Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hotel Helix

Hubby and I spent our anniversary in Washington, DC this year. When I have a little more time, I hope to write about it and show off some pictures from the famous landmarks we visited. I promised to post some pictures from the hotel we stayed in so I wanted to get those uploaded.

I was a little nervous about Hotel Helix - a Kimpton brand hotel that boasts itself as being a Hollywood style, luxurious hotel - since it was the cheapest place in the city but I decided I couldn't pass up the deal and booked it anyway. Luxurious was a bit of an overstatement but it was a semi-clean, boutique hotel located in a residential area. It's retro uniqueness made the experience fun and for only $83/night, we didn't have high expectations. I loved the lime green minibar, orange desk chair, and two bathrobes - one in leopard print, the other zebra print.

Although we spent almost an entire day without any towels and the hotel was a bit of a hike to the nearest Metro stop, at $83, I would definitely stay at Hotel Helix again.


Nicklas and Seeger participated in a wedding this past July and their gift for being such a great junior groomsman and ring bearer was a fishing pole for each. Since FIL is an avid fisherman, we asked him to take the boys on one of his outings. Nicklas has fished before but this was the first time for Seeger. Both were excited to spend the day with Papa and dad, myself, and Mimi decided to tag along. Papa has an acquaintance who owns a stocked pond a county over from us so we packed some charcoal, hotdogs, watermelon, chips, and drinks and headed off.

Nicklas caught the first fish.

I was hungry so I immediately went to work in making dinner. Seeger fished for a little bit before joining me.

Then it was his turn to catch a fish.

After dinner, the bites tapered off quite a bit so Papa and Nicklas drove to the other end of the pond to try their luck. They hit the jackpot and caught several walleye. Nicklas reined this one in.

As the sun went down, we decided to call it a day and head back to Lafayette. Right before leaving, I took this picture of the full moon rising. It was definitely a fun outing for everyone!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lafayette Zoo

The zoo at Columbian Park in Lafayette has been closed for renovations but opened again this summer. There are still some of the old favorites - the monkeys, a Lynx, and prairie dogs - as well as some new exhibits. I took the boys to the park last weekend and we decided to pop into the zoo and check it out. (There is no admission charge - bonus!) Walking in, there are several animal statues and I like how child friendly everything. There are also sprouting water fountains that brought out lots of piggy toes from little guests who wanted to play in the water. Here is picture of Nicklas doing a penguin impression.

The prairie dog exhibit isn't fabulous but they have added some tunnels for the kids to crawl through, allowing them to pop up into the actual exhibit.

There is also a butterfly garden which excited Seeger as he reenacts butterfly metamorphosis on weekly basis since learning about it in preschool last year. (He starts as a caterpillar, eating the leaves off my plants, turns into a cocoon by wrapping up into a blanket, and the popping out of the blanket and "flying" around the house.)

My favorite new exhibit is the petting farm. In this photo, Nicklas is running from the tractor that Seeger is driving.

Both boys enjoyed the petting zoo (although Nicklas was a little leery about touching the animals) which had a miniature horse, a pig, and several sheep.

There is still construction going on so we're anxious to see what other changes take place. Everything so far has been a great improvement and tribute to some of the special treats one can visit in Lafayette.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dollars and sense

First, I want to give a shout to my mom who is celebrating her birthday today. I called her this morning before I went to work, hoping to be the first one to wish her happy birthday but she was already at her work and had been wished happy bday by everyone there. Sorry I couldn't be with you today but I hope enjoyed the evening with Jon and Jake.

I love you Mommy!

With school in full swing (Nicklas had homework for the first time today!), Mike and I have been discussing what activities we want to put the boys in. I'm the first to admit that I'm a pretty cheap individual. I dislike spending money (unless I'm in a casino) and I try to be thrifty. I hope my cheapness isn't annoying to others. I try to hide it. I tell people I'm frugal. But really, I'm just cheap. Along those lines, I am constantly complaining about the cost of the kids activities. Swimming lessons for 6 weeks at the Y costs around $60/each. And they spend 80% of the time hanging on the edge of the while while the instructors work with other kids. I want to Nicklas in piano lessons but it's $15 a lesson. Soccer and baseball aren't too bad but now that Seeger is getting old enough to participate, I'm less excited about signing them both up for things but I just don't want to keep shelling out the money.
Nick's best sport is swimming and Mike and I think its important for both boys to continue taking lessons. (Maybe we've been watching the Olympics too much.) So it looks like we're going to have Nicklas go out for a swim team run out of Jeff High School. The callout is Monday. I know it's going to cost a fortune! I would have preferred to have him do soccer which is only $25 for the season but the games are held on Saturday's which means he'd miss most this fall since we bought him an IU football season ticket this year. I don't know how much the swim team will cost but I may nix the idea if I think its too much.

One very inexpensive activity the boys recently participated in this summer is Fine Arts Camp. This was the third year for Nicklas and the first year for Seeger. Held at the beginning of August and put on by a church in downtown Lafayette, they went to camp from 8:45 - noon every day for a week. At camp they participated in sessions like music, singing, dancing, and arts and crafts. On Sunday, the campers performed at the church service.

Here is a group shot.

Here is Seeger with the other preschoolers, getting ready to sing.

Here is Nick's bell performance.

And he also sang and did choreography. I see a future First Editioner!

After the service, there was an art show. Seeger made a flower and some sort of seashell/cement thingie. Nicklas painted a picture with a hockey theme and attached modelling clay in the shape of a hockey player to it.

Most summer camps run $100-$200 per child (See the side picture - Nicklas went to Y camp for $150) but the Fine Arts Camp was only $25 per child. What a bargain!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A key to a happy home is... organization?

With the start of school, I've been trying to be more organized with things. I feel like organization is the key to running a smooth household and maintaining a purposeful routine will be good for the boys. (We had a routine this summer but it consisted of lounging around, playing Wii, and the occasional visit to the pool.) My goal is to have all my dinners planned out for the week so I can instruct hubby on getting it started while I make my way home during the work week. (I feel like last year we spent a good portion of the evening deciding what to eat and if we had any activities outside the house, we usually ended up with fast food because we didn't know what options we had at home.) I've also created a daily schedule that outlines play time, dinner, homework time, reading, with some other activities sprinkled in. I want to make time for activities like game night, visiting the library, doing family sports activities, and visiting the park so I feel like having a schedule will help make this happen. It's only been a few days but so far it's going really well. Nicklas loves having a schedule to go by. I wasn't sure how hubby would like it but so far he's been great at playing along. I think he likes having carved out time for fun things too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mommy's little helper

Seeger has been a bit whiny lately. It's not his personality - usually he's a jokester who likes to make us laugh. But lately, not so much. I'm not sure if he needs more attention from Mike and I or if he's tired of everyone being home all the time this summer. I think it's a combo of both and with Mike and Nicklas back in school, he has the house to himself again. Hopefully this will help. I'm also trying to give him more attention but I definitely don't get to sit and play with him as much as I'd like to. As a compromise, I've been trying to involve him in helping me with the daily chores as much as possible. He loves to "help" carry the laundry basket, push the buttons on the washing machine, "wash" the windows, "sweep" the floors, etc. This week, I've also gotten him involved with dinner prep. Yesterday he set the table. Tonight, he helped cook.

First his choose our side dish, Lipton noodles. He filled the saucepan with water, got the margarine from the refrigerator, emptied the packet into the water, and helped stir.

He also chose which fruit we'd eat.

Since I was taking pictures of him helping, he decided to take a picture of his daddy grilling the pork chops.

I've found another benefit to getting him to help with dinner. It makes him more interested in the food we're trying to get him to eat. If he had his way, he'd eat the same thing every day - Life cereal in the morning, a peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich for lunch and macaroni and cheese with cut up hotdogs in the evening. But since we refuse to make his meals different from the rest of the family, meal times have been a bit of struggle. I continue to offer him a range of foods, even if he's turned certain things away before. Some days he won't like something and other days he will. We're definitely getting tired of hearing him say, "I don't like that!" Especially when we know he does. But at least we're hearing it a little less these days!

First day of school

School time is in the air in Indiana as retailers are promoting back-to-school specials, parents are shopping for school supplies, and the kiddos are trekking to their bus stops. A few weeks ago, Mike asked Nicklas if he was ready for school and he didn't seem that excited. But after shopping for his school supplies and clothes with the grandma's (between the MIL and my mom, I didn't have to buy anything for Nicklas except Sure-Lock ziplock bags - how awesome is that?!) he definitely was ready. Lafayette School Corporation had the latest start date but even though, August 17 seemed too early!

Nicklas attends Edgelea Elementary and they don't offer any time to find your classroom and put away your school supplies except the 25 minute prior to the start of school. Given that he had 3 target bags full of supplies in addition to his backpack, big Harry Potter hard cover book, and his lunch, I told him I'd bring his supplies for him. He wanted to ride the bus on the first day so he was picked up at 7:15 and I met him at school at 8:10. He was very excited to see his friends and he was anxious to find out who had been accepted into the Challenge program with him this year. He was happy to see the majority of his first grade class with Mrs. Cahill is now with Mrs. Snyder in second grade although two of his buddies are no longer in the program. He's going for the rocker look this year and has decided to spike his hair every morning. He was also excited to wear his Guitar Hero III t-shirt today!

Star Fling

Even though I haven't had a chance to do much quilting lately, I've spent the past few days planning my next project. Or I guess I should say the next group project. The MIL and I have decided to make a quilt to donate to a fundraiser in honor of Mike's cousins son - a two-year-old who is currently undergoing cancer treatment.

I've only made one other quilt for a fundraiser. It was for a Lafayette social service agency so it was easy to go with a Purdue theme. Deciding on a quilt for this fundraiser was a bit more difficult. It's taking place in Hazel Park, MI (Detroit area and hometown of the in-laws). We wanted to choose a pattern that was traditional and required a bit more skill. My quilts tend to lean toward modern/contemporary but we decided this probably wouldn't appeal to everyone. So we're going with old-fashioned looking pastel prints with a muslin background. My friend Christy came across this pattern (called Star Fling) that we chose.

I've done eight pointed stars before and they seem to be pretty popular in my quilts so I'm excited about this project. Because of our fabric choices, our quilt will look very different so it will be fun to compare the two. On Sunday, the MIL and I are getting together to start the quilt and we've invited our quilting friends to come and quilt with us. Hopefully they'll contribute some of their fabric to cause! We have less than seven weeks to complete this project so I hope we make some good progress this weekend.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Am I hugger?

I thought I was a hugger. Several years ago a co-worker informed me I wasn't one. I took exception. Afterall, she and a few others in the office gathered in her office, in private, for a big group hug EVERY MORNING. I thought it was a little weird. (Why else would they close the door, making the event exclusive?) So I considered her comment but dismissed it as coming from a hugger who passed judgement on all who weren't invited in to her special group.

But since then her comment has haunted me. I like to hug. I enjoy the act and it always makes me feel good to hug others. But I think I've come to realize that I make hugging much more personal than some other people do. Since the comment, I've studied the extreme huggers - those who hug often and indiscriminately. I often look at them with jealousy, wishing I could be so free with my own hugs. But I'm not. It's not natural to me. I limit my hugs to my husband and kids, my mom and dad, and those family and close friends I haven't seen or won't see for awhile. That's it. I feel a little sad and I'm sure I'll continue to envy those who hug more freely. Perhaps in the next few months, I'll make more of an effort. But I'm sure it will taper off and those comments from the former coworker will continue to bother me. So know this - if I hug you it means that I care a great deal about you and I'm happy to be a part of your life. And please feel free to hug me. Push past the 'no hug' vibe I give and hug away.

Hugs to everyone,

Saturday, August 16, 2008

hidden talent

Hubby has a great talent for singing along to songs. He LOVES music and always has his iPod on. This is often a good thing for me as I usually find an album that I like and I listen to it over and over again. So when his iPod is playing, I get to hear songs that I've long forgotten or new music I've never heard. When we're driving, neither of us is afraid to sing along. The problem - I'm terrible at knowing the correct lyrics. I always make them up. I'm like those guys in this Cingular commercial.

Hubby though, he always knows the words. I don't know how he does it. I can only properly sing along if I've listened to something repeatedly and repeatedly whereas he can hear it a few times and jump right in. And to his credit, he doesn't make fun of me or point out how off my rendition is. I'm off now to listen to the Fratellis For the Girl. I'm going to have to pull their lyrics off Google so I can keep up with hubby!

Friday, August 15, 2008

the boy knows how to follow directions

Nicklas just reminded me of a quick story that I had to share.... When he was in kindergarten, Nicklas went to the morning program and then was bussed to the YMCA for afternoon child care. It was a great program and he loved it, especially packing his lunch every day. For the first time, I didn't have much access to his lunch eating habits. I never packed a lunch growing up and I rarely do it now other than the occasional dismal Lean Cuisine meal. So I didn't really know what to pack or how much of it. It was tough for me because I didn't know what he ate, the order in which he ate, and how much he ate. I felt like I overpacked (better too much than not enough?) and after a few weeks of realizing that nothing ever came home, I became concerned about food getting thrown away. Always the frugal person, I cringed when he told me about uneaten apples and wrapped granola bars going into the trash. So I asked him to please bring home food that wasn't eaten.

So I shouldn't have been surprised when he came home the next day with yogurt all over the inside of his backpack. Yep, he's great a following directions. He ate part of his yogurt and put the rest in his backpack. It was my fault for not clarifying that he should only bring home food that hadn't been opened!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

NYC - Day 4 & 5

I know, I know - it's been awhile since I posted. I would have finished up about our trip to NYC sooner however I was in Austin and then Washington DC with only two days in between and very little computer access. (This helped a bit with my facebook addition however having the mobile application on my blackberry prevented me from going through total withdrawal.)

So day 4 of our trip was a big one. Hubby and I took the boys to the city to see all the sights. Seeger loved riding the train from Sayville to Penn Station, although didn't seem as impressed about going under ground into the city as I would have thought. I think he's just such a jet setter that it takes much more to make a true impact.

Upon arriving at Penn Station, we hopped on the subway to downtown and Battery Park. Our first site of the day was the Statue of Liberty. At my mom's advice, I prepurchased tickets online however I didn't do it early enough to get tickets for going up to the monument. So our tickets were for the ferry ride to Liberty Island where we could still walk around and see the Statue up close - we just couldn't go up. Last time I visited the Statue of Liberty (about 12 years ago), I was able to climb to the top of the crown and look out. After 9/11, they only allow access to pedestal. I thought the boys might be bummed about not getting to go up but after waiting in line to catch the ferry and seeing the second line for the pedestal, we were all fine with missing out this time around. It was a beautiful day and we took several pictures however my favorite is this one that hubby took from the ferry boat.

We were able to get a nice family picture with the Manhattan skyline in the back.

After eating lunch on Liberty Island and walking around for a bit, we skipped the tour of Ellis Island (I don't think the boys would have really enjoyed it) and headed back to Battery Park. In hind site, hubby and I decided we probably should have skipped the Liberty Island ferry and taken the Staten Island ferry instead. The boys still would have gotten a good look at the Miss Liberty and we would have avoided the expense and wait of going to Liberty Island.

I didn't realize it but Battery Park is now home to "The Sphere" sculpture that stood outside the World Trade Center until 9/11. We didn't make the trip to Ground Zero but I'm happy (and sobered) that we were able to see it.

From Battery Park, we took the subway to Central Park so we could hit up FAO Schwartz. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to see much of Central Park other than the stinky horses but Nicklas was exited to recognize the Plaza Hotel from one of his favorite movies, Home Alone 2. After grabbing some drinks, we headed to the big toy store which had lots of cool Harry Potter stuff (which Nicklas loved) but no Thomas the Tank Engine (a bummer for Seeger). Hubby and the boys rocked the house on the Big Piano.

We walked around the store and checked out the different areas and it wasn't until we got the candy section until either boy asked for something. Seeger's eyes lit up at the bubble gum so how could I deny him the 50 cent treat? Nicklas picked out some cotton candy and we left the store and headed to the Empire State Building. We debated on taking the subway but decided to try and walk the 25 blocks instead. It was hubby's idea to walk and he took the brunt of it by carrying Seeger on his shoulders for almost 18 blocks. He's such a rock star!

I had also prepurchased tickets to the Empire State building which unfortunately didn't mean we got to go up to the observatory any sooner than the thousand or so other people who were also visiting that day. I'm guessing we waited in line for about 2 hours but the boys did great and didn't complain at all about the wait. They are remodeling the 80th floor observatory so it was pretty crowded on the 86th floor. We were able to squeeze in and get a few shots of the city but miserably failed at getting a nice family shot.

We didn't spend nearly as much time at the top as I would have liked but with the crowd and evening time upon us, I was ready to get back to ground level and search for dinner. We made our way to Penn Station, stopping at Jack Dempsey's pub for dinner.
Hubby and I were successful in getting on the correct train the second time around however we didn't think about the fact that it was Friday and all the city folks were headed to the Hampton's for the weekend. Did you know you can openly drink beer on the Long Island Railroad? There was a definite party atmosphere and lots of confused people who kept stopping the train because they were missing their stop. But as it was our last day of vacation, we didn't mind the extra time it took to get back to Aunt Carolyn's. When we returned, the boys headed to bed and hubby and I enjoyed staying up to chat with Carolyn and Bob. It was a great visit and I'm always amazed at how much I enjoy family vacations with the boys - they don't fight or have tantrums and they always seem to enjoy the activities we do. We always end up having a great time. As they get older, I hope they continue to appreciate that we are able to have nice vacations.

Day five was Saturday. We woke up, bid farewell to Aunt Carolyn who had to go into work. We took a quick picture before she left.

Uncle Bob graciously drove us to LaGuardia for our 1pm flight. I started this post saying that Seeger is such a jet setter. Doesn't he look it in this photo at the airport?

We arrived all safe and sound in Lafayette that evening. Thanks again to Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Bob for having us. We can't wait to come back for another visit!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

NYC - Day 3

Day three was a nice treat for everyone. Aunt Carolyn volunteered to spend the day with the boys while hubby and I headed into the city for exploring. We had decided the evening before we just wanted to walk around the city and check things out and maybe also cross the Brooklyn Bridge. When we woke up that morning, it was raining and had been for several hours. We debated on taking our exploring inside to a museum but fortunately by the time we made it the city, the rain had stopped and the sun was peaking through. The trip to Manhattan from Aunt Carolyn’s consists of 90 minute train ride (with a transfer at Babylon) to Penn Station. Carolyn had given me a book with points of interest in the various neighborhoods. We did A LOT of walking – through Chelsea…

Through Greenwich Village…

Here we ate at Patsy’s Pizzeria where they seated us in a table at the window overlooking the activity on the street.

Through NYU…

Through Soho…

Through Chinatown…

Through the Lower East Side and the Civic area…

Finally, we made it to the Brooklyn Bridge! As we began our trek over the bridge, it was really neat to see the different views of the Manhattan skyline as well as Brooklyn. The bridge spans over one mile long and was pretty busy with walkers and bikers. We stopped often to take pictures and read the various plaques.

And finally, we made it across the bridge…

Once we arrived in Brooklyn, we decided to grab a drink and take a break. We found a café close to the bridge, ordered some drinks and dessert, and copped a squat on a grassy lawn of an apartment building next to the café. In deciding on what to do next, we were informed that we were sitting on private property (we also noticed a car parked at the building that had a license plate for “Supreme Court 1”). Cutting our rest short, we found the subway and headed back to Manhattan.

The night before, hubby and I had decided to see a show while in the city so we purchased tickets to Avenue Q. We took the subway from Brooklyn to 42nd Street and found the box office so we could pick up our tickets. After that, we walked around the Theater District and through Times Square and then headed over to 9th Avenue. We were tired from all the walking and decided to get a drink at a pub and then find a place for dinner. We found a cute little trattoria where hubby had lobster ravioli and I enjoyed chicken parmigiana.

After dinner, we headed to the theater for the show. Mike and I had been wanting to see Avenue Q since our last visit to Las Vegas. I used to do puppeteering when I worked in social work (I did puppet shows for children about recognizing signs of sexual abuse) so I was definitely interested in how puppets would be incorporated into a broadway show. And hubby was attracted to the “adult Sesame Street” theme. I won’t say a lot about the show. It definitely was adult, it definitely had a Sesame Street theme, and it was funny. It wasn’t thought provoking but it’s always nice to laugh. It definitely was a one of the kind show.

After dinner, we scampered to Penn Station, hoping to catch the 10:30 train back to Sayville, knowing we would have to wait a full hour before the next train. While we made the train, we realized we were on the wrong one and had missed our transfer in Babylon which caused us to wait for the later train, putting in Sayville the same time as if we’d had taken the 11:30 train. But after the day of walking, walking, and more walking, we didn’t mind the rest too much!