Thursday, July 31, 2008

Super Secret Adventure

Since Maddie is in Iowa this week with her Grandma Murphy, and I'm sure she's getting spoiled because that's what grandmas do, I thought it would be fun to do something special with Jake. So, I decided we would visit the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum (he's really the only one in our family that would be interested in this). I told Jake at the beginning of the week that on Thursday we would be having a "super secret adventure". He had several guesses: we were driving to Hawaii, we were going rock climbing at REI, we were going to the airport to board a plane for Hawaii (after we told him you couldn't drive to Hawaii). My dad came with us. I don't really know if dad is a huge Star Wars fan, but he is a museum fan. Being that I'm navigationally-challenged he probably also wanted to ensure that Jake and I actually arrived there and back.

So we headed to St. Paul and all the while Jake was trying to guess what we were doing. He didn't really guess until we got inside and he wistfully looked at the Star Wars banner and when I just nodded his jaw literally dropped open and he just said, "ohhhhhh...yeahhhhh."

We headed inside at our appointed entry time and at first I didn't think it was that big an exhibit. Then we actually started walking around and I realized - it's a pretty good size. We got to see the Millennium Falcon, whatever that "car thing" was called that Luke Skywalker drove, many of the costumes and models. I'm not a gigantic Star Wars fan (can you tell from the above descriptions) but it was pretty neat to see these things that are such a big part of pop culture history. Jake continually amazed me. I don't know that he's ever seen a Star Wars movie; I know he hasn't seen one when I've been around. But, he could name so many things - the ships, the characters, their weapons. At one point I was really excited to show him the robots that were so popular (and two of the few I actually recognized) so I said, "Look! Jake - there's R2D2!" He just looked at me and I swear he wanted to roll his eyeballs back in his head as he said, "Mom...that's C-3PO" Of course it was. But to be honest, from childhood I've never been able to keep them straight. The "beeper" and the "talker" is really the only way to clarify them in my head.

Throughout the exhibit they tied in fantasy robots with "real world" robots and the strides that have been made in prosthetics and medical procedures. Jake was able to "build" his own robot and program one to move. They did have a little hover-craft type thing that we got in line to drive. Jake thought this would be really cool - until we got to the front of the line and the guy said, "You can't ride because no sandals or open toed shoes are allowed." I explained to Jake why we had to get out of line. My dad just stared at the guy and pseudo-mumbled, "you've got to be kidding me." I agreed with dad - there was absolutely nothing a person could even get their foot caught on so it was kind of dumb. But - for anyone going, wear tennis shoes. I kicked myself because walking out of the house I almost had Jake change his shoes. But I thought, "these are artifacts worth a ton of money - what's he possibly going to be able to climb on?"

The exhibit actually took us about 2 hours to walk through. I'm pretty sure we saw everything. We didn't necessarily read everything - though dad tried his best. We spent another 45 minutes walking through a few other general exhibits and at 12:30 I asked Jake if we could please go eat lunch. Honestly, I was scienced out. But, rumor has it that my brother-in-law has some of these movies, so we may have to ask to borrow some and actually view them to complete this whole experience.

May the force be with me to get through them. (You knew that was going to be in here somewhere!)

Flipping Out

Yesterday morning Tracy and I met at the Cheesecake Factory for a fun and inexpensive lunch. They were having a special and their cheesecake slices were only $1.50. My parents took the kids and we had a nice leisurely visit. Ahhhh.....

Anyway, Tracy asked if I knew that Jake could do flips off the side of the pool. (She prefaced by saying she wasn't trying to get him into trouble for anyone already calling her a "tattle-tale".) The flipping thing was definitely news to me. She said she had watched him do it at my parent's house the night before when he was spending the night and they were over swimming. She said he was actually pretty good at it.

Forward to a couple hours later after I'd told Mike this interesting tidbit. So, we headed downstairs where Jake was waiting for me to join him out by the pool. I asked him if he had anything he wanted to show us that he had learned recently. He finally said, "um...I can do some front flips off the side of the pool." I asked how he'd learned to do those and he said, "Grandpa showed me!" Now, being that I haven't actually seen my dad do a front flip in recent years, I wasn't sure about the "showed me" part. Dad confirmed that the only reason Jake was allowed to do a flip off the side was because Jake had brought it up and so my dad assumed he was allowed to do these at our house. Dad also said that after a couple flips at his house Jake announced he was going to do a back flip. To which my dad said, "NO WAY! You can wait for your dad to be here for that!"

So, we followed Jake outside and sure enough, he was doing flips off the side. But he wasn't quite landing on his feet so being the responsible parents we are, we told him to get on the diving board and jump from there. So he did. And landed smack on his back. Oooohh....both Mike and I cringed when we saw that and Jake confirmed it by coming up to the surface and announcing loudly, "I am NOT doing that again!"

But, he did do a few more flips off the side and even tried the diving board again. Then a couple neighborhood girls (girls that babysit him...) came over in an offer to keep him occupied if they could relieve some boredom by swimming with him. Good by me! So, of course Jake had to show off his latest skills for them. After surfacing he started to climb out of the water and half his pants were down - tush exposed. Way to be smooth in front of the ladies!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wrapping Up Baseball Season

Tonight was Jake's last game. It's going to be quite something next week when Monday and Wednesday nights are FREE!

Jake did a great job tonight. Normally the rules only allowed the kids to take one base at a time, but tonight they let the kids run as many bases as their hit got them. Jake had some really good up at bat times. His second hit the ball went right toward first and he took off. He was safe - but barely. He couldn't stop saying all night, "I can't believe I was safe at first!" In outfield he played first base and managed to get catch a throw from infield and get the runner out! Then it was his last at bat. As a mom I sat there thinking, "Please don't let this be a bummer hit or getting out right away!" It was one of Jake's best hits of any game! Whew!

It's been really interesting to watch these kids improve over these last couple months! I know Jake has gone from barely being able to catch the ball to really going after it and sometimes even catching it! He's learned how to hit a ball the right way and how to throw and make sure the ball goes where it's supposed to. Now, I'm not saying the majors are calling us up tomorrow to recruit him, but he's definitely improved and he's had a ton of fun these last couple months doing it. We were really lucky in that he had three great coaches that took their time with each kid to help them improve, but were also really encouraging. The parents on the sidelines were the same way - no overeager parents wanting to jump down anyone's throats if the play wasn't great. I'm sure that will come in time, but it's nice to see good sportsmanship when you hear so many bad stories. It was really a fun way to spend an evening.

Afterward we headed to Dairy Queen where Jake was incredibly thrilled to get a MEDIUM Blizzard - not just a small! When Mike mentioned how great this day had been - he had a great game, and he got a medium Blizzard Jake said there was only one way it could have been better - if it had been a LARGE.

Walking up to the ball field we were the first to arrive. Jake had been practicing his slides at home - in the family room - and told us, "I think I'm going to go practice slipping on the dirt." So, while he's definitely improved this summer, there are still a few things to learn.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Batter Up!

Jake had his second to last baseball game last night. It was an unusual game though - it started out as a BYE. However, the coaches went around and formed another team - with the parents! So it was the kids against the parents (or in our family's case - the parents and grandparents!).

It was a blast! I wasn't sure how it was going to go - would the parents go easy on them? Would we go too easy? Would we forget that and go all out? So, I drifted out to the outfield and waited to see how it played out. Turns out it was a mixture of all that! Most parents didn't have mitts so they were trying to play with their 7 year old's mitt. Others bare-handed it. A couple parents caught some fly balls - one mom made a double play all by herself. In the last inning she one-upped herself by making a triple play by herself. I don't think that was intentional though. We were yelling for the runner to run back and she was trying to give him time, but it was either be obvious and stand right next to him and wait for him to move or get him out since he wasn't running back.

The kids got REALLY into - and I honestly think it was the best they had ever played! They got us out and really made some good plays. The kids even got to pitch to us which they thought was cool. Mike managed to get Jake out at 1st base - but Jake matched him by getting Mike out at 3rd a few innings later.

And, yes, my parents played too. Mom made some good hits - the first was a line drive that almost took out the 7 year old pitcher. Running wasn't so great for her. Sandals and she's still nursing a severe sprain from the beginning of summer. Dad managed to get a nice bunt - though I don't think it was intended. Hard to hit a slammer with a bat that is shorter than your arm. But, he did manage to eventually make it all the way around the bases which is more than the rest of us can say.

Nearing the end of the game, mom wanted to know who was buying afterwards. Dairy Queen...not beer (though that may have been welcome!) The kids led right up until the end and in the last inning they got us out and we ended with a tied game 12-12.

Unfortunately this was the one game lately that I haven't brought my camera so you'll have to take my word for how fun this looked and was! Afterward we headed to Dairy Queen and celebrated successes!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I See the Future - and it frightens me.

I have this scrapbook page from last year that I did. It shows Jake with my mom and his friend Rachel and I wrote how Jake has this ability to make girls giggle and follow him around. I've watched it happen since he was a baby - I'm not exaggerating. He'd sit in his stroller and I'd be shopping and I'd hear this giggling behind me and when I turned around there would inevitably be some lady - age anywhere between 15 and 65 giggling and smiling with/at him. Of course, he was a baby I thought, but it never really stopped as he got older. I've watching him just smile this shy little smile and shopping ladies fall for it.

So as he got older and began to play with the kids in the neighborhood he developed a great friendship with one of our neighbors' little girls, Rachel. They were in the same preschool class and get along great - he's often called her his best friend. Mike and I joke that we are going to get them betrothed. Then he went to kindergarten and he met another girl there. This little girl has a huge crush on Jake and he often sees her at Playworks (the gym) and they are constantly poking each other and hugging and I can barely separate them. So, of course Maddie constantly teases him about his "girlfriends" and Mike and I would joke that he seems to have a girlfriend everywhere we go.

I said we "would" joke. Now I'm not so sure we should be laughing; I think we should begin worrying about the teenage years. This morning Jake and I went to church and afterward ate breakfast outside on the lawn with a bunch of others after the service. Jake and I were sitting together talking and he mentioned that he was having trouble with the half-banana he had. Just as I'm about to reach and show him how to peel it, in swoops little girl #3. I kid you not - she wasn't even in my radar, but over she comes and without a word takes the banana from Jake and proceeds to peel it. She's six. She got done, smiled shyly at him and sat with her family. But, a minute later she was up and over near us and talking the whole time. Then she had a feather so she'd tickle Jake's neck with it and try to get him into conversations. He just went along with it all...just another day for Don Juan.

I think there's a part of Mike that is secretly proud of all this - I'd even venture that Mike eggs Jake on at times. As for me, I just shake my head and am truly baffled.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Camping Trial

Friday night was designated Family Camp Out night. The kids have been looking forward to this all month long - since they found out it was on the calendar. When it started pouring that morning they kept their fingers crossed it would end quickly. But each kid could only cross one finger - two fingers are considered bad luck. Superstitions haven't changed since I was a kid!

So, 5pm on Friday we were on vacation! We all helped pitch the tent. The instructions fell to pieces - literally - so we hope we remember how to do this in the future! It really didn't take us long to get it set up and the kids were in and out every two seconds! Mike and I honestly didn't remember our tent looking like this - it's been awhile!

Then we all headed inside and grabbed our gear: swimsuits, towels, cooler with all our food, sleeping paraphernalia (which included favorite stuffed animals and blankets). The kids soon found out that on a real camping trip they are going to have to be more selective with what they bring. Mike is trying to figure out how to get us all to give up our pillows. That's going to be a hard sell, but good luck to him.

We had a great dinner. Hot dogs fire roasted (a.k.a. cooked on a stick over the flames), some chips, pop, and s'mores for dessert. We sat outside until about 9:30 then headed into the tent for a couple rousing games of Skip-Bo (card game) and then a ghost story read to us by Maddie. It actually was a fairly good one and I was a little nervous Jake would wake up screaming, but they thought the ending was funny and not frightening. This was slightly disturbing to me because the end of the story was the girl and the ghost figuring out how to get revenge on the mom.

So this was our trial and I'd say we passed and we hope to head out to a real campsite before the end of summer. But in all honsety, this was the perfect set-up for me.

Tent - good.
Available, clean restrooms - check.
Private beach, no fish nibbling at toes - awesome.
Own campfire - great.

You just can't go wrong in your own backyard!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

You do the math

When I woke the kids up at 8:30am and Maddie saw me in my workout clothes she immediately started saying she didn't want to go to Playworks (the place the kids are allowed to play while I workout). She just didn't like Playworks because basically it is so boring. Now, this place has tons of computers with games, quite a few video games and a giant play-system that they can climb around on. I gave them options of either riding their bike around outside with me where it's hot for 3 miles while I walked or going there. She gave up and said she'd go to Playworks.

So I met my sister there to walk and was telling her about Maddie's laments. I told Tracy I thought Maddie was being a bit dramatic because whenever I pick her up she's either running around or coming up to meet me with a smile on her face. Tracy said she about to "out" Maddie if I fell for that because whenever she'd seen Maddie there it was pretty apparent Maddie was having fun.

So today I picked them up and there was Maddie telling me about the games she had played and so forth. It seemed like this morning was a success and she did "secretly" have a good time.

Jake waited until Maddie was finished with her story before he excitedly told me what he'd been up to:

"Mom! For half the time I played video games. Then I played on the computer for half the time. After that I played on the slides for another half!"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

S'more Fun for Us!

Tonight after I finished teaching and went to visit with Mike & Jake who were swimming, Jake asked if we could roast marshmallows. This had been sidestepped during dinner but when brought up again hard to resist.

So tonight we had good 'ol s'mores out back. Mike threw us both off by roasting 4 marshmallows at once. This felt odd to me, but he said he thought it was what we normally did. When he handed them over to me to put together I looked at him skeptically. We both realized we NEVER roast 4 marshmallows at once because they are impossible to split up after being roasted so each kid was treated to a s'more with four marshmallows. Talk about gooey! Needless to say, they were pretty excited about these treats!

Between bites we asked Madison to regale us with a ghost story from her recent slumber party. She had one ready and waiting. It went something like this (but longer...):

"A couple stayed at a hotel. In the middle of the night they heard faint singing, "we'll all die when the log rolls over!" They were scared and ran. As did three other couples afterward. The fourth couple heard it and investigated the attic. There they found a golden toilet..."

Does anyone see where this was going? Mike and I did and looked at each other shaking our heads.

"They found a golden toilet and 6 tiny ants. The grandma died from fright. The grandpa flushed the toilet and down went the ants."

This was followed by her bursting out laughing. Now, wondering if our nine-year-old really understood the meaning of "log" we asked - she assured us she did. So, we asked her to define it. She said, "You's that thing on the inside of the toilet that when you flush it goes up and down..." She was pretty proud of her answer. So then we actually enlightened her to the real meaning - well - that joke got a whole lot funnier! Jake just liked that we said the word "poop".

During all this Jake just kept eating -
and eating - and eating.
He got stickier and messier by the minute!
It looks like he's playing one of those "cat's cradle" games - doesn't it?

Maddie managed to keep most of the gook off her face.
However, her chocolate was melting all over the place. How it escaped from the pillow of marshmallow, I don't know.
But, by night's end it was all over her hands and her clothes.

And finally we were through the marshmallows. I totally disgusted the kids by taking the last two and roasting them, then catching them on fire and eating it. They both ran running telling me I was "totally grossing them out."

That designation and I wasn't even the one who brought up "logs".

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Trials of an Insomniac

I am a part-time insomniac. I can go a couple weeks and sleep great - in bed by 11:30 and up at 7:30 and I feel fairly rested. Then I will go into my insomniac phase and it will be a couple weeks of not actually falling asleep until at least 2am, only to be followed by constant tossing and turning until about 6am when I seem to magically drift off into an amazing sleep until 7:30. I'm in the latter phase of these two lately.

So Thursday night was a really bad night for me, but I got through and survived to Friday. I actually took a little nap Friday afternoon in anticipation of Maddie's slumber party and the late night sure to follow. But, Friday night I didn't get to sleep until about 3am and then tossed and turned. Saturday I was EXHAUSTED and my body basically told me sleep or get sick, so sleep I did - all afternoon.

So last night I went to sleep only to toss and turn. I got up and played on a computer game which sometimes makes my eyes tired enough to fall asleep. Not last night. Then I tried the next trick which is flipping my head and feet on the bed; my head ends up next to Mike's feet and my feet near his head. The first couple times I did this and Mike woke up in the middle of the night - he was a little startled - but now he's used to me. Still, my tricks weren't working. I think I finally started to doze off around 3:30am - that was the last I remember seeing the clock.

At 4:12am there was a knock on our door. I got up and stomped around the bed to get to the door thinking, "this better be really good to have woken me up when I was just falling asleep." Jake is standing there and I still can't believe what he said to me:

"I can't sleep."

I stared at him open-mouthed for what seemed like a minute but was probably 5 seconds before I blurted out that I'd been having the same problem for the past five hours. Then I told him to go back to bed and stare at the ceiling until he fell back asleep. I stomped back to bed, mumbled some choice words and plopped on the bed. I must have at least made a huge impression on Mike because on the next sound that came from the hall (Jake again) I've never heard him move so fast. I chose to ignore it all. At that point I didn't care where anyone slept as long as everyone was just sleeping.

Friday, July 18, 2008


"Poor Jake." That went through my head about a million times last night. Maddie had her friends over for a slumber party. Jake was looking forward to swimming (probably looking forward to showing off for the ladies - he is a bit of a Romeo). He also wanted to watch the gift opening, eat pizza with them, and generally be involved. I don't know to what degree Maddie thought this was a good idea, but none of it came to fruition because of that darned strep throat diagnosis.

The doctor had told us that we could still have the party as long as he stayed away from the girls - upstairs was the best place for him if they were downstairs. So, when our first guest arrived, I shooed Jake upstairs and followed him up to get on the computer. He was in heaven - I think he spent about 2 hours playing on No - normally this isn't allowed, but whatever kept him occupied and happy while he missed flirting and partying, I was okay with.

Then dinner. These little vultures ate 2 family sized pizzas...5 girls! There were 3 small pieces left; we expected to have lunch completely covered today - Think. Again. Jake gave us his saddest eyes and asked if he could eat dinner with the girls. I said it wasn't possible, but he could eat in my room on a tray watching a movie with pop. Tray/pop=happiness and so all was right again. That and he got Chicken Noodle Soup which Grandma Murphy assured him Thursday night would make him feel better. (He was also very excited when she told him he should eat lots of popsicles - what better remedy than that?)

So, Maddie had a delightful party - estimates are that they were asleep around 2:30am. Jake survived the quarantine and I think we are all taking a nap today.

Middle of the Night Heart Attack

A couple days ago Jake complained of his stomach hurting. But, he didn't feel sick - like pukey, just his stomach hurt. It lasted a couple hours and he was out playing ball and with friends shortly after that. Yesterday morning I banished the kids to their rooms to clean the messes; I wanted to be able to see their floors again. I went downstairs and started cleaning up the messes down there - the house has been neglected lately.

Maddie came down about 30 minutes into cleaning and said, " should see Jake..." and I cut her off by asking if she was about to tell on him to get him in trouble. (She's been doing that A LOT lately.) She said no and started laughing and told me to come upstairs. Well, it was about 9:30am and we walked into Jake's room to see him curled up on his bean-bag chair with his favorite blanket draped over him and he was sound asleep.

So much for cleaning, but I figured the few late nights he's gotten to have lately had caught up with him. During lunch I looked at him and he looked exhausted; Maddie looked a little tired too, so I informed them that it was mandatory nap afternoon. Jake didn't bawk at all - Maddie put up a slight fight, but not much (especially after I promised her I would take one too - she definitely didn't want me to be having any fun if she was asleep!) On the way upstairs Jake said, "Wow! I am a tired boy today! You might just wanna check on me a couple times because I'm going to be WIDE ASLEEP!" And he was out in a matter of minutes and slept for over 3 hours only to wake up crying because his stomach hurt. I called the doctor because this was weird for him and got him an appointment for this morning at 8:30am. The rest of the day was fairly smooth - no further complaints from Jake.
Forward to 3:45 am. I woke up to a blood-curdling scream. I've never heard either kid like this and I bolted up and tried to get coherant. I shoved Mike in the back who woke up thinking a burglar was in our house and he's jumping around. By this time I'm around the bedroom and running down the hall yelling for Jake that I'm coming. In those 10 seconds all I could think was that he had an appendix rupture or something - not any good thoughts, I assure you. Turns out it was a really bad dream mixed in with a 100.4 temp. Not terribly serious for temps, but it took about 10 minutes to get him calmed down. Only to repeat the procedure less than an hour later, only this time he was crying on the steps, and another 30 minutes later he was in the bathroom crying. I finally gave up and slept next to him on the bed until Mike got up around 6:30 for work.
So, I was very happy to hear at 8:30am that he had strep (only because it's fixable)! I was pretty sure after he said good morning to me that he had it - he's definitely got that "strep" voice! He's spending the day lounging on the couch and thinks it's totally cool that we're letting him watch movies all afternoon AND he got out of running a million errands with Maddie and me.
Maddie has her own set of problems though - Wednesday she fell and scraped her knee pretty good on the road. We managed to clean it up and it's starting to scab. But, this morning after delivering the mail to the mailbox she came in crying. Seems she stubbed her toe on the road outside and took off an amazing chunk of skin. Her birthday slumber party is tonight complete with swimming. Mike told her she should sit and do nothing until then so that she lives to see it. It seems like everyone's falling apart!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Digging It!

Jake had his birthday party this past Sunday. Never mind that his birthday was in December. He never had his "friend" party then so that he could wait until summer and have a pool party. He had a great time and everyone was so thoughtful with gifts!

One gift was a digging for dinosaur bones kit. He received a plaster block that had bones buried inside. It came with a digging tool (a big and small scraper) and a brush. Maddie has been itching to get at this gift and they finally got started this afternoon after lunch.

I anticipated a bit of a mess so I advised the kids to take this small, innocent block of plaster outside to the table on the deck. We laid out a few newspapers to catch the bits of plaster. These turned out to be completely unnecessary because they were completely worthless. Maddie and Jake started digging/scratching and then would brush away what was left - dust.

After a bit Jake's friend, Jacob, came over and he started to help. Eventually Maddie went to play with Rachel and the boys took over. Soon Alex joined in and the three boys were gung-ho to get this dig accomplished.

These three pictures were less than 15 minutes into the dig!
Words cannot even describe what a mess this stuff produces. Our deck was unbelievably dusty/dirty. There are plaster dust footprints everywhere. Our patio door is covered with hand prints. The deck has actually changed colors around the perimeter of the table.

This was not an accidental pictures of the deck - this is a partial sample of what the two colors were!
That's just the outdoors that I can spray clean. The kids? Whoa. About an hour into the dig I patted Jake on the belly and a puff of dust exploded around him; his friends were in no better condition. Shortly after that they all came in and pulled out Jake's safety goggles from his tool kits. Before these boys left I actually called their moms to warn them; I know I'd wonder what they'd been into if it wasn't at my house and I hadn't been watching. They. Were. Filthy. In fact, they had changed color. It was in their hair, all over their faces, their legs and arms. I'm fairly certain it even made it down their underwear.

But this was so fun. Fun for them, and so fun to watch. With each bone they uncovered it was like they were real archaeologists. A couple of them would hop up and down in excitement. Another would shout, "found another bone!" When it was time to "clean" the block, the cleaner yelled, "TIME TO BLOW" and they all leaned back and he let out a gust of wind. They had all the bones neatly brushed off and laid out on a separate chair that was surprisingly clean. And amazingly there were only one or two spats of whose turn it was to do whatever job. They were getting along great! The only drawback was not enough digging equipment; we had to pull out toothpicks. I would have handed out plastic knives, but I thought that would bring a set of phone calls when they ran home telling their moms they "played with knives at the Murphy house." Unfortunately I didn't get an after picture before the boys left. Needless to say, Jake went straight to the garage and stripped down to his undies (the only reason those stayed on was because he didn't want to run through the house naked.) At a little after 4pm in the afternoon he was in the shower.

To be honest, I had reservations that this toy would provide any entertainment. I was so wrong. It managed to keep three boys and three rotating girls completely absorbed for almost four hours straight. This stuff is the "Dino Excavation Kit" sold at Pottery Barn Kids and I do believe we are going to be buying out any remaining stock so if you are interested - get there fast.

Check one off the Bucket List

With my dad's recent motorcycle purchase, I've realized that one of my "goals" in life can finally be accomplished! Originally, my goal was to go on a motorcycle ride before I finished college. Believe it or not, I didn't know anyone in college that owned one, and when a friend finally did show up with a borrowed one, I had a friend visiting from out-of-town that I thought it would be rude to leave. That and the fact that it was borrowed - he didn't ride it regularly - made me say no to the offer. Good thing: he took another friend out and they ran out of gas and didn't return for about 3 hours.

Anyway - Last night after dinner at my parents I got a ride around the area. After finding which helmet fit me (apparently my brain isn't large enough to warrant an X-Large size helmet) we were ready to go. Mom, Tracy & Mike were all giving me instructions on what to hold on to and as we are pulling out of the driveway I heard my mom yell, "Just relax!" Apparently I'd been sitting stiff as a board.

But, it was easy enough to relax as we got going. Very fun! Dad did great - took me on a few side streets and stopped to make sure I was okay. I was great! It was so fun! Then we went on a few bigger roads. Basically we rode around for about 20-25 minutes. How fun to just sit on the back and get to look around!

When we got back the first thing Mike said is, "Well - you look a lot more relaxed than when you left." Grandpa parked the bike and Maddie & Jake hopped on to pretend they were driving. They begged for rides and we assured them they could have them - when they turned 16 and were much taller.

So,though my "bucket list" isn't officially written down - there's one thing I can finally check off! Thanks, dad!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Here Fishy, Fishy!

Today Mike and I spent some time trying to figure out what we could do today that would require us to spend some quality time together as a family. Our options were the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum (only Jake would LOVE - and almost a hundred bucks), fishing, or hanging out by the pool all day. Option 3 sounded great, but we are going to be hanging out all day tomorrow for Jake's birthday party so we decided on fishing.

We printed out the licenses, headed to Walmart to pick up some cheap poles for the kids and some worms and headed to a pier in Prior Lake. Only we go there and there were absolutely no places to park. It wasn't busy; there was just literally no place to park - none even existed. And we couldn't park on any side streets within walking distance of this deserted pier because all the neighborhoods apparently lobbied to get "no parking" signs. Now we know why the pier was deserted.
So we headed to O'Dowd lake in Shakopee. There were a few more people on the dock than Mike or I would have preferred being that this was the first time our kids had actually thrown lines, but what can you do. One by one those fishermen disappeared - no doubt fearing for their safety. We set to work.

Jake was the first to catch a fish and was he ever excited! Literally jumping up and down pumping his fists in the air. At that point I said a prayer to God that if he let Maddie catch just one fish, I wouldn't care if I ever caught a fish again. After awhile Maddie did catch her fish - and then some. She was the winner this afternoon with 14 fish total - though after seeing the first fish up close she screamed and ran. I could barely get her in the frame for her picture. Jake & Mike tied at 4 fish each and I came in with a whopping two (but they were good fish).

We spent about 4 hours out there and I think Mike and I only really fished for about an hour total. The rest of the time we were freeing fish or baiting everyone's hooks. Yuck. Maddie had to go to the bathroom halfway through and we headed to the local golf course to use their facilities; I managed to swipe some paper towels to clean our hands. Of course, Jake had to go after we got back. Mike took him to the woods and showed him how lucky he was to be a boy. I think he thought that was pretty cool.

So, family day accomplished and we all had a blast and lots of stories - true or not - to tell!

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Look!

I was recently at a Bunco party; some of the ladies in my neighborhood meet once a month to play and gab. Anyway, this one was more gabbing than playing and two of my neighbors and I all started talking about our blogs and Jessi mentioned how a lady had given her a website that explained how to customize the look of your blog. Jessi is starting a new business (see it here) for party supply collections she's designed and is really busy so she didn't have the chance to redo her website, but said the directions looked really easy. Kristy and I were all gung-ho to give this a try.

I've been working on this for two solid nights at least. Last night was me basically begging Mike for help. I just couldn't figure this HTML stuff out and what I wanted wasn't working. He informed me that he didn't know anything about it and I told him he absolutely did and if he'd try I knew he'd figure it out.

I love being married to such a computer wizard! I think he actually relished the challenge of figuring this stuff out and I was so excited when he did. Then I changed one little number on the HTML stuff and a whole new set of problems appeared. I was deathly afraid to press my luck, but after the fifth loud "sigh" from me he finally broke down and asked what the problem was. Then he came over and was able to tell me how to fix that one too in a matter of minutes.

So now this blog is truly a work from both of us. And driving home last night he was making fun of me again - this time for how I talked (being from Minnesota). But, since he was so incredibly great about helping me, I'll leave any further postings of high school pictures for future revenge.

Happy 9th, Madison!

Today was Maddie's birthday and it started out with a request for breakfast in bed. She said she actually woke up around 6am wondering if she would get her wish. How could we refuse? Actually, Mike wanted to hold breakfast off as long as possible to see how long she'd stay in bed before finally coming down to eat with us. We didn't though - 8am we woke her up and she got pancakes and grape juice.

I know a lot of you parents are thinking, "grape juice??" Yes, and I was holding my breath the entire time waiting to make the leap to catch it before it somehow tumbled off the tray and stained everything. Luckily that didn't happen because as she opened her gifts I said, "watch your elbow" about every 5 seconds.

Breakfast was accomplished while opening gifts. Yesterday about killed her because she received about 5 cards in the mail and already had a package from Grandma Murphy waiting for her that we didn't let her open. The suspense was awful and, of course, we couldn't help but wonder about what was in that darn gift for a couple days to torture her! Jake got her a Generation Doll outfit which she was very happy to get. She wanted to hold off on the gift from Mike and I until the family party Friday night. But, an hour later she couldn't stand it and begged to be able to open that one too. It was a Generation Doll Beauty Shop Chair. Can you sense a theme here?
After gifts Maddie's only other request was a trip to Petland. She wanted to play with some of the puppies there. She swore she had done it before with her friend, Rachel. I honestly didn't believe they would just let us play with a puppy without some kind of assurance we were seriously interested in buying one (which we aren't)! But, sure enough, once there they asked if she wanted to play with one. She picked out some small dog that I can't remember the breed of. But his name should be Kujo. That dog was a lunatic. He was all sweet at first, then he turned into Jaws. Snapped at everything. Maddie and Jake ended up standing on the bench so the dog couldn't get to them because he either scratched or nipped at you. Then he latched onto my capris and I honestly could not get him off. I don't even know how I managed to get him loose finally, but of course the salespeople had all disappeared and I was going to feel really stupid standing on the bench as well. So I kept my large red purse between me and Kujo and I think my purse suffered. Finally we escaped him and I thought we were in the clear.

Then they offered to get a second dog and Maddie picked out a little dog like what is on the Taco Bell commercials. Only this one was a chunk. Since I wasn't using my purse as a defense mechanism I was actually able to get the camera and take a picture of the kids with this dog. He still nipped a bit, but was more careful to keep it to the sandals. Jake loved this dog. Maddie did the inevitable and asked if we could buy him. I said, "sorry - but dad's allergic to dogs."
Now, this is our saving grace. My mom never wanted a dog, but frankly, she was ransacked; four against one and she lost. For us it's two against two and we have allergies on our side. But the saleslady was so helpful to let us know that there were hypoallergenic dogs that wouldn't be as bad for a person with allergies. I just looked at her and said, "huh..." but I hope she read it as "you are absolutely NOT helping...walk away." Luckily no child asked what hypoallergenic meant.
After that it was pretty anti-climatic. The sky turned green, the sirens went off, Maddie and Jake were both really scared and wanted to be in the basement. Maddie informed me this storm was ruining her birthday. 15 minutes later the sky cleared up and she saw the sun and the day was back on. Dinner was at Applebee's where they sang to her and we were home and in bed around 10pm.

There's still a family party and a friend party so she's got lots to look forward to, but hopefully her actual day was full of some great memories.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Slow & steady wins the race...but is so frustrating!

Tonight was baseball night. I have yet to bring the camera to one of Jake's games - this is shocking to me that I keep forgetting it, but I do. So a post in the future will actually discuss his game skills. Tonight we are going to discuss speediness - or lack thereof.

In my family we often joke about Jake living in "Jake's World". He moves at his pace, when he wants and you CANNOT rush him. It's next to impossible. You can prod, you can strongly suggest he move faster, and in a real pinch you can get irritated and loudly tell him to move his rear. Rarely does it produce results. He'll turn around and tell us that he just doesn't like to rush. He's even told us it's unhealthy to rush.

Before leaving for baseball one of us takes Jake aside and calmly discusses how he needs to move a little faster when playing. He can't saunter in from the field when they change innings. If his coaches say "hustle" that means "move fast". We've even defined "fast" for him. It just doesn't matter. During the game as he meanders out to field we'll yell, "Jake - get a move on!" He just looks at us like we are speaking a foreign language.

ONE day my efforts paid off. I explained to Jake how if he is the last off the field, he'll be last to bat and may not get to bat that inning if they get all the outs. For that one game he actually ran in from field and the first inning change I was shocked and thrilled! Not ten seconds after the kids were in the coach decided this was the game he was going to produce a list with an actual order to batting - guess who he put last?!? I kid you not - Jake ended up last in the batting order that day; this did not produce the see-what-happens-when-you-move-at-the-world's-pace lesson I had hoped to get through to Jake - and we are back to lolly gagging.

However, he does actually run around the bases so we know he's capable of that action. I guess we'll have to be happy with that for now.

Some people hope for world peace - we'll keep hoping for world pace.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Photo Shoot

This past weekend we headed to the Minnesota Arboretum to try my hand at taking family pictures. I think it went fairly well; I still have many things to learn about taking pictures, but each time gets better. I remembered my tripod and even brought a comb to fix hair. The comb was never used, but the tripod worked great!

There were several visitors and I'm sure they got a good chuckle out of watching this whole escapade. Here's how most shots worked: I advised everyone where/how to stand. Then I told them where to leave room for me. I focused and hit the picture button that set the camera for taking a picture in 10 seconds. That may seem like a long time, but when you have to run 20 feet (barefooted!) it gets a little crazy. Then after running I wasn't supposed to look haggard or have my hair out of place - oh yeah, and smile. This produced a great deal of work on my part - and a little sweat. At one point I set up the shot and took off running only to have a car drive by. The passenger leaned out the window and offered to take the shot. Being "Minnesota Nice" I didn't want to be rude and ignore her, so I kept jogging and tried to answer over my shoulder that we were good. You would think this routine would have made my kids laugh and produce these fantastic smiles. Nope. They are used to their mom being just this weird.

So, here's some pictures from our time at the Arboretum. You can double-click on the slideshow to see it bigger. Sorry for the last few with just us and the kids separately. The file size was too small to produce good pics and I'm too exhausted trying to figure out how to get this slideshow done. I guess I better add "computer work" to my list of how to make a better picture.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer Must-Do

I'm not totally sure what the appeal is for kids to wash cars, but I remember loving to do it too. I guess it's the getting hit by the water spray and the suds and, of course, revenge on whoever did it to you. Last week out of a necessity to cure boredom I offered our cars to the kids to clean and they took the challenge.

Mike's truck had made a recent visit to the dump and was very muddy. They took on this vehicle first. I think this is also the first time either has washed a car so I coached them through the process. I think it took 30 minutes for them to get the first side "done" - and I use that term very loosely. I believe Jake spent 10 minutes on one spot - and really didn't accomplish much. Maddie wasn't much better. She didn't like her sponge to get dirty - that presented quite a problem when she was put in charge of getting the mud off the bottom of the door.

Eventually both kids were getting into the spirit and water revenge began.

I think this was after Maddie had "accidentally" sprayed Jake with water. Soon both kids realized how much they loved spraying the water rather than using it to actually wash the car. The result was often one of us screaming. Yes, I mean "us". I was standing around in my non-car-washing clothes and managed to get wet too. Mostly because whenever the kids dropped the hose, it would land on the handle of the sprayer and suddenly we would have a gusher of water flying up into the air. The first time this happened I was completely unprepared - I was just about to take a picture and Maddie threw the hose down. We both screamed - I ran for the side of the house and she ran down to the street. After that I made sure to yell a warning - from far away - when I knew they were going to be done with the hose.
Jake was Jake. He managed to get some suds in his hair and decided to take it to the nth degree. I just cringed. You have no idea how dirty Mike's truck was.

After awhile they decided Mike's truck was finished and started on mine. But, the fascination soon wore off and halfway around my car they said they were tired of car washing. However, I didn't want a car that was only half "clean" and told them that if they committed to doing something they had to finish the job. Can I find a lesson anywhere or what?
The results? When Mike saw his truck he asked me, "did they really clean it?" The quarter inch of mud had been removed, definitely. But what was left in it's place was a million dried-up water droplet spots. My car hadn't fared much better. The sun roof is actually more difficult to see through than it was before they "cleaned" it.
The things parents will sacrifice in the name of relieving summer boredom!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy Birthday, America!

What a great day! The early part of the day everyone did their own thing - Mike worked in the basement, I worked on some of my projects and the kids played with friends. At 3pm we headed over to my parents' house for a BBQ and some swimming.

My parents' are professional pool accessory collectors. When the kids arrived they immediately asked grandpa to blow up the large whale - I didn't even remember my dad having this, but out it came. And grandpa kept them rocking -and tipping - for quite awhile.

After swimming we had a delicious meal that mom and dad prepared. Maddie and Jake had received that mysterious note to head to the library and when we got there the librarian had a message that they were supposed to get a magic book and learn 3 tricks each by the end of the week. The kids provided the after-dinner entertainment by performing one trick that they had each learned.
Maddie had her wrists tied together and after saying the magic words "abracadabra - peanut butter" she was able to make a bracelet that I had handed to her appear linked on the rope!

Jake amazed us by pouring water through a tube and into a cup - but the cup was empty afterwards! Then he poured the water out of the tube and into a separate cup and it had turned green! We were all impressed but they stuck by the magician's creed, "never tell your secrets" so we don't know how they did this!
We got home, changed and the kids lit some sparklers and ran around - then we headed off to watch the fireworks at Valleyfair. Mike was able to find a parking lot that we had sat in a couple years ago. We liked it because it was quiet - there weren't any people around us so the kids could run around while we waited and there were no smokers like last year! As a bonus it's way faster to get out of this area than where we were last year.
By nights' end Mike was miserable from being around dust and outside all afternoon so he headed inside and the kids and I walked down the road to see some fireworks that the neighbors were shooting off. By the time we got back inside, took some showers and watched more fireworks from our room it was 11:30. And Jake summed up the night by telling me before bed, "I love the fourth. I really enjoyed it. Happy Birthday, America."

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Maddie asked me awhile ago if we could have another Girl's Night Out. I saw that the American Girl movie was going to be coming out soon and so we decided we would go see this. Maddie invited all the girls in our family that were old enough to sit through a movie. Mom and Tracy were available but Kelly had to work. It will probably be awhile before Maddie's female cousins are able to join us!

We started with dinner at Applebee's. While it was nice to eat out, it certainly wasn't the greatest service. It took almost a half-hour to get our food out and when we did we had about 15 minutes to eat before we had to leave. On top of that my mom's steak (which the waitress explained was the reason our food took so long - to fully cook it) was very red on the inside. Mom's not really fond of red meat and as Tracy said, "she took one for the team" and ate around it and we all shoveled the dessert in and headed out.

After that it was to the movie. Shakopee theater is great in that no one really ever goes there. I feel bad for the owner - I'm sure he'd appreciate a bit more patronage, but when you want to see a popular movie, you can generally count on not having to deal with crowds here. There couldn't have been more than 30 people in the whole theater.

It was a good movie. I highly suggest it if you have girls - or grandmas. My mom was crying at the end. I even had some welling up in the eyes. But most important Maddie had a great time hanging with the girls.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pseudo-country living

When we first moved to Shakopee, there were a few things we had to get used to. One is the wind. It is so windy here. We are constantly battling this regarding the pool - the cover blows into the pool every couple weeks. We've learned to collapse all outdoor chairs before heading inside for the night.

Another thing we had to get used to - and one we still struggle with if the wind is blowing just right: the smell of fresh air. And I mean fresh...cow fresh. Manure fresh.

But with this comes a couple things that I'm sure won't be around forever and a few things I'm sure we'll miss someday; I know I will. We have farms relatively close to us. So, it isn't uncommon for us to be driving down the road whenever and see how all the cows are doing at the corner farm. And it's a thrill each time the kids pass the horses; they never get tired of it. Today we saw the two horses out and when we got home the kids wanted to walk over and see them. I think it's cool that we can walk over to see horses!

Unfortunately they can't touch the horses. There's an electric fence that runs along the top of wooden one. I've often wondered if it really does run electricity or if it's just for show, but I'm not about to try it out. I'm also not about to verbalize my curiosity because there are those of us who would go ahead and test the theory. Jake is his name and while he's come close to maxing his deductible for medical stuff I'd just rather we stayed under the limit.
But, it's still fun to walk over, visit and walk back. Even if, occasionally, we do have to hold our nose while doing it.