Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Saturday on the Prairie

Saturday we joined Mom and Andy and the boys at Conner Prairie. It really was an awesome day. Great weather, well behaved kids, picnic food, no crowds or school groups. And did I mention nice weather? I mean like 85 and overcast....SUCH an awesome break in the heat!

Conner Prairie is a living museum of with a 'operational' town from 1836 as well as lot of people in period costume playing the part. They have opened a new civil war section as well which is pretty cool. There are really animals there, some of them being trained in the old fashioned methods (like oxen) and others being used for their goods (like chickens).

Mom has taken her 4th grader there every year since the dawn of time, and may have earned a designation as honorary employee. Therefore, she's a pretty good lady to go with.

Since there were no crowds, the townspeople seemed extra friendly with the kids. The carpenter and blacksmith were especially talkative. They even let the kids try using some of their equipment, which I don't think they normally do. 

Makes me wish we had a tool shed where the kids could really build stuff and work with their hands. Make that a barn so we have room for a couple animals and Jeremy's home fireworks business. Eh, maybe someday. 

We spent alot of time in the petting barn. 

This is the anatomy of a photo when 5 cousins are involved.  

All of the kids were mesmerized by the potter making mugs. They were so silent you could have heard a pin drop, and later in the day they wanted to go back and see him again.

All Charley needs is a lump of clay. 

Mom in her natural habitat.

So Many Olympic Sized Questions

Friday night we let Tessa stay up 'late' with us (aka past 8:30) and watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. She even got to sleep with us which is a rare treat cause we have a strict 'everyone sleeps in their own bed' rule around here.

She was excited all week, even though she wasn't quite sure what the Olympics were. A craftier me would have made torch cupcakes with ice cream cones or rings out of paper and googled pictures of the ceremonies to explain them. But that just didn't happen.

We did have curry that night, for what that's worth.

If you've never watched something so artistic and strange as the opening ceremonies with a curious excited 5 year old, let me break it down for you....

"What's going on? When do they do flips? Who are all these people? Why is there so much green grass? It's so beautiful, I want to live there. What's happening now? Who are all those people? Why is the grass going away? Are they fancy people? Do they  live in England? Have you ever seen a room covered in gold? Are they going to show something covered in gold? Why is there so much smoke now? Who is that singing? Why are they singing? What's happening now? Is that the queen? Is she fancy? Why is she wearing pink? Is that her favorite color? Why does she look so bored? Where is the princess...she is prettier than the queen. Who is the guy playing the piano? Why is he so funny? He makes funny faces like Mommy. What's happening now? There are KIDS in BEDS!....I'm a kid in bed too!! But what's all that scary stuff? I don't like this. Why are they having bad dreams? They should pray for good dreams. Why are there so many Mary Poppins? This music is loud. Why are they wearing so many colors? When to they race and do flips? Are these the same people that race and do flips? Who is going to win? I'm bored......"

Yeah so when it came time for the parade of nations, we made it to about Angola.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dog Days

Lots of good random summer stuff has been happening around here since we got back to from the lake. With just over two weeks until the start of kindergarten, summer is flying by. As much as I will miss her, Tessa is so far very excited about starting school and I'm very excited for the end of the hot temperatures and extreme drought.

Speaking of which, I heard that 80 of the 92 counties in Indiana remain in a 'state of emergency' because of the extreme drought. The ground is dry and cracked and the grass is brown. Many thing in the yard are dead but thanks to the (periodic) sprinklers our grapes and tomatoes are thriving. It's just dry and hot and yucky. 

Since it was a cool and refreshing 95 degrees last week (as opposed to 107 the week before), the kids and I headed to the zoo to check out the new bird aviaries.

We got to feed lorakeets (for $2 a pop of course). One jumped right on my shoulder when it saw my food cup and it kinda freaked Tessa out at first. She was like...'mom, let's go, let's get out of here, let's go see the elephants now!'

Eventually she warmed up to the idea and fed them some too. Charley was (not suprisingly) not interested in feeding anything that could possible touch him or chirp in his general direction. He's kind of a wuss. 

 The newly opened section of the zoo is really cool. Where there used to be a petting zoo, there are now several big aviaries, a concessions stand and some overpriced 4D experience. Also where they used to do the elephant baths, they were doing a really cool dog show.

This guy is an Indiana celeb because he and his dog were on America's Got Talent a few years back. The dog show was really awesome, even though we were sitting in the direct midday sun for 20 minutes and I felt like I was baking like a chicken.

 To cool off we found this awesome shaded seating area on the side of the aviary where you can sit and watch the birds. Apparently no one else knew of these great secret spot.

We also found Icee's. Can you say red food coloring?

 Charley took a picture of me applying sunscreen to myself.

We went in the oceans exhibit to cool off as well, even though everyone knows it's not my favorite spot. The kids even pet some baby sharks, much to my dismay.

 Last week we got our first watermelon from the garden, which I admit should have stayed on the vine a little longer. I got over-excited.

 We also had 4 big basil plants,  which I turned into many batches of pesto for the freezer.

Tessa a mailed a card to her preschool friend (and so called future husband) Xavier, whom she hasn't seen since May. She wanted to tell him she missed him and I encouraged her to mail him a card. I hope my encouraging her to be open with her friendship and admiration doesn't backfired on her tender heart when she gets a little older.

But hey, I did talk her into calming down her original message which is "I miss you and I want to marry you, do you miss me too?"....which seemed a little needy for a five year old.

We ordered two bento style lunchboxes from laptoplunches.com. Aren't they nifty with all their little containers? I'm pretty excited about the ease of use with these but I guess lunch time will be the test. We've agreed that Tessa can pick one day a week to eat cafeteria food and then take the rest of the days, at least for now. And of course Charley will still be taking his lunch to the preschool two days a week.

 For the first time in 5 years our household now has basic cable and the kids have discovered the Disney channel. Tessa loves playing the free Disney games online and Charley took to carrying around this potato head piece that has mouse ears and calling himself  Mickey.

Mickey addiction is fully activated.

And lastly and most exciting....yesterday it rained! Not a huge accumulation but enough to make us take note. I heard the weatherman say that we would need to get 1-2 inches of accumulation per week for the rest of the summer to recover from any permanent damage caused by this drought.

That seems like a tall order but for now we'll take what we can get. I gave the kids their ran gear and sent them outside to play in it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Beginning the Coundown

I had to make this for the fridge because someone keeps asking me every day if it's time yet. I think she's excited.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lake Life

Last week we went to the lake and were there over the week of the 4th. We are always there on the 4th but unlike normal years it was unbearably hot and fireworks were banned.

The second part might not be a bummer to most people, but to my husband who had purchased enough fireworks to warrent us driving our second car, it kinda sucked. It's so nice to shoot them out over the lake but given that our state has turned into a dry cracked, drought ridden tenderbox, doing so would have landed Jeremy 180 days in jail or a huge fine.

I suppose our state not burning down is a good thing though.

So I have all these obligatory lake pictures that I always post and thought that might be boring. I mean most of the pictures I've ever posted from the lake over the past 6 years are mostly the same.

So for fun I thought I would add some interesting factoids about the lake. Think of it like pop-up video. Anyone remember that show? You know back when they played music videos on TV?

My grandparents bough the lake cottage in 1972. They used it like a summer home for many years and I have very fond memories of going there as a kid. Swimming, fishing, riding bikes with Grampaw and sleeping on the pull out sofa. Eating food fresh from the grill and shopping in the Amish town with Gramaw.

The house is almost exactly the same as always, like a time capsule. Slowly though, things are  upgrading and changing, but there's something charming about sitting on the same old rickety patio furniture that we did in the 1980s.

The lake is pretty shallow as far as lake goes. Even the deepest spots aren't much more than 30 feet. There is an area of super shallow soft bottom that we call the sandbar. We can ride the boat out to it and jump off the boat. But truthfully the area near the cottage is perfect depth for swimming and fishing.

Charley was not interested in the sandbar, just the ginger ale on board the boat. Then he got all whiny and I threatened to toss him overboard. I hope he knows I wasn't joking. I mean he was wearing a life jacket and all. Nothing makes Mama crazier than whining.

Our old pontoon boat didn't used to have a ladder (in it's later years of use anyway) and there's a sorta funny story about me jumping off the boat at the sandbar and not being able to get back on. It involves Jeremy and my cousin Eva towing me back to shore with a rope. I never claimed to be graceful or coordinated.

That's enough about that.
We got a new pontoon boat which is so sweet compared to the ancient Aqua Patio we used to  have. I do have fond memories of that blue beauty though. Not so much of the times when the motor stalled and we got stuck in the middle of the lake. But other times like catching a 14 lb catfish with Grampaw.

Mom bought a kayak and we all laughed at her. Then she started using it and others wanted to use it as well and she laughed right back at us. I haven't been brave enough to try and mount myself into it yet. Remember the story about the pontoon right?

Due to our town pool being shut down and me not being on the ball enough to sign us up at nearby pools (before the waiting lists started), our kids aren't doing any official swim lessons this summer. I think they'll be alright though. Look at Miss Fishy. 

Shipshewana is a mildly-touristy Amish town nearby with lots of cool shops (like the ones where I bought my xylophone and mass amount of cheese). Really the best place in the town is a big mall like building called The Mercantile.

The Mercantile has the cool music store, some houseware stores, a great toy store, and a carousel on the top floor. The carousel is so seldom frequented that the operator was taking a nap on it when we went up there this time. Probably out of boredom, he also gives a doubly long ride.

The Mercantile is also the home of Jo Jo's pretzels. The world's best hand made Amish soft pretzels with assorted dipping sauces including their signature sweet mustard. Slurp.
The original Mercantile and Jo Jo's was a place that Gramaw and I would go to when I was a kid. I would always get soft pretzels and she would always get a chicken salad sandwich, which I still find a curious choice given all the gooey buttery pretzel options.

When I was in college the original Mercantile burned down and the world wept. Then they rebuilt it bigger and better than before. My first reaction upon hearing about the fire was not concern for the citizens but the pretzels. I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

These are the ladies of the lake. Kathy, Gramaw, and Candy. They've been lake neighbors forever and ever and feel like extended family members. I remember a funny story about Kathy's young son (who's now in his twenties) throwing my brother's pound puppy in the lake and watching it float away. I believe there was an amazing rescue. I wonder if anyone else remembers that.

The other place to always visit is a little hole in the wall ice cream parlor named "Happiness is Ice Cream". It's another time capsule type place that has never changed. Even some of the flavors are constant after 25 years. Like superman, which the kids always love.

 One small change I did enjoy at Happiness is Ice Cream is the addition of pretzel cones. What a brilliant idea for a salty sweet combination. I'll never go back to regular cones.

That sums up a lot of what the lake is about. Hanging out, being family together, eating simple and delicious food and enjoying the water. I think I speak for everyone when I say that the lake cottage will be in our family for many many more years to come.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Potty Training: The Bennington Method

Just recently I had two separate people comment on how easily our kids took to potty training. That made me laugh a little because I don't think potty training and 'easy' belong in the same sentence. In fact very few things involving a toddler include the word 'easy' unless it's something like picking boogers or eating chicken nuggets.

But both kids were fully day trained before the age of 2.5 and we haven't looked back. I used the same technique with both so maybe I am onto something. So I thought I'd publish my thoughts here.

Disclaimer 1- There is no one right way to potty train any kid and no kid is the same. 

Disclaimer 2- If you are against your 2 year old watching tons of tv and eating candy then you won't like my methodology. 

Disclaimer 3- I stay home with my kids. If your kids are potty training and also going to daycare I have no idea how that works. Sorry. 

1) The Younger the Better- I know that two's get a terrible reputation but the fact of the matter is that three's are far more independent and willful. My goal was always to start shortly after the age of two so it becomes part of their routine before they're old enough to say 'no way, I'm not going to do it'. By the time my kids were three, pottying was just something they did every day. In my opinion if they're old enough to respond to rewards, then do it.

2) Set Aside a Boot Camp Week- Make sure that there is no preschool or dance class or playdates. Stay home and get nekked. Well....the kids can get nekked, adults are optional.  No diapers during the day. Make the goal of the week to be pottying pottying pottying. Have carpet cleaning tools on hand.

 Charley during his boot camp week at age 2 years, 2 months.

3) Put Your Potty in the Living Room (and get over it)- Put a towel under it. Right in the middle of the household actions, right close to their favorite pile of toys, in view of the TV.

4) Set Up Your DVR- Both of our kids had a special TV show that could ONLY be watched while they were sitting on the potty. For Tessa it was Angelina Ballerina. For Charley it was Dora. They get up, the Mommy (who's nearby watching like a hawk) turns it off immediately. They want to watch it, they sit. Yes for the whole episode. Yes they will get a red ring around their toosh.

5) Dance and Feed- When the deed happens (which may be on accident at first) act like a crazy fool. Like someone who won the lottery. Like the wine store is having a blowout sale. Like the Dixie Chicks finally released a new album. Excited! Then give them an EDIBLE treat...an M&M, choco covered raisin, skittle, mini muffin. Whatever you got that they don't NORMALLY get to eat.

 Disclaimer 4- I once got read the riot act by a friend who clearly had never had kids and was grumpy enough to read the riot act to someone with a two year old and an infant. Her problem was me giving Tessa an M&M and promoting obesity. I'm telling you right now, 2 year olds are like animals. They respond to things very instinctively. Give them a sticker and they may care and they may not. Give them an M&M and they will always care. Promise to reward them with a new toy and they will forget what you said and go pee their pants. Reward Immediately. Edible. 

6) Rinse and Repeat- Have the kid come with you and the potty seat to dump it in the REAL potty and have them flush and wash hands. This will prepare them for what happens in the future. They can go back to playing and when maybe an hour or more has passed, put on the show again. Yes there will be A LOT of TV but only for a short time.

7) Do NOT Look Back- When the bootcamp week is over, go out on the town and DON'T use pullups. I think pullups have a place and time, but shouldn't be used for everyday wear, especially not once they've done the bootcamp week. Yes there will be accidents, but at least they are aware that they are wet. Our carseat had a protective pad thing on it for the longest time in case anyway wet in the car. Very handy. And bring extra outfits. Expect it. But expect pottying too- and make sure you have a portable treat ready! (a box of tic tacs is perfect for the pocket)

8) Take Your Potty To-Go- I bought a Pottete Plus travel potty when Tessa was two and that thing has gotten SO MUCH use. It's still in the back of our car for emergencies. But for a while we took it everywhere. Every time we went to a store, they would potty in the back of the car on the potette. I clearly remember Tessa using it in the middle of Craig Park during stroller aerobics, and at the State Fair behind a tree with her friend Mattie. If we went to the farm, we took the potty. If we went to the lake, we took the potty.

9) Eventually the Rewards Wear Off- And there was less TV involved. Less and less M&Ms until eventually none. They moved into the bathroom instead of the living room. But the point is that they KNEW it was something they had to do all the time, every day. Regardless of M&Ms, it had become party of daily life and they could do it.

10) Worry About Night Time Later- Both kids got to a point where they didn't want to wear diapers at night and asked to wear underpants. Tessa has been a little harder to night train as she's more prone to accidents, but still  not bad. About two months ago Charley started outright refusing them at night and he's been dry as a bone ever since.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cut the Cheese

6lbs of yummy co-jack cheese acquired at the Amish grocery for only $16- check

A cheese slicer acquired for $5 on Amazon (with free shipping) because we've never owned a real cheese slicer and I don't trust my knife skills this much- check

Expiration date not until late September- check

Oh it is on.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Final NYC Narrative: All the Other Randoms

Here's where I'm going to put all the pictures of everything else we did in addition to meeting Mike, having tea at the Plaza, eating Dim Sum, going up on Jessie's Roof, walking through Central Park and seeing the 9/11 Memorial.

We also did some other stuff. I mean how much fun stuff can two adults, one (almost) kindergartener and one gimp pack into a weekend? Apparently a lot.

Jessie had recently put up a chalkboard wall in her kitchen. Handy for writing lists. And drawing unicorns.

Across the street from her apartment, Jess has a little plot in a community garden wedged between two building in an alley. It really put yesterday's endless drive through a million miles of Amish country into perspective. Not every place is Indiana.

Tessa got to be a pro at many forms of transportation. This is her first subway ride. She was utterly dumbstruck that she was riding a train underground. I was apparently doing my impression of....God knows what. 

She fell asleep not once, but twice in a taxi cab.

We rode the cross town bus and got to be experts at getting our tickets and waiting (not so) patiently at the bus stop.

After a time or two she became the queen of subway pole twirling. Not to be confused with the other kind of pole dancing.

She even hopped the Staten Island Ferry to see lady Liberty. 

We went here...

And here...

And here...

Quick...which one is real and which one is made out of Legos?

By the time we left we had made Jessie a whole artistic mural to, ahem..enjoy.