Saturday, February 27, 2010

Monkey Antics in Mexico

I'll keep the ID of this monkey on the DL for this story, as told by one of my sisters-in-law:

I looked over and saw her in the corner of the playground, standing up with her hands on her knees. She'd taken her shoes and socks off and put them to the side and was trying, unsuccessfully I might add, to pee down one leg of her shorts. I ran over and asked her what she was doing. After all, if she'd had time to take off her shoes and socks, this clearly wasn't an accident. She said she didn't want to stop playing to go inside and go to the bathroom. Needless to say, we had a wardrobe change on the playground that day.

Just Like Daddy

Beach Beach Beach...

More Beach Pics!

Beach Pics!

Spa Pedicures

Courtesy of Nana...

Friday, February 26, 2010

How to Make Pizza Dough

B & I are trying to get "back to basics" on food. Granted, we're limited on budget (ie, Whole Foods isn't our go-to stop) and space (no growing our own tomatoes or herbs here), so we're doing what we can, which is trying to eat more seasonally, taking a break from meat at least once a week, and making "from scratch" items when we can, like bread, pasta sauce, and pizza dough.

Tonight was my first attempt at pizza dough and I have to say that it was over-the-top delicious! I got the recipe from The Pioneer Woman's cookbook. Her dough is simple and (bonus!) it's made in a standing mixer. Yeast, flour, salt, and a little olive oil are all you need for a batch of dough that makes two cookie sheet-size pizzas. We made one tonight and put the other ball of dough in the fridge to chill until we need it. I looked just now and the dough had burst through not one but two layers of plastic wrap. It's now been rewrapped in two new layers (seriously, the old ones had holes!) and then a layer of press-and-seal. We'll see how it does!

I'm pretty sure this has me sold on home baking. I picked up a $5 jar of yeast and so far have made dough for two pizzas and a loaf of bread and I've barely made a dent (used 2 teaspoons so far!).

Adventures in Babysitting: Children's Museum

Words I never thought I'd say: No stepping on each other's heads.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Adventures in Babysitting: Science Museum Edition

Today I took three boys (1, 3, and 5) to the science museum. We all survived. Here's the message I left on B's voicemail:

Hey honey, hope you're having a good day at school. Just got done with the kids at the Science Museum. If we ever have three boys, I'm leaving you. See you at home!

B's Favorite Mexico Moments

* Fast-track through immigration and customs. (Thank you poopy/screaming babies.)

* Warm weather/great sun all. week. long. (He says as snow falls in our hometown. Yuck.)

* Throwing tennis balls in the wave pool.

* The rat in the wave pool (Yes, there was a rat that somehow drowned in the wave pool. Back to reality!).

* Mojitos on the beach (Ditto that!).

* Getting a nice tan.

* No baby, sibling dinner (the first time all eight of us had been together alone, ever!).

* Tequila store, tasting every tequila the (all-inclusive) bar had to offer.

* Popcorn before dinner (seriously, how kid-friendly was this bar? Fresh-popped popcorn starting at 5:30 every night).

* Fresh-made doughnuts every morning.

Mexico... Ole!

I'm back from the vacation, tanned and mostly recovered from the flights and post-trip food coma (as in, lack of full time, 18-course buffet every breakfast and lunch, cocktails starting at 11am, and rich, delicious dinners every night). B & I are in withdrawals! I think his actual words were, "I could not eat for a week. No seriously."

The trip was amazing! Todd found the resort last year by searching for the most kid-friendly resorts and the description was right on. Zero-entry wave pool. Lazy river. Kids welcome at every restaurant except the ritzy French one (thanks for watching the kids so we could all go, Nana!). Bars that pass out virgin pina coladas like nobody's business (three-year-old Lily was requesting them by name by week's end). Mini-fridges stocked with whatever you like, including milk (Note: ours was NOT stocked with milk).

The trip started out with a bang. Or a blow-out, if you want to get graphic. We spent the night with the Smith family so we could leave at 5:45am to get to the airport. The girls were way confused by the early wake-up call (though thrilled that they got to sleep in their next-day clothes-- smart move, sister!) and the whole way to the airport Sienna kept saying, "I can't see anything." Us: "Sienna, it's still dark out." Sienna: "Maybe we could get a flashlight!"

We made it into the airport, got breakfast (thanks, Nana!), and survived the first flight with no problems. In Atlanta, we met up with six more of our fellow travelers (Keeping count? We're up to 12 people...) and grabbed a quick lunch. We ate on the flight then passed out cupcakes to all our party (you're welcome, Delta). Yes, cupcakes, with chocolate frosting and sprinkles. It was Sienna's second birthday! She enjoyed it topless on the plane using her cupcake bottom to wipe excess frosting off her little naked tummy. You only live once!

The big hitch of the day was customs. We got in line facing at least a two hour line with five exhausted children. Luckily the agents wised up and sent us through the Mexico residents line. Still, we had two crying babies with huge blowouts and at least a 45-minute wait.

We were thrilled to get through customs, grab our luggage, and meet the remaining four of our party. That's right, 16 of us total. Seven babies (five and under). Nine adults. Lots of prayers.
We got checked into the resort and changed for dinner, a Japanese-style grill house. The kids loved seeing each other (hugs, kisses, "happy birthday"s, and valentines abounded) and poor Sienna, thoroughly pooped, actually fell asleep sitting up at dinner.

It started simply enough: While watching the guy throw the knives around and crack eggs on spatulas, a very unimpressed Sienna looked at her Dad and said, "I want some food." Food finally did come and she ate as long as she could, until her hands were too tired to keep moving. Not one to give up, she told her Dad, "Feed me." He did for a few minutes until she literally fell asleep sitting up in her booster seat. She really scared all of us, thinking something was wrong (is she choking? Why won't she respond?). Luckily, traveling with no fewer than four doctors, one of whom is a pediatrician, pays off. Holly rushed over and swooped her up. Sienna burst into tears. She was fine, simply asleep! B & I laid her out over our laps, topped her with my jacket and our napkins, and kept eating as she slept. If you knew Sienna, you'd understand what an odd event that was!

The rest of the week was amazing. Super restful, great time with the monkeys, long stretches on the beach, swimming up to the bar, splashing in the wave pool, floating the lazy river (and my managing to somehow flip B), taking a family picture (will post later!), seeing Ethan walking, reading on lounge chairs, taking bubble baths (oh how I miss jet tubs!)... Life is good.
Highlights? Nana paint all the girls' finger and toenails on the beach, B splashing in the ocean with a very happy Alex, the kids riding the merry-go-round at the resort's shopping complex, delicious crepes, B sampling the goods of the Tequilaria, watching Mad Men with the siblings late at night, sand castles on the beach... Oh what am I forgetting. I'll have to have B sound in, too.

Long story short, the trip was amazing. I did miss Dad; we all did. I could easily picture him enjoying the doughnuts at breakfast (fried in front of your eyes!) and the unlimited iced tea and diet cokes by the pool. I imagined him volunteering to take the kids on the train around the complex (a guaranteed crowd pleaser!). I don't think it would've been the same trip if it'd just been us adults instead of the adults plus families. The thing was, when you're with all those babies, some of whom need things (diapers, bottles, cut-up food) and all of whom have their own stories, jokes, and general antics to share, there's so much filling up your heart that you forget to think about what's missing.

Take That, Delta!

Oh yes, another day, another Delta adventure. Here's the update I sent my girlfriends about returning from the Mexico vacation:

Lowlight of the trip? Having to beg Delta to hold the flight five minutes so Kristi, Tim, Ella, and Sienna could catch up with us. They refused. I had to go get Tim, who ran with Sienna, while I ran back to a trotting, pregnant Kristi, and grabbed Ella and sprinted to the gate. So it was me, Ella, Brian, Tim, & Sienna at the gate and the woman goes, "where's the other person?" all huffy and defiant. I was like, "She's running as fast as pregnant can run!" And yes, Brian and I were not quiet that she was making it clear that Delta's policy (after holding us on the tarmac for 30 minutes on the previous flight) is to, in fact, make a three year old, a two year old, and a pregnant lady run to make a flight even when they have hard and fast evidence that they are in the same terminal. Highlight? They made the flight.

Love it! Here's the exchange I had with three-year-old Ella as we ran:

Ella: Why are we running?
Me: Because Delta's going to give away our seats.
Ella: Why will they give away our seats?
Me: Because we are late and they are evil.

Becoming An Adult: Checking My Credit History

Tonight I decided to put on my big girl panties and take care of a few things. No, that didn't include putting away the laundry from our vacation that B so lovingly washed. It also didn't include making dinner from scratch (thank you leftover formerly homemade fresh-from-the-freeze meatloaf!). It did, however, include "finishing" our tax prep (fingers crossed on that!) and getting my credit history.
As B and I move toward buying a house (we're still a year or so out), I thought it might be a good idea to check up on my history to make sure there were no other As out there pretending to be me. Wouldn't that be a beast to find out when going for a home loan? Thank you, First Time Homeowners' nightmare experiences (anyone seen that show?).
So far, everything looks great. It did make me panic at first: Will giving all this information turn out to be some kind of scam that then tramples my credit? That, dear readers, would be a true beast.
So here we go. Growing up!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I'm always amazed at how much better I feel about everything going on inside my heart and my head when I write. Only five minutes after writing about the vacation hesitation, my heart feels so much better. Maybe it's the sharing, or the owning up to the white-elephant issues. Either way, thank you blog world!

"My Ring!!"

Last night, I got B's blessing to write about something that happened on our trip with his family to the BVIs in January. You may have heard about it by now; I know both Moms know, as do a few of my siblings and both of B's.

One day, our sailboat docked off Jost Van Dyke for an afternoon at the bubble pool. We moored by Foxy's and hiked the 15 minutes or so it took to get to the pool, a decently sized inlet that made me feel like a California coast sea anemone.

The pool was gorgeous. A tiny beach led to the water which was surrounded by smooth rocks on the beach side and soaring boulders on the ocean side. Each time a wave roared through, the pool would fill with a swooshing fizz of bubbles that made hot tub jets seem like a bubble bath. (Check out the pic, and keep in mind that it's not us!)

So we tiptoed our way into the pool, beers or wine cup in hand. B's Mom and I stood near the beach, enjoying the bubbles around our toes, while the boys ventured deeper, sitting on the rocks or floating in the middle of the bubbly bath.

After a while, B's Mom and I got out to go stand in the shade on the beach when I saw B get clobbered by a wave and then sputter "My ring!"

The next ten minutes were a frantic search for B's ring, his wedding band. Each time the water calmed, we'd look to see if we could spot it twinkling on the beach or shining in the shallows of a tidal pool. Strangers helped us, B's brothers were diligent, and B himself was heartsick. It actually broke my heart to see how upset he was.

After 30 minutes of looking, despite the swelling sands and our total knowledge that the ring was either two inches under the beach or already swept out to sea, I gave B a big hug and asked him what he'd tell me if I'd be the one to lose my ring. "That there's nothing you can do about it so don't worry about it," he replied. And it's true. He keeps me calm so much that it was good for me to have a chance to do the same for him.

Plus, the ring was fully insured (in fact, we filed the claim and ordered the replacement while on the boat), so it wasn't a matter of "This is sad and we can't afford to fix it." I'd always thought myself to be a sentimental type, one that places a fair amount of value in physical things. Otherwise, how could I justify saving every piece of clothing with an ounce of emotional attachment (first date, first banquet/prom, etc) and ditching those with too much (the dress I was wearing when Mom and I went to the hospital)?

I honestly think that it was about it being B's ring. I know he didn't mean to lose it, so I certainly wasn't upset with him. I knew he was hurting because he lost it, so the last thing I wanted was for him to feel more upset. After all, this was something we could fix, right down to the blessing (more later). I finally got a smile out of him by telling him that I'd throw my rings in too and we'd just start over. Well, a smile from him and a big "NOO" from his family.

We decided that it would've been poetic if it weren't so irritating. After all, his ring was now resting where we celebrated our honeymoon. Goodness, if I could live there forever, I would! And now, of course, we have an excuse to go visit it every year or so. I'm pretty sure I can wrangle that out of B for years to come.

How's B today? He says it feels like the same ring (and it is, down to the inscription on the inside) and he's not worried about it and that it's much cleaner (fewer scratches as of now).

When we got back to Durham, we went to the Duke chapel and had the priest there bless it. He was super nice, a man that we'd asked to perform our ceremony, but who couldn't because he had to perform the commencement Mass. I think he was relieved when we got there that he wasn't blessing our rings as a recommitment ceremony following some massive fight, but rather a simple event to honor our commitment to each other as symbolized by this new ring.

I told Mom about the ceremony and she said, "What an amazing Valentine's Day present, to know that having his ring blessed in the church is important to your husband, that your vows and relationship are important to your husband." And she's (as always!) oh-so right.

Vacation Hesitation

Today's post is going to make me feel like a spoiled brat, I know it. That or I feel like I need to say it for anyone reading who doesn't really know me. Tomorrow the family leaves on our first vacation together since Dad died. We're so excited to be getting together and going someplace that half the family enjoyed last year (a few of us couldn't make the '09 trip). But I also know that deep down I'm worried that the trip will bring up weird emotions: Dad won't be there. Every joyous dinner table (we are a party of 16, mind you) will have a figurative empty chair in the corner. And that dark-side talking thing is so not like me. I don't like feeling the negative and I pray to God that I won't put a damper on anything (or drive B nuts, as I've already started my successful campaign on that front this morning as cleaned the entire apartment).

I'm not used to having true mixed feelings on things. This is a vacation, a wonderful escape for all of us that Mom was so incredible to plan completely on her own as a gift for all of us, and what an amazing gift! A whole week with my siblings and their kids (all 7.5 of them). I'd take that gift anywhere, any day, so it doesn't hurt that it happens to be on a tropical beach where the pina coladas run like water and the grape supply is endless (the monkeys are very pleased about this).

I have a feeling that once we're all down there together we'll be able to host a private party at the white elephant's petting zoo and just look this bad boy right in the face. We're on vacation. Together. But Dad's not here. Maybe if we acknowledge it, and acknowledge that we're all feeling it, that will make things better. Easier. At least less introspective.

Like I said, I don't want to seem like the whiner here. Poor me, off on vacation and I'm not even happy to go. I am happy to go. Thrilled, in fact. B and I got away with his family in January and it was such an incredible time to reconnect with everyone and simply enjoy dinners, conversations, and even book swaps. (Ok, ok, and pirate happy arrrrrs, I'll be honest.)

Point being, I know in my heart that this vacation will be wonderful. Try being sad when you're surrounded with seven tiny people that need bubble baths, story time, "just five more grapes," the frosting off a donut, and another dip in the wave pool. I know my heart will be joyful, but there will also be a little corner that's sad.

I'm just hopeful I can grieve in a way that would make Dad happy, ie eating five donuts every morning for breakfast, not going in the water unless it's over 87 degrees, ordering the steak with the lobster at dinner, keeping the pool boys running for Diet Cokes, grabbing an afternoon nap, going through every packet of splenda at the table for my iced tea, and relishing each moment being surrounded my our insane, wonderful, growing family.

So next week, say a little prayer for my family that we can find all the joy in the world in each other and be oh-so thankful for the time that we have together. Oh, and get your self a dozen donuts or so, too. Your other option would be eating an entire package of peeps, so you can thank me later.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nine Months!

I hear time speeds up as you grow older. Does this excuse the fact that a) I never post and b) my "regularly scheduled" posts are always late? Oy. I think I need a Mother that guilts me into doing things like this rather than my fabulous one who only encourages me when I do write. Hi Mom! :)

Ok, lets get down to it. What have we done this month? We started. First off, did anyone notice that I skipped a month? Not so much in content, but rather in number. Somehow I went from seven (December) to nine (January). Turns out (ahem), it's not true. So this is a repeat of "nine months," if only in title.

This past month started off with a bang. We were still recovering from B's 27th birthday (you are 27, right hon?), a fabulous pirate-infused bash. And, sigh, we were still on the fabulous sailboat. Ah, sweet memories!

So, we sailed for another day, I celebrated (at sea) my official four-year-anniversary with work (six days before my last day). I spent a day in Birmingham at work cleaning out my desk before driving back to Durham with B for the first day of his final semester of law school.

It's all about beginnings and endings for us this month, including the start of my new job(s): babies! Currently I sit for four families regularly: a 10-month-old, a seven-month-old, the tween/teenagers mentioned below), and a 14-month-old, plus a few other families (a three-month-old & a sibling set 3 & 1). It's been beyond busy and, truth be told, I'm working harder these days than I have in years. I didn't have to bounce or sway nearly as much at my desk job!

So I've loved the babysitting and I think B has enjoyed it too-- a little cash for us, fun things for me to do during the day, and, of course, fun stories for all (and my new knowledge of "snow that you sniff").

We've hung with my nieces a good amount, watching movies, painting, and playing dress up, and time with their fabulous parents-- definitely one of the best perks about Durham!

We got snowed in for the first time in forever (seven inches!) and suddenly school closings mattered for me too. I played (and reverse cheated) at Scrabble, a first for me.

We had B's new ring blessed by an amazing priest at Duke, who was so wonderful and sweet (more later, I promise, with B's blessing), and remembered how lucky we were to find each other, commit to each other, and have oh-so much fun together on this crazy road.

Now, for your warning: I'm gone for the next week, hanging with the entire fam on a Mom-inspired Mexican vacation. We simply can't wait. We're so excited and thrilled and teeming with excitement to get on board (or "on plane" I should say) and get out of here. That said, you probably won't hear much from (soon-to-be-tan) me. But I promise to post and catch up.

Adventures in Babysitting: Questions Editions

On Tuesday, I got two lovely questions from my third and seventh graders.

1) Why would a lady need to sell her eggs? Thank you, radio advertisement.

2) What is "snow that you sniff"?

Oh boy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sienna is Two!

And Brian and I got to help. Check out us with the girls, the girls enjoying the best part of the prep, and the little ladies as princesses (complete with awesome princess cake in the background!). Pink-a-palooza!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Taxes, Part Two

Me: My head.. it pulses.

B: It pulses? Well you know the only cure for that: MORE BOOZE.

God, protect us from an audit.


Working on taxes. So far that includes making a list of things for B to find, gather, or research. Does this count as "doing" the taxes?

Dogs. Grrrr....

Took the ewok dog on a walk again last night. Is it terrible that it made me happy that this time when he ran to the end of his leash at full speed, his little paws caught the ice and made him do a beautiful ariel with a 180 degree twist? I may be a bad person, but my legs definitely appreciated the due justice.

Let the Games Begin

Babysitting resumed this week but, thanks to the seven inches of now, I got a snow day on Monday along with the rest of the kiddos in the area. Made me feel all of ten again!

On Tuesday, I went to hang with my talkers, the two kids I sit for regularly that are old enough to chat, sing to the radio, and hang out. The younger one, fourth grade, loves games. LOVES them. Every week we play something and this week, heaven help me, it was Twister.

Twister poses various issues. Remaining decent, for one, while bending and moving toward the little colorful circles. But then you try playing it with two people. Technically, the rules say you just take turns calling out orders and moves. My talker, however, wanted to take turns. As in, "I go until I fall then you go until you fall." Oh goodness.

I played through my various turns until I figured out that she didn't so much care to have me play and was content to take turn after turn all by her lonesome so long as I called out the orders from my cushy purple chair with some defined cadence. Done!

The thing is, when you're little, your arms and legs are shorter, so you fall more often and much more quickly than you do when you're an adult. That said, can anyone blame me for cheating to her advantage?

It started small. Instead of making her contort cruelly while moving her left leg from yellow to green, I moved it to blue instead. But then I realized that so long as I spun the board, I could say anything. We played a 15 minute game of her just crabbing and downward dogging around the board. Brilliant!

On Wednesday, my little bit's big brothers had the day off from school again, so instead of having one (non-speaking) boy, I had three, two of whom could talk, walk, play, and (thankfully) feed, dress, and go to the bathroom by themselves. I almost called B's Mom for advice: what do I do with three boys ages 8, 4, and 10 months?

But all was fine. When the little bit was napping, the four-year-old busied himself making an "aquarium" and I played Scrabble with the eight-year-old. If you know me, you know I love Scrabble, so this was a great day. Until I remembered that I'm playing an eight-year-old, who's asking me if "quicks" is a word, along with"bon," "dee" and ... you get the picture.

It was nice to play with someone who didn't guard his letters at all. Instead, he'd ask for help and we'd find him something and so sue me if I didn't let him start playing real names and arguably incorrect words. He didn't know, he was happy, I was happy. I did get a new respect for Scrabble, though. A) You have to do math to keep score. B) You have to know how to spell words to use them (ok, at least most of the time). It made me so happy to see him loving a word game. So what if I purposely left the spots open so he could spell "quick," a 50-point get that helped him trounce me by 90 in the final game. (Keep in mind that I was also playing aquarium at this point!)

I did learn something that might come back to bite me. It was way easier to take care of a baby with his big brothers around. He didn't need me to entertain him at all! So maybe the trick is having more than one? Do me a favor, when I do have a few around and am pulling my hair out, please don't send me the link to this post...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Let the Countdown Begin!

As I sit on my couch (cold) and look out on the snow (cold), all I can think about is that a week from Sunday, we're leaving for Mexico (warm) for a week with the family. I can't wait!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Adventures in Shipping

The last, final, ultimate step of my leaving my job is returning all my stuff, something B & I will both be glad to accomplish as it'll get that lovely black computer bag out of our doorway. I've been putting it off for two weeks now, partly because it'll really mean that I'm done with my job of 4 years but mostly (I'm betting) because it's so damn cold outside and I don't want to haul it over to the shipping store. Lazy party of one? Present!

So, in a snow-bound frenzy of cleaning today (we're talking shower tiles-meet-tooth brush here), I threw it in the car and off we went to the Pak Place, or whatever quasi-clever name it has. I checked before parking to make sure they had the FedEx logo out front (as I'm using work's billing code), then parked and dug my way through the slush and snow to the door.

Owners (Yes, there were two and they both stood at the register and "helped" me together): How can we help you?

Me: I need to ship this. I have my FedEx billing code here.

Owner Man: Do you have your shipping form completed?

Me: No, but I have the information here, so if you give me one I can fill it out.

Owner Lady: We don't have the forms here.

Me: You don't have the forms here? The ones you need to ship things?

Owner Man: I can ship it from my account with my billing code.

Me: But you can't change the code?

Owner Man: No. I can ship it and you can pay me.

Me: No, I need to bill it. Where do I get one of those forms?

Owner Lady: At a FedEx store.

Me: Is there one of those around here?

Owner Lady: Yes.

Me: Right, ok. Where is it?

Owner Man: At the BB&T center. Go there, get your form, come back here, and leave the package with us. We'll give it to the FedEx man.

Me: Who will then take it to...

Owner Man: The FedEx store.

Riiiiigggghhhht. Now I got it.