Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A trip! A trip!

We don't go on trips. We used to, before kids. But, besides the fact that traveling with little ones isn't always an fun endevor - we have been spending all of our 'expendable' income on daycare.

My brother, Steve, and his family are HUGE Disney freaks. They go pretty much every year. And every year, they nag at me to go with them. My SIL is a goddess with using time shares, and usually ends up getting awesome condos for barely any money. She always tells me if I can get there, she'll have a place for us to stay. I've always said no. I felt the kids were just too young to have a good time, and Aaron just doesn't have that much time off, either.

But now that I know I'm being laid off in July, the stars have finally aligned!
  1. Between now and July 31st, I have 12 sick days and 3 personal days I need to use (we don't get paid for those days, and I've been accumulating for years!)
  2. My company has discounted (20% off) Disney tickets. It's my last chance to take advantage
  3. The free place to stay at a pretty amazing resort (Old Key West Resort)
  4. Aaron found very cheap airfare!
  5. The cheap airfare means that we need to travel from Thursday - Thursday. But we don't check into the resort until Saturday. Not a problem, because my other brother lives in Orlando and works a hotel and is getting us an awesome deal on a room for 2 nights!
  6. Final awesome bit? I'll be in Orlando to celbrate my neices 16th birthday! They are identical twins, and this all works out that we'll be there for their birthday!
I have friends that go to Disney every year - and I knew that we wouldn't do that. But I did want to that the kids sometime soon, while it's still super magical. And probably again when they are older (like teenagers) if they want to. For he first trip, I wanted them to (hopefully) be past huge tantrums and be able to make it through an exciting day without us all being miserable. I also wanted them to be tall enough for all the rides (seems like you need to be at least 40 inches). My thought was to go this fall for thier birthdays. So when we started weighing the pros and cons of this trip - we are just so excited.

The only crappy thing is that one of the guys that works for Aaron had already booked tickets to go to spring training without asking. And Aaron's job is production support, and he can't really have only one person in the office (which is what would happen with both him and this guy gone). But once he took a deep breath, and realized that he would be there for most of the awesome stuff, and once he left, I'd still have both my brothers, my mother (who is coming also) and 4 teenagers to help me with the kids.... we figured it'll be fine.

Aaron and I decided to not tell them anything about it, just because I can't deal with weeks of 'Are we going to Disney today? Soon?" but I sure have been having fun doing the planning. Here are my big plans:
 - Friday will be our first park day. I don't have it all figured out, but we figure this day we will just soak in the Magic Kingdom.
- Saturday we will spend the day with my brother and nieces. No park - just getting some family time with kids I rarely get to see.
- Sunday, another day at the Magic Kingdom. I have us signed up for lunch at the "Be Our Guest' resturant, and then a pirate/mermaid markover at the Pirate's League.
- Monday, we are spending the day at the Hollywood Studios. Aaron is super excited to get Cam into Jedi training, and we have lunch planned at Hollywood and Vine (where they will get to meet all the Disney Junior characters).
- Tuesday, Aaron is leaving first thing to go back to work. Us? We are going to Epcot for breakfast with the Princesses and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (and a bit of exploration around Epcot). Then, Maggie has an appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique!
- Wendsday we are headed to the Animal Kingdom and any final things the kids want to do
- Thursday I fly home (alone!) with the kids.

I'm guessing that my pal Jen may have some suggestions?

Thursday, February 13, 2014


I'm sorry I haven't been posting. I struggle with what to update you all on - life here is great. Things are smooth. The kids are great. There just isn't as much pressing going on parenting a 4 and 5 year old versus babies, I must admit.

But. One of the things I've been dealing with is a bunch of large changes at the preschool my children attend. I've loved that place since day one. I picked it after touring all the other local centers and just found it awesome in every way. And, 5 years ago, the price difference was only $100 a month. Which, as I was only going to have one child, didn't seem like a big deal. Then we had Maggie and Nora, lost Nora, and I only trusted them. I know them. They were the only people I trusted with Maggie. And I've never regretted that decision.

Every year, we get a notice of a 4% cost adjustment. It would frustrate me, but we just dealt with it. And then this year, we had some major staff turnover. Nothing that effected the children, but lots of drama for me. When we got all the information from the town for Cam's kindergarten, they also sent pre-school information for Maggie. I was intrigued. They just built a whole new elementary school in our town, so I knew the facility was great, but they didn't yet have a 5 day, full day program (which I need for her). And the price difference! The public school is insanely cheaper (but would necessity a nanny in the afternoon to pick her up) and the local daycare/preschool? $500 a month cheaper.

Now, as long as I can afford our current pre-school, I will send Cam. He is in a group there with 4 boys that have been friends since they were 12 weeks old. They are like brothers. When they are together, the 4 of them are invincible. Apart, all are pretty shy. Maggie, on the other hand, her group has not been as stable. She has one girlfriend that she made in her toddler class, but people have moved in and out of her classroom a lot more than with Cam. Not one child in her class is from our town.  And she is just so much more outgoing then Cam. I really don't worry about her at all in social situations.

I started asking around. Not only about the public preschool, but also about the local daycare/preschool that I had rejected five years ago. I have so many friends with great kids that go there... I decided to take another look. I scheduled Maggie for a pre-school screening at the public school and on the same day a tour of the other daycare. Aaron came with us, and we were just SO impressed with both. We decided that both would be a great fit for Maggie (she went too and agreed!). But, the public preschool first was dependant on them actually having 5 day, full-day pre-school (they hadn't in the past). And then, it was dependant on a lottery. This morning, we found out that she got into the public preschool!

I'm just so happy. On so many levels. I'm getting laid off from my job in July. They are closing my location and we are getting a package - so it's not the end of the world. But things at work are slowing down. I decided to try changing the kids hours at daycare from 8-5 to 9-3. The drop off change wouldn't be the issue, it would be the pick up. It's actually working out well for me. And I was really only thinking about this from a cost savings measure... but it's been so wonderful! The kids are so much more relaxed when they have the extra couple hours at home to wind down!

By Maggie getting into the public preschool, I'm forced to find an afternoon nanny to pick up Maggie at school at 2:15, so instead of Cam doing aftercare at school, he'll be coming home on the bus - since the nanny will be there to get him. So they will get more 'home' time than they would have otherwise. I'm just so happy with the plans for next year (even though mine are TOTALLY in flux!)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Almost ready

Having Christmas right after the birthdays, is, well,  a challenge. Besides all the energy I devote to making the birthday celebrations fun - they kids just got a slew of presents! We don't really do anything Christmas related until after the birthdays (except Advent Calenders. And this year we did the Lego and playmobile ones, which have been a huge hit). So I need to take a deep breath, regroup, and re energize to get Christmas up and running in our house.

Last week, we got our tree. Last night, we finally got the lights up outside. And today, after work, I'm driving the kids to my mom's town, where tomorrow, we'll get to see Santa! And again, this year, I'm in charge of the Christmas Eve Children's service. Christmas morning, we will wake up at our home, but we will then travel to Nantucket and see Aaron's family for another round of Christmas. And then I have the rest of the year off work to hang out, have fun with the gang, and hopefully relax.

As for gifts, the kids are not shy telling me (or the elf, who in turn tells Santa) what they want (Cam wants a Coast Guard Lego ship, and Maggie wants another big horse, and a small horse, and a ride on horse, lol).

In past years, I would feel like I needed to find other, fun things that the kids didn't ask for. I've pretty much learned that lesson. They want what they want. All the toys are ordered, I've gotten a bunch of new books, and a few cute clothes. All the other family gifts are purchased. We only have the stocking stuffers left - and we make that a fun trip together. I'm hoping to make a few hand print aprons for the grandmothers if we have time next week.

Feels good to be on top of things!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


  • Oh my goodness. I just spent the past 5 hours blogging all the birthday fun we had, and there are still things we did the in the 2 weeks that I didn't post! What a crazy couple of weeks!
  • We spent Thanksgiving with one of my friends, and it was absolutely perfect. They have older kids (in 8th and 10th grade). They invited another family, that also had kids in the same grades, and wow. Were my kids in heaven. While all of them played, the adults enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of food and fun. I think it was my best Thanksgiving in years.
  • The day after thanksgiving was Maggie's birthday - all the fun can be found here.
  • Saturday, we took the kids to see the Nutcracker with my mother. At first, I almost only bought tickets for Maggie, but decided that Cam should go too. It was a blast. Both kids loved it.
  • Then I shifted gears to get ready for Cam's party and our mini-vacation to legoland and NYC.
  • I took Wednesday - Friday off of work. Wednesday and Thursday were our trip, but Friday the kids and I slept in and played with new birthday toys in the morning. That afternoon we trekked out and cut down our Christmas tree! Maggie picked it out, and Cam (with help from me) cut it down. It's the best tree we've ever gotten. It's about as wide as it is tall!
  • Saturday was supposed to be Cam's Ninja party, so I had a bunch of things planned in the morning so the setup would be a surprise, and in the afternoon for Maggie (so she wouldn't be in the house trying to get involved in the party). That plan all got quickly switched around when Cam got a stomach bug. Maggie, my mother and I all went into Boston for the SWEA Christmas Festival. We then went out to lunch and took Maggie together to her horseback riding lesson. Aaron stayed home to let Cam rest. We hoped by splitting up, maybe Maggie would avoid getting the same bug (which , fingers crossed, seems to have worked!)
  • Saturday night, I set up for a second run of my church craft table. I sold another $500 worth of crafts on Sunday - I was pretty proud of myself!
  • I got home from church just in time for Cam's awesome Ninja party!
  •  After the party was over, and I cleaned up, I realized I had time to go to our Christmas Vespers service, which was as recital of Handel's Messiah Part One. A perfect way to end a pretty crazy two weeks.
  • Now, I'm back home, taking a bit of downtime before things ramp up again for Christmas!

Maggie's birthday

I planned Maggie's birthday party months ago. Once I realized her birthday was the day after Thanksgiving, I decided that we should have an awesome birthday party at our house. I called McDonny's farm, and we planned to have a Pony Princess party in the morning, and then as a special treat, tea at American Girl in the afternoon.

Not many people would plan an outdoor party at the end of November. But I figured it wouldn't be too cold. How bad could it be? Well, the forecast was threatening a foot of snow two days before the party.... thank god that didn't happen.

Oh, and obviously I'm not a shopper. Because yeah. That's Black Friday. And American Girl is in the mall.

But, it all worked out perfectly.

Maggie woke up in the morning to all her presents. Here she is wearing the sweater I knit her (that she won't wear. Because it's too scratchy. God. Damn. It.)

But look at her face! I love watching her open presents.
This is the birthday banner I made for her - this one I sewed the flags and then freezer paper stenciled her name. You can kind of see the setup we did in the garage. I made coffee in the big vacuum urns that we use for coffee hour at church, and put a table with donuts, hot water for cocoa, coffee cake and banana bread.
Aaron had a space heater going in the garage, and that is where we had the 'petting zoo' - we had ducks, chickens, bunnies and a goat. The kids loved it!

And then the true highlight for Maggie - a pony!
I think she must have had 3 rides, she was SO happy. And Cam was delighted to be next in line.
Aaron also setup a fire pit, and I got smore's fixings. After people left, I asked Maggie what her favorite part was, and she said "The PONY! And marshmallows!!!!"
Aaron also made some very cool pony cakes. We have friends who are allergic to chocolate, so the lucky girl got two cakes.
For Maggie's party, I didn't plan any activities or even gift bags. I let the guests stay as long as they wanted, and even ended up ordering Chinese food for lunch for the people who stayed longer.

But we needed to leave to house around 2 as we needed to brave the parking lot at the mall for the second half of Maggie's birthday party. Now, I had originally just planned to do tea. But of course, about a month earlier, Maggie attended her best friend's birthday party at American Girl, and she was expecting the fancy hat and cake. Which we could of course do, for a fee. As I'm a sucker, we did that.

Here she is blowing out the candles on cake #2!
Then we walked through the mall a bit, and I had to take this picture. She looks more like 14, not 4, right!?!?

Happy 4th Birthday to my Big Girl!

Cam's Birthday, Part 2

After 4 years of birthday parties and just knowing my kids in general, it's obvious to me that while Maggie loves to be the life of the party, Cam just likes to be with his core group of friends. So my original plan was to have a small, but special birthday party for him at our house.* And with his Lego/Ninja obsession, I started looking at Ninago Party ideas. I got a huge amount of help and inspiration from these two blog posts at the Isoms blog and Movie Muse.

We averted a crisis when Cam woke up at 2:30 AM the morning before his party throwing up. And then again at 4:30. But then he was done, and thankfully, as it was such a small party, almost everyone could still attend if we moved it to Sunday. One kid canceled (his parents were afraid he would catch the bug) and Cam was more worried that we wouldn't have the full 5 ninja contingent than to worry that his friend couldn't come. He asked Maggie if she would stand in. And she was delighted to get to be with the boys! And thank god - because I had planned for her to go somewhere else on Saturday (because if she was here she would have wanted to be involved in the party, and Cam was very specific that it should be only 5 ninjas). But I had no alternatives for Sunday. It all worked out!

The first thing was to make the dining room look 'Ninja cool'. I used the Won Ton font (size 200) to freezer paper stencil a birthday banner:

A friend made a sweet ninja cake:

The party was at 2, so I didn't have much food. I got cheap, primary color bowls from the dollar store for pretzels, Doritos and cheese balls. Movie Muse shared all her printables, to enable me to make these cool water bottles and Ninja Power Boost packets (Kool Aid with a fun label).
And the big deal. The long sleeve tee shirts. Because you can make them into a ninja mask! Each kid got to pick what color he was (and that was the color water bottle they got too). HUGE HIT!
Here is a close up of Cam as the Green Ninja:
And the rest of the team (Maggie is the red ninja, love how she strikes a pose)
After the masks were on, they started training. First was the 'lazer' obstacle course. This was SUCH a big hit (and a fun, easy rainy day activity). They wanted to go through a bunch of times, and after all the training was done, asked to make it harder (thank god I had more crepe paper!)
Then they went downstairs to the garage where the training continued. They had plastic swords, foam nun chucks, and rubber throwing stars - all marked with tape the same color at their masks, so it was easy to tell whose was whose). Sensai Dad took them through the paces, which included training and then practice (by knocking down solo cups)
Maggie was also an expert at this (Cam was too fast to get any non-blurry pictures!)
After this, the kids picked up the boxes, and underneath Aaron had taped helium balloons to the floor and let them just go at it. I couldn't believe that some of the kids managed to pop the balloons with the plastic swords!

To end the training, Aaron presented Cam with a Golden Mask (another long sleeve tee shirt) because his friends helped him reach his 'full potential'. He was overjoyed.

Then we let them just play around with the weapons in the garage for a while, but when they started to get crazy in the 'dojo' - I lead them back upstairs to play Fruit Ninja on the x-box while I got the cake ready.

All in all, the party was a HUGE success. Although it looks like a lot of work, since I planned it so ahead of time, I was able to space all the DIY stuff out (except the banner. The banner was a last minute decision of a crazed mother). And the setup was quick - and this age group was the perfect fit for it. They would help pick up the solo cups for the next person, and patiently wait for their turn (only Maggie would get upset that she wanted to go again.). It was awesome.

* I usually have a group of neighborhood friends over for dinner on the actual birthday night. But we've made new friends in the neighborhood, and now that means I would have had 13 kids plus parents in my house. Hell. No. Which is why we moved it to McDs. And then, I just invited his school buddies too. It was great.

Cam's birthday, Part 1

When we asked Cam what he wanted for his birthday, he said Lego. I asked what kind of Lego, and he said "ALL THE LEGO". Sigh. I then asked what special thing he wanted to do for his birthday, and he said - "Stay home and play with all my Lego." So, yeah. He is obsessed. I came up with the idea to take a trip to a Legoland indoor Discovery Center about 3 hours from here, and that is what we did. We all drove together (see this post for my adventure with Maggie!) and Aaron and Cam had a great time. They spent the night in a hotel, Cam got to swim in the indoor pool there, and just got to spend some nice, one on one time with Aaron.

That adventure was actually on the 4th (his real birthday is the 5th). So we drove home on the 5th together, and made it home by about 1 in the afternoon. We rested a little, Cam opened the presents from us (he loved the Lego quilt!) and then the McDonald's party!
And what a hit. They have a Play Place at that McD's, and we had about 24 kids! They ran around like crazy, ate junk food, and just had a blast.

Here is my new 5 year old, wrapped up in his new Lego quilt. A great day all around!