Girls Day Out!

Eve and I had a fun girls day out today! She earned two tickets to Girls Expo from her cookie sales so we headed up there today to check it out. It was an expo alright, in the Exposition Center, with lots of booths selling stuff and lots of activities and lots and LOTS of girls! :)

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On the way in we had to pause and think hard about which way we wanted to go! Eve said, “It’s a good thing Grandpa Tom isn’t here!” :)

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Making a Bristle Bot with terrible instructions and incomplete parts.

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Fortunately Eve is a smarty and figured it out anyway!

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Checking out the gymnastics bus. Eve loved it! There were trampolines and bars and rings and lots of other gymnastics things in there. And no grownups allowed! :)

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Building a grow box. I think you’re supposed to plant seeds in it and watch it grow but Eve wants to just use it as a display box for her stuff.

I was surprised in this workshop at how many mothers did most of the project for their kids. I saw mothers opening the bags and spreading out the pieces while their daughters just sat there and stared. I saw girls running around while the mothers were reading directions and trying to figure out how to build the things. I saw mothers talking with each other and complaining that the instructions were too hard and didn’t make sense. Seriously, they were little wooden building kits. Eve did hers without even reading the instructions. Not really that hard. I helped her hold pieces together and helped hammer the nails all the way in, but otherwise she did it all while I watched the other people and realized that maybe the reasons girls grow up helpless is because their mothers are hovering over their heads, doing the work for them while simultaneously complaining how hard it is to follow simple instructions and hammer in a few nails.

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Painting canvas totes. Eve met her friend, fellow scout, and neighbor there and we hung out with her for awhile. Eve makes beautiful faces, doesn’t she! :)

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Back on the bus.

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Eve ran a pedal-powered blender and peddled her way to a delicious smoothie!

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We ended the expo here. These blocks are awesome and so fun to build with, but Eve was loopy and getting rowdy with them, so I decided it was time to head out.

We left the expo around 2:30 and headed out to do some clothes shopping. Poor Eve is wearing holey, too small clothes all the time these days! I figured it was about time to get the girl something that fits. We stopped for pizza along the way. There was a bakery next to the pizza place, so after lunch we went into the bakery to get some dessert. Faced with donuts and cookies and cakes and all sorts of treats, Eve decided she wasn’t ready for dessert and we left. I could have eaten everything in there, but I took advantage of her will power and we got the heck out of there!

We spent the next few draining hours at nearby outlet stores, trying on clothes and trying to be patient with one another. Neither of us really like shopping. Eve takes EONS in the dressing room then comes out dancing and singing and being totally useless. She argued with me about what fits (like too small overalls with no shirt – hilarious!) and I had to remind myself of the right questions to ask. Not “Do you want it?” but instead “Will you wear it?” Often the answer to those two questions was not the same!

After three stores and a big pile of clothes we decide to call it quits. We ducked in to a cute market and picked up some ice cream and chocolate, then swung by Dunkin Donuts for caffeine and bagel twists, then headed home!

Over all it was super fun and I’m so grateful to get quality one-on-one time with my growing girl. I am also grateful that tomorrow is a no plans day! :)

Belt Tests!

Lex and I had belt tests last night. Lex tested for (and got!) his solid blue belt and I did my first belt test and got an orange belt. Lex hasn’t tested since last October (an admitted oversight on their part) and he was very happy to be testing again!

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I love his concentration face!

Lex did several katas on his own. He is soooo brave!

The weapons katas no longer “count’ towards their belt progression, but they are encouraged to show them if they know them. Lex brought it!

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New belt, blue belt!

Eve is taking a break from karate this month while she’s doing Girls On The Run (they are on the same days and she was exhausted after doing both for awhile!) so she didn’t test today. She was mentally ok with it ahead of time, but kind of fell apart during and after the test. Turns out seeing Lex progress without her was harder than she expected. We talked about ways for her to catch up and I *really* hope she gets back to karate next month!

The kids’ belt test ran long, of course, so we ate a super rushed slice of pizza for dinner then hurried back to the dojo for my belt test! Fortunately there were only seven adults testing, not nearly 50 like the kids, and we were all very low belts, so the whole thing was over and done with in 20 minutes, not the two full hours that the kids’ test ran!

Eve and Lex, once settled after our rushed dinner, were happy to watch me and cheer me on. Lex wanted to make an iMove of it, but the iPad is old an out of space (sooo sad!), so he just made some videos on my phone. He is a funny photographer!

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Me in my white belt. I can’t deny Lex when he asks for a picture, since I take so many pictures of him! :)

That’s me on the far left, and my buddy Mike right next to me.

This is my first kata that I had to do all by myself!

I earned my first new belt! :)

I was so spaced and rushed (and hot!) after Lex’s test that I forgot to get a picture of him in his new belt. He took a picture of me in my new belt, but he didn’t get the belt in it and I look terrible, so you all don’t get to see it! :) But we got them and we are both very happy and ready to get started learning new katas!!

Reservoir

We had this reservoir that was so beautiful. The pond is surrounded by trees and there are trails all around. There is a cute little “house” in the middle, that (I think) was used to monitor water levels. My friend and I used to hike there a lot and on a Mother’s Day hike one year (OMG, look at how skinny I was back then!!) I even took an awesome photo there that ended up in the newspaper! Sadly the dam was structurally failing and there wasn’t enough money in the budget to fix it, so the town had to drain the reservoir. I stopped by there today to check it out and I was blown away with the changes! It looks so destroyed! So sad.

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There used to be water there.

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There used to be trees here.

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Panorama pictures are kind of weird.

New York City!!

Last Thursday night Alan told me that he may have to go to Melville, LI for a few days and maybe we could come along and spend a few days in the city. Friday morning he told me he definitely has to go and, oh, by the way, he felt terribly sick and stayed home for the day. I spent a flurried day Friday deciding if we wanted to go or not, what we would do there, what we would do with the dog and cat, and what happens if he’s not feeling better by Monday! Talk about a lot of mental energy expended, but in the end it was totally worth it!

I very quickly compiled a list of kennels and dog sitters, and just as quickly discovered that everyone is booked up due to it being school vacation week. D’oh! So then I found friends who were willing to take Arlo instead, and our neighbor kids agreed to check in on Daisy. I scoured the Internet for ideas of things to do with kids in NYC, downloaded subway map apps, figured out the LIRR schedule and how we could get ourselves into and around the city. All the while, gently and kindly asking Alan, “how are you feeling? let me know if I should cancel travel plans.”

Sunday afternoon he decided he was feeling up to the trip, so we picked up a few pizzas and brought Arlo over to yet another home. The poor dog must be so confused! These people live in the country (not like us big-city dwellers!) and had lots of room for him to play. They also have two TINY dogs, one of which is also named Arlo. :) Just the week before we had joked about them having the same name, but it didn’t matter because they would probably never meet, then here were were, introducing the Arlos.

Monday morning we packed up the car, stopped at CVS for medicine and neck pillows (Eve has been wanting one for a long time now!), then headed south.

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Happy travelers

When we got to the hotel we did our typical hotel stuff, swimming and cartoons! We went out for dinner to what I thought would be a nice sit-down Italian place (based on their lovely website), but which ended up being a fast-food pizza joint. The food was good, but the portions were insane! Lex and I both ordered personal pizzas and got 16″ pies! I told the waitress that we wanted personal pizzas and she said, yes, that was their personal pizza. Alan ordered chicken parm and got two huge pieces of chicken. Needless to say we had dinner for the next few nights!

The next morning we went out for breakfast (no free breakfast at the hotel), then dropped Alan off, then headed for the Long Island Railroad. I had zero interest in driving in the city, so the LIRR seemed like the best option. Also, kids love trains.

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Waiting for the LIRR

When we got to the city it was a bit drizzly and chilly, but not too bad. The kids were amazed with the size of everything and with the sheer number of people. I put the fear of God in them at the train station, emphasizing the importance of staying with me and NOT wandering off! They did amazingly well both days!

We walked from Penn Station over to the Empire State building, got a snack in the lobby Starbucks, then checked out the gorgeous lobby for awhile. Lex wanted to go right to the top, but I convinced him that it wouldn’t be much fun on a cold, rainy day. From there we walked up to the New York Public Library to check out the infamous lions. We had a great time at the library, mostly just trying to find the books. Seriously! We found books encased in glass, we found rooms full of books with the doors locked shut (but we could peek at them through the window!), and finally we had to ask at an information stand, “Where are all the books?!” The guy told us about a huge underground store of books under Bryant Park. “Cool!” we said, “how do we get there?!” Turns out the public is not allowed in there. We were laughing so hard! Lex said, “But where are the books we can read?!” and the nice man pointed us to the children’s reading room. Guess what we did once we got there?

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“The Big Nate section is as long as my arm!!” said a very excited boy!

After awhile I convinced the kids to stop reading so we could continue exploring the city. We headed over to Times Square and the M&M store. Times Square is such an amazing place. So many billboards, so much to see, so much to hear. It’s all overwhelming and cool and crazy and surreal. We were greeted by a wiff of chocolate as we entered the M&M store and the kids were in heaven. We browsed there for awhile, spent nearly $100 on candy, then headed to Ellen’s Stardust Diner for lunch. I’ve heard about this place and I knew they had singing waiters, but when we walked in and saw a guy standing on the counter telling jokes, I had to double check with the hostess that it was kid-approprate! :) She laughed and said yes, very much so. We got a table and discovered that not only did the wait staff sing, but someone was singing or MC-ing almost constantly and the sound system was very loud! I asked the kids a few times if they wanted to find somewhere quieter, but they said no and ended up loving it! We even stayed two songs longer than necessary because the kids were having so much fun!

From there we took the Metro (finally!) to Central Park. Actually, on the way to the metro we saw the Hershey Store and had to stop in there too. Now carrying well over $100 in candy, we headed to Central Park. I was planning to take them to the zoo, but by the time we got there they were slowing down and not interested in the zoo, so instead we wandered around Central Park for awhile, checking out the birds and the rocks and the trees. I love the juxtaposition of the beautiful green park with the big city buildings in the background. By this time the sky had cleared and the sun came out, and it turned into a beautiful day!

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Central Park. So beautiful!

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Fun in the sun!

The kids were tired, but Lex really wanted to go back to the library and finish the book he had started. My cell phone was about dead, so I thought maybe I could charge up at the library and see where the day took us from there. We found the books much quicker this time, but didn’t find any power, so after Lex finished his book and Eve announced herself too tired to read, we headed home. Metro -> LIRR -> Parking lot (where I discovered a parking ticket for parking without a permit!) -> hotel. Back at the hotel I fed them reheated pizza while they zoned out into the TV! Alan got back from work around 8:30 (they went out for dinner) and we all passed out by 9pm.

The next morning Alan agreed to drop us off at the train station (I had done some research on parking and don’t even get me started!) so we stopped at an awesome bagel place for breakfast take-out and headed for the LIRR. We all ate bagels on the train (with apologies to the poor people sitting facing us!) and discussed what to do in the city. It was beautiful and sunny, but still a bit chilly with morning air. We decided to start at Rockefeller Center (where the Lego store is) and go from there. It’s amazing how many different levels there are to the city! You see all the tall buildings, but there are also whole underground areas with stores and hallways and you can move from building to building and never really know where you are, then the subways below that, of course! We hung out in the underground Rockefeller Plaza (I’m sure there’s a name for that underground mall but I don’t know what it is), then decided it would be a good time to go up to the top! We got tickets, admired the amazing chandelier, appreciated the lack of crowds at 9:30 in the morning, and made our way to the Top of the Rock! It is so, so, so amazing up there! The views are breathtaking and just the immensity of the city is awe inspiring. Eve likes to pretend that she’s afraid of heights and fussed about going up, but when she got there she couldn’t get enough of it. She used up a bunch of quarters in the view-finders and made friends with the gift shop attendant, and kept going back to look at the view one more time. It was outstanding!

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On top of the world!

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Such an amazing view!

Back down and underground again, we wandered around looking for a post office and an exit. When we made it to the outside we found ourselves right in front of the Lego Store! Yippee, said Lex! I, however, had had enough of being indoors for awhile and insisted we wander around the exterior of Rockefeller Plaza for awhile, enjoying the flowers and fountains and weird swimming pool artwork and sunshine! They obliged for a bit, but soon enough we were in that Lego store, drooling over all the Legos you could imagine!

When I finally got them out of there we headed back towards Times Square, stopping to check out fountains and other public artwork along the way. It was lunch time, so we stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe, Times Square (definitely not a budget trip!) for lunch. The wait was almost an hour from when we got there to when we got food, but there’s so much to see that the time flew by! I felt a little guilty eating at such a pricey (and just ok food) place, but when the check came and I realized that we probably eat the cheapest things on the menu, I felt less bad.

After lunch we got on the red line and headed to the end, Battery Park! I was excited to show the kids the Statue of Liberty and thought maybe we could do a harbor cruise or the Staten Island Ferry for a closer look, but they had no interest in either. In fact, they really had no interest in the Statue of Liberty at all. They told me they already saw it (which is true, but look how little they were!) and that was enough. Next time we go I should take them to Ellis Island to impress upon them the history of it all. Or not. We’ll see. Instead we played at the playground there, played with a cool musical thing, fussed at mom a bit, then played at the playground some more. Good times.

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Monkeys on the playground at Battery Park. Statue of Liberty? Meh. Playground? Woohoo!

We decided to walk up through the financial district to a different playground that I had heard was pretty cool. I forget where I heard that, maybe random blogs or something, but we made the walk and discovered it wasn’t really very cool at all. Really my kids were just a little old for it and the day had turned chilly and we had turned tired. We got Starbucks along they way, ate snacks at the playground, played for a bit, then headed back to the metro for our final trip home. By this time, our fourth trip on the LIRR, the novelty of the train had worn off (though not the novelty of the arrival of the train!) and the kids were noses down in their devices for the whole trip home. I was ok with that. I drained the last of my cell phone battery coordinating pick-up with Alan and checking Instagram (a worthy use of battery, right?!) and we all relaxed for the ride home. Alan picked us up at the station and we enjoyed another evening of cartoons on the TV. Alan ate leftover chicken for dinner, and we both had room service (a super yummy veggie burger with arugula, avo, lettuce, tomato, and aoli sauce on an chiabatta roll for me and shrimp cocktail for him). The kids ate the remaining pizza in their TV stupor.

The next day, Thursday, we returned to the yummy bagel place for breakfast, then headed home! Another smooth drive. Another great vacation. These kiddos are awesome travellers!!

I started adding “just a few” photos here and ended up with nearly 50, so I thought it best to post them all to a web album and try to limit the number in the post.  Click here for LOTS of pictures.  I added captions to many of them, but you might have to click the little “i” icon to see it.  I hate the new Googles Photos thing.  I wish they would bring back Picasa.  That was pretty much perfect.

Anyway, not to end on a complaining note!  I am so amazingly happy that this trip all worked out.  That Alan’s company is so close to the city and so OK with family coming along.  That Alan got better (enough) to do the trip.   That Alan wanted his crazy family along instead of enjoying some quiet hotel time to himself.  That our friends were willing to take Arlo for almost a week on super short notice.  Everything seemed to fall in to place and I am so very happy that I got to introduce the kiddos to the great big city.  They both loved it, but also agree that we are happy living in Vermont.  :)

Google made a video for me with some of the photos.  You can watch it too, if you want.

A Birthday Weekend

We had a long weekend full of birthday fun for this growing girl.  Thursday night we went out to a fancy dinner at Jesse’s.  I encouraged her to pick somewhere other than the usual Panera Bread.  :)  I think we were all happy with her choice!

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How is it possible that she’s nine already?!

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Tic-tac-toe is always popular at classy places that give you crayons. :)

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Mema and Grandpa Tom came too!!

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I love this girl!

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This super silly girl!!

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The restaurant staff brought her a big birthday brownie sundae and sang her a birthday song. The best part is that our waitress was her teacher last year! A teacher that she loved. :)

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She and I shared this brownie sundae and together only got about half way through!

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We got distracted by the big rocks on the way back to the car. We were all a little hepped up on the excitement (and sugar!) of the evening!

The were pretending to be rock hopper penguins.

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The sign is so big! They were amazed! It does not look that big from the road when we drive past all the time.

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Strike a pose! It took us a long time to make it to the car. :)

Friday Aunt Rosy came to town and stayed in a hotel with a pool! Eve invited our neighbor to come along and we enjoyed pizza and swimming at the hotel.

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They played an interesting game of basketball in the pool.

On Saturday Aunt Mandy joined the party crowd. She and Alan took Eve out for a birthday lunch and bike shopping! Eve has been riding a series of yardsale bikes these past few years and although she loves them, we decided it was time to get her a new “from the store” bike that was just her size.

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Still pink and streamers though, of course. I wonder if she asked Alan to put her basket on it. She loved having a basket on her old bike.

We hung out, played, relaxed, cooked, ate a delicious dinner, then did presents and cake.

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One roller skate?! I wonder what’s in the next box!

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My last minute, on-the-fly, cake for Eve using box cake mix and leftover frosting. It came out delicious, with a mysterious hint of mint.

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Happy Birthday my big little NINE year old!

On Sunday everyone went home, I took a nap, and this happened! She has been wanting to color her hair for weeks now and has been asking me to take her to the store to buy purple hair dye. It never happened, but she mentioned it on her birthday list and Aunt Rosy delivered. I’ll have to dig up an old picture of Aunt Rosy with her orange hair sometime!

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We were going for just the tips, but I’m not much of a stylist and she’s a pretty wiggly customer, so it ended up being the lower three inches or so. Plus that part in the front that always hangs down. She calls it her “wish curl.”

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Punky Purple Curls! I wanted to take a picture of the ringlets, but she brushed her hair before I had a chance.

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She was pretty low-key about it last night. I’m not sure if she didn’t love it or if she just wasn’t feeling well. Along with all the presents she also got a nice head cold this weekend and her ears are full of sinus pressure. I’m curious to hear what everyone in school thinks of the purple curls today.

So that was Eve’s 9th birthday, plus her friend party from a few weeks ago. I feel like we’ve been celebrating all month and guess what just came in the mail?! A birthday present from Joyce. Let the celebration roll on!! :)

Happy Birthday 9th Eve!!

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Miss Eve celebrated nine big years today!  I have lots of pictures and it was a busy day, but this is all I’m doing tonight.  I love this girl more than the world, even when she drives me crazy, and I am so lucky to have her in my life.  Happy birthday baby girl!