and regaling our family and friends almost daily with postings on her now pretty-much-defunct blog (which I WOULD link to, but she pretty much never posts anymore, so...). Anyway, to keep up with her and give MY family some just and deserved attention from the distant masses, I started this blog. My first post was on July 10, 2008, four years ago exactly. I typically don't remember the anniversary date until after it has passed, but tonight a fleeting thought crossed my mind as I took a post-run shower, and I thought to check. It must have been some kind of divine intervention (or a closeted savant-like skill I am just now about to discover), because today is the exact day!

When I started blogging, I didn't really know what to post about. Do I write about my kid? Do I show pictures of him? How much of our lives should I put out there on The Internet? Should I write about myself? Will people think that's narcissistic? Should I try to make it funny, or come up with something deep and meaningful?

Well, that last one was definitely out. I am not deep and meaningful.

Instead, I wrote about my hair. And 271 other things, apparently.

This blog has been invaluable to me. I am so glad I started it, and I'm even happier that I've stuck with it. I don't know or care if anyone else is reading it (OK, I care a little), because *I* read it. Every so often I go back through old posts, and I smile at the photos, I get misty eyed at my growing babies, I even laugh a bit at my own jokes. I hope, 50 years from now, I still have these posts to look back on and help me remember these fleeting moments.

Here are a few of my favorite posts, the ones I like to go back and read the most:

I love Bye-low My Baby for the way it brings back both bedtime with a young Finn, AND memories of my great-grandmother.

The Sequel, where I come clean on our secret that we were having another baby.

For Love of Fruit Flies and Olives, where I expound on the craziness of Sarah Palin, the pickiness of toddler diets, and my deep appreciation of scientific research.

We Have, which describes a moment for the baby books. If baby books included "First Poop in the Potty" as a milestone.

Both kids' birth stories: Finn's, and Lucy's.

Addiction, where I revel in little hugging bodies.

Lucy, For Now, a snapshot of Lucy at a year and a half.

Honestly, I could link to almost every post, especially any post with photos and videos. I love them ALL! Ooh, my babies are so smooshy and CUTE! And while I may not post as regularly as I once did, and I may not share all my complaints and frustrations as the kids get older, I plan to continue capturing our days - the normal ones, the special ones, even those inevitable terrible ones. For my family, for my friends, for Finn and Lucy, but mostly for me.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Look! We Made Something!

M. and I have been pondering the idea of getting a "water feature" for our deck , to create peaceful, babbling brook-like background noise to drown out the sounds of our townhouse neighborhood. And all their many, many barking dogs.

OK, so we'd probably need something along the lines of Niagra Falls to do THAT, but still - we've been contemplating a bit more ambience.

Water features are freaking expensive, however, as we learned once we started searching online. The big box  hardware stores and Amazon have a few in the $50-$100 range, but none of them look very nice or very sturdy, and most are much more expensive than that.

So what did I do? I turned to Pinterest. And Pinterest did not disappoint. I found this blog post from Frilly Details that looked simple, cheap, and like exactly what we were looking for: http://www.frillydetails.com/2011/05/my-homemade-patio-fountain.html

We followed the instructions pretty much to a T, and now are the proud owners of a $70 water feature. If you would like to create one of these for yourself, you will need the following materials:

1. A large planting pot (we bought a lightweight one for $25)
2. A bucket that fits inside the planting pot (not sure, but cheap)
3. A fountain kit ($20)
4. Hardware cloth (don't be fooled by the name, you will not find this in the hardware section of Lowes, it's used for outdoor stuff like fencing, so look for it in the outdoor gardening section) (price? I'm too lazy to go find the receipt. But cheap.)
5. River rocks (Again, not sure on the price. Maybe $5?)

We also needed (you may not):

2 small pavers (about $5 total)
Gloves ($5)
Some pea gravel (free, because we already owned some)

First, M. used our drill to create some small holes in the bottom of the planter so it can drain off rain water:

As much of the work as possible was done in our kitchen, since it was ridiculously hot on Saturday. Hence the ugly linoleum in the background.

Then M. drilled a larger hole on the side of the planter, kind of near the bottom - this is so the plug/cord from the fountain pump could be fed through and plugged in. If you are OK with having the cord come up from the top of the planter, you don't need to do this:

I helped  by entertaining Lucy elsewhere (and photojournaling here and there):

Then the pump was assembled (didn't capture any photos, but never fear, the kit comes with directions), and the bucket and pump were dry fit into the planter. You can't see this, but we put the two pavers we had bought in the bottom of the planter and used them to raise the bucket up, as it was a bit short:

M. cut the hardware cloth to on top of the bucket, across the whole opening of the planter. Finn watched, and was warned 600 times to NOT TOUCH the hardware cloth. That shit is sharp! You have been warned - wear gloves or suffer the consequences. The edges of the hardware cloth were folded under to make a rough circle shape. A hole was cut in the middle of the hardware cloth to accommodate the pump straw-thingy (technical, no?):

At this point, the operation moved out to our deck. M. and Finn dumped some pea gravel from the kids' sandbox into the bottom of the planter, to fill in the space created by the pavers were raising up the bucket. Then the bucket was filled about 2/3 full with water:

We tested out the pump to see if it worked. It did! We tried out a couple of nozzles (the kit came with three), and settled on this one:

Then it was time to make things look pretty. Finn and M. rinsed off the river rocks we had purchased, and arranged them on the hardware cloth, covering up the jarring pink bucked and the hardware cloth itself:

And now we have our very own water feature to enjoy on our deck:

Or, you know, from inside our house, until it gets cool enough to enjoy it out on our deck:

Does anyone else have any crafty, DIY success stories to share? Inspire us! We're on a roll, and looking for something to do next!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th!

I hope your holiday was as nice as ours, which consisted of:

Patriotic breakfast foods

Swimming (not pictured, because we were having too much fun to stop for photos)

Beer (and bunting)

And a little flag waving and pinwheel blowing

Happy 236th, America!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What Would Stacy and Clinton Say?

I still have one final entry of our Disney vacation to write and post, but I've been distracted by work, life, and the distressing and totally not foreseeable news that Katie and Tom are breaking up. If those two crazy kids can't make it...

Anyway, I have a more pressing issue at the moment. Despite my vows to buy nothing more than is absolutely necessary over the next few months (a vow I haven't blogged about yet, but it sums up as "we will only go to Target once a month. And stop buying ALL THE STUFF."), we went shopping today. Mostly to entertain ourselves during this blazing heat wave. Apparently the entire greater D.C. area had the same idea (probably because many of them are without power after Friday's crazy storms), so it was crowded. But we soldiered on, and bought out Old Navy. The kids came home with new clothes, some items of which were actually needed, and I came home with two new outfits. M. sacrificed himself on the alter of good shopping mojo and entertained the kids, thus ensuring he would come home with nothing for himself. Alas.

Anway, this post is about ME, and what I bought. I need to know how to wear my outfits. Each one involves a skirt and a shirt - they are very similar (the skirts are actually the same, in two different colors/patterns), but I only have pictures of one outfit. The skirts are a little poofy, so I decided that I needed something to accentuate my waist while wearing it. People, I bought a belt.

I never buy belts. I never wear belts. I have a fear and loathing of belts. Belts = tucked in shirt, and any girl who ever grew up chubby knows that tucked in shirts are the devil. But belts seem to be in style, and I'm starting to learn that you only look as large as the largest item of clothing you are wearing, and maybe it's OK to forgo a shapeless shirt in favor of a belted/tucked in waist, even if that waist is thicker than you'd like it to be.

So as I mentioned, I bought a belt. But having tried it on with the skirts, I'm not so sure. Actually, I'd probably be surer if M. didn't look so questioning when I tried it on in front of him. He likes the outfits better with the shirts untucked. I'm leaning toward tucked in. Please help! How would you wear this outfit:

Option A: Shirt tucked in, with belt (please ignore the white shopping tags that I hadn't removed yet, for fear the whole outfit would need to go back to Old Navy)

Option B: Shirt tucked in, no belt

Option C: Shirt untucked, no belt

Option D: Shirt untucked, with belt (perhaps you can tell by the expression on my face, but this is the version of which I am most skeptical)

Alright, lay it on me - how would you wear this outfit? One of these ways, or something else altogether? I am completely open to suggestions.

Also wanted to show you Lucy's hair today - she requested "Tangled" hair. I'm no Disney animation artist, and wasn't working with 50 feet of long hair. But I gave her "lots and lots and lots of braids," as she requested, and then attempted to braid them all together. She loved it, and is currently sleeping with all those braids still in her hair:

Finally, I took the above photo on my Nikon D90 using the manual setting. Not, of course, that it's a great photo. I point it out because the first couple of times I tried to take a photo using the camera's manual setting, each one was completely black. I thought the camera was broken, but it turns out I just had no idea what I was doing. But I took a class! Last weekend, in fact. A 5-hour long crash course in how to take digital photographs in manual. I need to practice, a lot. But the class was really interesting (I took a crapload of notes, and reminded myself yet again that I would do a much better job at college if I was doing it now), and I can now take a recognizable photo in manual. I even know what things like ISO and F stop mean, and how to change them on my camera. Of course, now I want to buy lots of things, like different lenses ($$$) and Photoshop. But first up is lots of practice - I'll share any good ones I take here. And then maybe learning about flash photography, about which I am still in the dark (pun intended). I vow, one day, to be able to take a photo using flash that doesn't suck. Really, why do flash photos (at least the ones I take) all suck so much? I guess I'll find out!