Sunday, December 18, 2011

Disneyworld/ Harry Potter (Universal Studios) - Late November

I'm not going to write about each picture (I don't have time), so here's a general re-cap of our Florida trip the week after Thanksgiving:
Charlotte's favorite rides included E.T. (save the alien!), the carousel (rip-roaring fun) and the flying triceratops (we hopped between Disneyworld and Universal Studios during our 5 days of park-time). Charlotte clung to Daddy's leg or hand most of the time - she was definitely his little buddy or shadow or something like that.

Eleanor - well, what can I say? We flew clear across the country and she found her favorite place at Disney's Animal Kingdom: a petting zoo. Of course. And, just to add icing to the cake, there was a caged display of exotic creatures, including (drumroll....) a giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. She was in heaven. She also LOVED the Hippogriff ride at Harry Potter's theme park.

Oliver's favorite part of the trip (this child is a FOODIE!) - an Indian restaurant that we ate at in Utah on our way home! Okay, but for the Florida part he loved the butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks and Hogs Head cafe. He decided he does not like pumpkin juice, though. He also loved all the scary rides that I refused to ride. I did join Oliver and Sam for two memorably miserable rides (Everest in Disneyworld and Dragon Challenge in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter).

Samuel was picked as the guy to get a wand testing done at Ollivander's wand shop. It was actually pretty amazing and Sam was on cloud nine. We all loved it. He, like Oliver, actually had fun on those fast, upside down feet dangling in mid-air, rides. They're crazy. They got me to do one of those rides and it wasn't really that bad, but I wouldn't consider it FUN. (I LOVED the ride through Hogwarts, though).

Sam and Oliver were ridiculously hard to get good pictures of - they kept dodging the camera or making funny faces, but I did grab of few keepers.

Jeff was the general sheep herder, keeping us on track and the little 'uns in tow, and searching out palatable and healthy foods (what a nuisance! Not a lot of good food and drink options, and the drinking fountains spewed forth the nastiest water I've ever had). He had some cool apps on his phone that told us the current wait time at different attractions, as well as the predicted crowds for the upcoming days. Thankfully, there weren't very many people in the parks anyway. So the low numbers plus the phone app plus using our child swap and fast pass options made it so that we literally walked straight on to most of the rides. Our longest wait was 20 minutes for the thrilling, extremely popular, crazy Small World ride. (Hey, it's a Disney classic so it was worth the wait, right?) :)

Jeff also made I.D. tags for the kids with their picture, written descriptions, and phone numbers on each tag. Thank you, Jeff! Although we didn't lose anyone for more than a few seconds (and it was almost always Charlotte, who would then run back to cling to Jeff's leg), it was nice to know they had at least that info on them.

I was the Great Picture Taker (of mostly NOT great pictures, but great subjects!), trying to capture memories on camera. I actually took a lot of pictures of the queues because they were empty! "This is a picture of the line that wasn't."

It was so nice not to have crowds around us and little to no wait time. Of course, Jeff and the boys also took pictures, but it seemed I was always the one saying, "Look at mom, now SMILE!". No trouble smiling - the trip was a delight. When we came home I suffered serious withdrawal. I really really really missed being with Jeff and the kids 24/7. And reality hit when the kids went back to school after having missed a week: homework ad nauseum. Poor kids. Eleanor took two days to catch up, Oliver's work took four days to catch up, and Sam's took six. And that was straight homework from the time they got home until bed (with the exception of piano lessons and scouts). But since this was the time when Jeff could get away, this was the time we went. It was worth it.
I was also the one who kept falling asleep on my feet the first day or two. I didn't sleep a wink on the flight there (I do NOT recommend red-eye flights!). The first evening I took the girls back to the hotel early and we all crashed while Jeff and the boys got in some more park time at EPCOT.

Oh, a word about the final picture. Charlotte found a little red leaf and turned it sideways on her lips. It looked so cute that each of us with a camera (Jeff, Oliver, Sam, me) took a picture.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bits and Pieces

I can't believe I'm beginning this post with a picture of a cockroach. Make that two cockroaches. If you've been reading along, you'll remember that last month our neighbors kindly gave Eleanor a cage with two Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. Everybody needs great neighbors like that :). Honestly, they were very careful to get my permission beforehand. Anyway, I asked them (twice) if the roaches were both male or both female, and not one of each. The first time I asked they assured me they were both boys. I wasn't entirely convinced. The second time I asked, they replied that they were "pretty sure" they were both boys.
Hmm. Well, in the picture you can see we separated both "boys". Wanna know why? Because one day two weeks ago we found a surprise when we came home from the Dollar Store (where Eleanor had gone in search of plastic cockroaches to keep her real roaches company - of course Eleanor did that! Charlotte went in search of a coloring book...).
Yup - the "boys" had left us an egg sac. Ugh.
I separated the two -pretty sure that "Minnie", the smaller of the two, was the mom. So I kept her and the egg sac together. "Crunch" - the big daddy - stayed in the original cage. Our neighbors came to the rescue and returned Minnie and babies to the cockroach colony from whence they came.
Eleanor cried at first, heartbroken and inconsolable, as her little Minnie was being taken away. I felt bad, but not bad enough to turn our house into our own Roach Colony. When our neighbors promised Eleanor that she could go visit Minnie and babies, she instantly returned to her bubbly excited self. Then she said something that brought dread to my heart, "Wow, so when Crunch dies I can just go get one of the babies and get a new cockroach! And when that one dies, I'll just get a grand baby cockroach! And when that one dies..." You get the picture. We are going to have a pet cockroach in perpetuity. That means forever. (Do I get points in heaven for this?)

True to their word, the following week our amazing neighbors (he teaches biology at BYU-Idaho, she used to teach kindergarten and loves opening the world of nature to kids) took us down to campus to visit the Cockroach Colony. I admit, it was fascinating, in a creepy kind of way.

Halloween featured a BYU Cheerleader, a BYU Football Player, a BYU Coach (Mendenhall), a Clone Trooper, and of course, a Naturalist. Oh, and I was a witch, as always. (Wait. Always? Like, even on non-Halloween days? Uh-oh. My poor kids!)

I'm adding this picture of Charlotte's eye make-up because I was so amazed that something creative that I did actually turned out! Woo-hoo! (I followed the instructions very carefully).

Jeff raced in the local cyclocross series (the Cube). On the final race, the weather began as a light, cold wind, and ended with a hail/snow blizzard. Imagine riding your bike in that kind of weather? CRAZY! But fun. We were on the course the whole race and had fun cheering him on, and then came home to a crockpot full of soup, some sourdough bread, and hot chocolate and hot cider. It was that kind of day.

Winter has come to stay. We went out Christmas tree hunting yesterday to try to beat the snowy roads, but ended up stuck in the middle of nowhere. Jeff shoveled for more than an hour, but we were high-centered. Just as I was giving the sheriff our GPS coordinates (luckily we had cell phone reception), some hunters drove up behind us and pulled us out. We went somewhere else to get the trees.

Big news in our house - we bought a cow! And a pig! And a chest freezer to store them in. Ewww - that sounds icky. Anyway, we've stocked up on our meat for the next two years and are very grateful to our friends for raising grass-fed beef and good pork.

Speaking of bulk foods, try growing a Sweet Meat squash sometime. It'll keep you fed for a very long time. You might want to invest in an axe to open it up, though. I counted that as my workout for the day. Took two ovens to cook it once I'd opened it and cleaned out the seeds. The cooked squash then just fell out of the shell and was ready for freezing (and for the soup I made).