Saturday, September 03, 2011

First Day, Third Grade

The first day of third grade happened last week, which requires the standard picture.  I guess I hit my limit with the stand there and smile type.

"I don't want to just stand here and smile, Mom."

So she did a dance.

Just for fun.  Here is last year, the first day of second grade.  No dancing, but Milena was able to get in there a bit.

The first day of first grade, which also was Claire's birthday.  

The first day of kindergarden in Maine.  Again, the first day was on her birthday.  We had to make a stop at her old preschool before heading over to the grade school to make sure we got a Happy Birthday Ribbon sticker.  And that purple lunchbox.  We just retired that one this year, and its full of every lunchbox note I wrote her over the past three years.  She still won't part with any of them, and a requirement for the new one was a special pouch to keep all future notes in.

Preschool, the second year.  I had to be fast with the camera for this one.  She was SO excited to get in there.  She's wearing probably the third pair of red Keds, having out grown them so quickly.  They were her 'basketball shoes', and obviously, they went with every outfit.  

And finally, the first day of the first year of preschool.  The first day of school ever.  We didn't even have a backpack for her.  She used her strawberry purse she got from Jim and Monnie as a flower girl present at their wedding.  Clearly, this was a very serious day.  

Seriously.  Five years.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

San Diego

About two weeks ago, Mike came home from a particularly rough shift in a series of rough shifts and said, "If you don't book a vacation for next week, I will stop at Ho Chunk and spend money. I don't care where we go, but it needs to involve an airplane." When you go to work every day, and get your butt kicked for 12+ hours, its nice to have something to show for it.  And an end in sight to look forward to, I'm told.  

I did a quick internet search for 'best family vacation spots' or something similar and San Diego came up.  Flights were reasonable, and I found a hotel that offered suites with kitchenettes, a pool, complimentary breakfast AND complimentary dinner.  Honestly, I think the kids could have stayed in that hotel the entire time and been completely and fully happy with the trip.  But of course we didn't.

The first day, we took advantage of still being on Wisconsin time to head out super early to Disneyland in Anaheim.  The hotel staff actually packed us a breakfast to take with us since we'd be leaving before breakfast was served, which was really nice to have on the drive.  We rolled in before the park opened, and had our plan to visit the most popular areas first.

I know there are people who LOVE Disneyland, but the four of us were unimpressed.  Maybe DisneyWorld in Florida is different with all the additional parks.  Or maybe its just not possible to live up to the hype.  But we thought there was a surprising lack of cool things.  It was all so small and fake.  A half day was more than enough for us, despite all the people who said it was too bad we didn't have at least one night to spend at the park hotels.  The rides were straight from the kiddie section at the fair, substituting Dumbo in for the airplanes or helicopters or Cinderella's white horses on the carousel instead of a variety of animals.  My favorite part, because it was so random, was the train ride that traveled the park's circumference.  There is at tunnel at one point that is very dark, and along one wall there are big windows looking in at badly lit dioramas complete with taxidermy animals.  Like goats and rabbits.  And then a little past that, there were mechanical dinosaurs.  I can go to the Milwaukee Public Museum and see that stuff.  I don't know what that was about or what it had to do with Disneyland.  Why not fill the tunnel up with fairies and princesses and glitter?  Thats what people come to Disneyland for.  Not taxidermy animals.  Then again, I personally wouldn't have enjoyed that as much.

I think Claire and I had the same favorite ride, the Its a Small World ride.  I liked it because it was a boat ride through an air conditioned area.  Claire liked it because she loves history and anthropology and different cultures.  The boat ride is fairly long and takes you all around the world, obviously, past hundreds of robotic dolls dressed up in the traditional clothing of different countries and dancing the traditional dances.  'Its a Small World' plays the entire time, but the instruments used to play it change, again depending on the part of the world you happened to be in, which Claire was beyond excited about. She rode that one a few times, and when it came down to 'one more ride and then we're leaving', that one was it.  

The next day was a beach day to recover. Disney can take it out of you. We went to Coronado Beach in the morning, headed back to the hotel for lunch and naps, and then Cardiff beach in the evening for the sunset.  It was a lot of fun to just sit in the sand and play in the waves which the locals called 'freezing'.  We called them 'surprisingly warm'.  Having been raised on the beaches of the Great Lakes and then living in Maine for a few years, it would take a pretty cold Pacific ocean for us to agree with the 'cold' description.

SeaWorld was next, and that was everyone's favorite part of the trip.  The dolphin and whale shows were very fun.  Mike insisted in sitting in the 'Soak Zone' for the dolphin show and after getting only a little wet felt pretty confident choosing a similar seat with Milena for the whale show.  I think they were soaked before they even fully sat down.

There was a lot of cool age appropriate things for the kids to do and a lot of really knowledgeable and accessible people who could tell you about the animals.  We planned on being there for the morning, but decided to return in the evening for a bit more.  We'd definitely go back.

The last day was San Diego Zoo day.  I got the feeling there was a lot more to see than we had time for. But being the end of vacation, we weren't up for an intense 'see it all' day.  I guess we probably weren't up for that on any day, but especially the last.  We took dinner to a beach in the Torry Pines area for the sunset.    

It was a great get-away, and I think we'd all love to do a repeat.  My only regret was not getting more pictures of Claire.  She was hardly ever in one place long enough for me to catch her, always running and jumping to the next animal or into the next wave or searching for another shell.  She may have had more fun than the rest of us put together.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Blooming Butterflies

Met up with a friend at Olbrich today for the Blooming Butterflies. I kind of expected hundreds of butterflies flying everywhere, like the exhibit the Milwaukee Public Museum.  There weren't quite so many, so you had to really look for them.  Fun for Claire, but pretty boring for Milena.  She's only sitting there because I promised her ice cream if she did.

We did find a few different types of butterflies, but these were by far the most common.  Maybe because there were several types that all look similar.  We spent a bit of time running around the outside gardens as well.  

Lately Milena has been loving these rainbow leg warmers.  I'm fairly certain they make her jump higher and run faster. I'm also 100% sure that Claire would like a pair.

And this is Claire on a ferris wheel ride. This picture is just so her. 

Thursday, June 02, 2011

St. Paul

Saturday morning at 10:30 Mike said, "You know what we should do...we should go to St. Paul."

So we did.

We were able to see some residency friends and some medical school friends.  Its been right around five years now since Mike finished up med school, so it was really fun to catch up and meet the kids that have been had in that time.  

Plus, we went to the Minnesota Museum of Science, which was much cooler than I thought it would be. It had something for everyone.  Milena was taken with these chairs.  

They each had a mirror in front of them.  She must have gone back and forth between the two a dozen times, probably trying to figure out how she was shrinking and growing.  Claire was all over the place, never stopping long enough for me to get a picture.  

And today, we went to the zoo.  Milena rode the train and the carousel.  Its always more fun when Mike comes along.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Hollie and I decided to treat ourselves to a girls only (because we happen to have all daughters) trip to Munising for Mother's Day.  It was a huge success.  We've talked about taking some bigger trips, and with this one under our belts, at least I am a lot more confident about taking a longer trip sometime in the future.  

I'm pretty sure that we hit the best weekend the UP had seen to date, weather wise.  My favorite weather is when its cold enough to wear a sweatshirt when you are in the shade, but warm enough in the sun for short sleeves.  Thats exactly what we got.  Sunny skies, no wind, and maybe most importantly, no black flies.  We spent some time at two different beaches, one sandy and one rocky.  Lake Superior was just as chilly as I remember.  I also remember as a kid thinking it wasn't that bad.  My kids agreed.

I was lucky enough to get this shot of all five of us using the timer on my camera.  It sums everything up nicely, and is my favorite of the whole weekend.  And it reminds me of the sunset pictures from The Real Cabin.

We went to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which was a first for me.  Maybe the shoreline looks like this 365 days a year, but I prefer to think we were lucky and hit an amazing day.  

Claire and I sat by the water and watched the sunset, just the two of us.  She said being by the water and listening to the waves gives her the "best peaceful feeling".  I know what she means.  

 And we also went to Miner's Falls, which were better than I expected.

All in all a great trip.  After finding out how easy it was, hopefully we'll be able to repeat it.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Milena is Two!

Milena turned two last month.  We had such a fun time partying at the zoo with Annesley, Hollie and Tom last year, we decided a repeat was in order.  Hollie was smart and made a cupcake for Milena without frosting, though I did bring a poncho for Uncle Dave, just in case.  A lot has changed over the past year, but Milena's dislike for cake was not one of them.  She actually requested a 'rainbow cake' and I made her one for her actual birthday.  She didn't eat it.  Hollie made a sweet monkey cake for the party.  She didn't eat it.  I've got to say, if there are any two cakes that could tempt a person to change their mind, these would be it.  She's firmly against cake.

The day started out pretty chilly, but things shaped up nicely and we fully enjoyed everything a second birthday party should be.  Eating, pink glitter crowns, bubbles and the zoo.  

Happy Birthday, Milena and Annesley!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Its April!

So its been a while. We have all been deep into a pretty ambitious Spring To Do list.  I've made some changes in the house, based on wanting to get rid of the red wall throughout the kitchen/living room.  I liked the red, but as it started getting nicer out, it was just so heavy.  And the curtains were so big and flowing.  I went in the opposite direction.  Green walls and only valances for curtains.

Its fresh and nice and really makes the room feel bigger.  The green looks pretty apple-y in these pictures, but its calmer in real life.  Plus we moved our big substantial dining table to the place where we actually eat and turned the formal dining room into a informal play room. We picked up a trampoline, a playhouse and hung some of Claire's art on the walls.  That suits us much better.

We've also made some changes to light fixtures, cleaned out the basement storage area, fixed the garage door opener so it actually opens as it should, and are in the process of cleaning the garage.  Mike and I put up a big pegboard, which has kind of been the highlight.  It doesn't take a whole lot to keep us happy.

Claire also had her spring break.  We stayed home and had the chance to do some special things.  The highlight for me was a night spent at a hotel downtown just the two of us.  We did some shopping, went out for dinner and then hurried up to our room for the event Claire was looking forward to the most: laying in bed, eating chips and watching The Wheel of Fortune.  Doesn't really get much better than that, right?  It was really nice to spend a good amount of time one on one with her.  

Then there was Tess's first birthday which was a lot of fun.

A close second to the party fun of the weekend was Tuesday morning.  I had to have a new battery installed in the Pilot.  Milena came along and was beside herself with the idea that cars could be up on lifts.  When one big van was finally lowered, revealing a baby bus (a short bus) on a lift behind it, she could barely find the words.  When she finally did, there was no settling her down.  The past two days she's gotten up in the morning saying "Baby bus up up up", and she now cheers when we drive past that particular garage.  And as if that wasn't enough, the mechanic had lollipops.  We should see if they book birthday parties.

So far so good, April.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


We just got back, a week or so ago, from Germany.  The Bavarian Alps, to be specific.  Originally, only Mike and I planned to go and meet Eric, but there were some changes and in the end we took Claire as well.  We've taken a number of amazing vacations with Eric now, enough that I think its become a kind of tradition (UK or bust this summer?), and this one was no exception.  He booked us a great place in Garmisch, a little town about an hour south of Munich.  There was quite a bit of skiing to be done, and a fair amount of exploring the area.  Some of the highlights were one of King Ludwig II's castles, Schloss Neuschwanstein...

...A day in Munich, which actually has a fun story behind it.  Mike just happens to play basketball with an opera singer, who lives in our city, who just happened to be preforming in the opera Carmen, in Munich, while we were there.  He hooked us up with some awesome tickets, and so we added 'see an opera' to our lists of firsts accomplished on this vacation.  Eric was really nice to spend the day with Claire so Mike and I were able to get away alone.  It was a lot of fun.  Not sure what I took pictures of here, except that the last one is the Rathaus, which is the Town Hall...

...And going to the "Top of Germany", the Zugspitze, Germany's highest point.  I've seen lots of mountains before.  I've been to the Andes and the Rockies.  I don't remember ever seeing mountains like the Bavarian Alps.  We luckily chose an awesome day.  It started out cloudy and hazy, but it cleared up nicely.  Mike, Claire, and Eric skied/snowboarded, and I took hundreds of pictures.  Then I put my feet up, ate some German bread and pastries, and read a book in front of the windows.  

Once in a while, I waved to the skiers.  

Eric took a bunch of awesome pictures of us all, and it wasn't easy.  He had to do quite a bit of maneuvering to try to get this guy in orange out of the shot.  He kept trying to sneak in.  

The way to the top was by way of a series of cable cars.   It was a bit windy on our trip up, and the car swayed in the breeze the entire way.  It was a beautiful ride, especially once we were above the clouds.  It was cloudy and gloomy at the bottom, such a huge difference from what we enjoyed all day.

Other than that, we spent some time in Garmisch-Partenkirche, the city our resort was in.  The city was hosting some kind of World Ski Event, so it was rocking with lots of people, live music, and street food.  We made it downtown a few times to enjoy it, and did some dancing right at our cabin.  Why not?

And, we made sure to follow one of the more important cultural traditions in Bavaria, beer and ice cream every night.  Not bad.

*Edited to add this great video Eric took as he, Claire and Mike took a run.  You can hear lots of wind.  Mike and Claire have plans to record a song to play over the video, but is hasn't happened yet.  I'll update if they get around to it, but the video is just too cool not to share right away.