Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween!

Well, we survived another Halloween!  It's been a crazy week, but we did it...pretty well, in fact. 

On Wednesday we carved our pumpkin.  Jacob did a pretty good job this year of helping scoop out the seeds.  The pumpkin was rotting a bit on the inside, which was a bit of a bummer, but we got it cleaned out, cut a face (complete with a mustache, as suggested by Jacob), and cleaned up relatively quickly.  Carter sat and watched us, but when we turned the pumpkin around so he could see the face, he started saying, "No, no, no!" in this sad little voice.  For some reason it creeps him out, I think!  He kept saying "bye-bye" to it too, which I think was a hint for us!  I did move him outside as soon as I could.  

I found out Wednesday, too, that Jacob's class was not only going to be frosting cutout cookies, but they were also going to be tasting pumpkin bread and chocolate pumpkin muffins.  UGH.  That meant that I had a couple days to finagle some replacements that would help Jacob feel included.  I had already planned on making gluten-free cutouts, but now I needed to find something pumpkin.  Fortunately, I was going out to lunch with my group at work the next day, and we were going to our favorite little place in the city, this amazing restaurant that actually caters to special diets but makes delicious food for anyone.  It's fancier stuff than I usually eat, but every meal I've ever had has been spectacular.  And right across the street is a tiny bakery called The Gluten Free Chef.  Perfect!  I picked up a tiny loaf of pumpkin bread, and that was set!

I mentioned the other day that I had a funny costume idea that I managed to cobble together, and here it is...say hello to Velma Dinkley...
Yes, I'm holding a little Scooby-Doo and wearing my glasses from when I was 13!
The costume got quite a few smiles, and actually fit in with my research co-worker's "cat burglar" costume!
 
 
Craig took off part of the day to go help out in Jacob's class (he headed up a cookie frosting table!), then brought the boys to my office to trick-or-treat!  Carter has not been loving his costume, but I managed to get him into it with only a minor tantrum.  Of course, he would not keep his mouse ears on, so the body was as good as it was going to get.  We wandered around my office and the boys got candy from my co-workers and showed off their adorable selves.  Back at my desk, Carter was fascinated by the view out the window, with his own front-row seat to a great view 16 floors up!
Little Mouse, Big City

He was mesmerized by the train, buses, and cars he could see from up there.
Jacob was hanging out at my desk, fascinated by my giant pen, which was a gift from our first-ever intern.  She was a funny girl.

Craig took Jacob home and I left work early with Carter in tow so we could get home at a reasonable time and not rush to cram in dinner before trick-or-treating.  We got pizza and had a comfortable amount of time to eat and get ready.  Carter still wouldn't wear his hat, but I snapped this miserable shot of him for posterity.
Sad mouse :(
That costume has now been worn by me, Jacob, and Carter.  And I sort of feel like it's cursed, but more likely it's just the age.  Jacob split open his lip (leading to a visit to the emergency room) five minutes before trick-or-treating when he wore it, and tonight Jacob accidentally pushed Carter's ride-on car into his face (rescuing his ninja belt which was under it) and gave Carter a little bruise under his eye.  And Carter really didn't want to wear the ears, so it just seemed like there was no sense trying much with him this year.  But we got a couple smiles after the ears came off...
In all the chaos, this is the best picture I got of Jacob.  I actually liked his ninja costume despite the craziness we went through to get it (thanks to the annoying, overpriced Halloween store).


It was rainy and a bit chilly out, but Carter did seem to want to tag along for trick-or-treating.  I snapped a picture of our pumpkin on the way out...

I strapped Carter into the wagon, grabbed our safe trick-or-treating gear that I won via another blog (reflective slap bracelets and a flashlight), along with an old cereal box toy, a flashing skull, that's always been an extra little safety device on Halloween!  Our neighborhood is a bit hit or miss with houses.  The neighbors across the street were actually out tonight, but stopped by beforehand to drop off two big candy bars each for the boys!  We had to do a lot of wandering for the candy we got, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't more miserable.  It was in the 40s, I think, but despite the constant drizzle, it really wasn't freezing.  I didn't even need my gloves.  Carter was content, too.  At one point we passed back by our house and I asked if he wanted to go in.  He whimpered when I pulled in the driveway, so we kept going.  Jacob actually wanted to quit long before Carter did!
Our entourage

We did maybe 11 houses and Jacob wanted to be done.  He wasn't miserable or anything, he just wanted to be done.  My inner child thinks he's crazy, but my grown-up self thinks, well, at least he's not going to have an absurd amount of candy!  Aside from one house where we know the neighbors, Carter just sat in his wagon and I didn't bother getting candy for him.  He already had plenty from work, if nothing else!

We came home and Carter did not want to go in, even though his head was wet and it was getting colder.  I guess we'll have to get out the lawnmower tomorrow, no matter how cold it is!  Carter got to try a couple treats tonight--one little Kit-Kat and a couple Skittles--and of course started asking for more.  Oh boy.  We traded out the couple gluten treats Jacob got, and we ended up with a ton of candy leftover.  We got more kids than I expected with the weather, but after the year we ran out of candy, I always try to overprepare.  Oh, well.

All told everything (aside from Carter's mouse ears) went pretty smoothly.  Hard to believe November starts in 15 minutes and we're now on our way to Thanksgiving!  Time is flying!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fall Fun!

It took almost all of October, but we finally got in some fall fun this weekend!  We are almost ready for Halloween (a.k.a., the day I will completely humiliate myself in the midst of my co-workers) and I feel like we did our duty.

Near the end of the week, Craig had to go to a work-related function up in Canada so I had the kids.  On the way out of the school parking lot, the sun shone perfectly above a huge line of clouds and it highlighted the trees so perfectly...
Looks like a painting, doesn't it?
Feeling fall-ish, and having Jacob complaining in the back seat that things are boring when Daddy isn't around, we played outside with the last few minutes of daylight.  Carter still wants to play with his lawnmower every chance he gets, and Jacob wanted to play a little hockey.  Jacob had had fun playing in the leaves at school, so I suggested we go in the back, try to rake up a respectable pile, and play for a bit.  Given the fact that we had so many leaves at our old house that we couldn't even rake them all before the snow came, it is such a weird change of pace to have almost no leaves at this house, even though our entire neighborhood is full of trees.  We have some trees in the back, but they just don't seem to fall in the yard.  Our neighbors' yards are full, though, and since no one's next door we could go over there...but we managed one decent pile and the boys had their three minutes of fun with it:
Throwing leaves at each other!
Saturday I was hoping the weather cooperated so we could go to the pumpkin patch.  When we woke up the forecast had improved and it looked like we'd be good until mid-afternoon.  Woohoo!  Originally I was planning on trying a new place that got good reviews on Facebook, but the more I thought about it, the more a new plan came into view.  I had been wanting to make another trip to one of our favorite spots for gluten-free food, the Livingston County Pizza Co., where they have a full, delicious gluten-free menu plus a full gluten-free bakery.  The big issue is that it's about a half hour away and not particularly convenient.  But our favorite pumpkin patch was in that general direction, and when I mapped it out, the pizza place was only 10 minutes beyond the pumpkin patch!  Sweet!  Still, we'd only have a couple hours to play at the pumpkin patch before we'd all be getting hungry.  Not that Carter would last much beyond that anyway, but keep in mind that we can't just grab a couple donuts like most people, so we have to plan a little differently.  Unfortunately, Carter was awake earlier than usual and ended up being a bit challenging for most of the trip, but we did it.

One of the first stops upon arrival was the alpacas.  They're so cute with their funny fur and long necks.  And when this one laid down and practically smiled for the photo, I couldn't resist...

It was a lovely day, cool but not cold, with plentiful sun.  The place was busy but not crazy, and we had plenty to check out...
Carter & Daddy
The next stop was this giant slide.  Jacob was such a big boy going up all by himself!

In the meantime, Carter climbed the hay bales, and I couldn't resist this picture of Jacob when he came back over, because I took one of him when he was three with the same backdrop.  My, how things have changed!

Next up was the giant jumping pillow.  This is a new thing at this farm since our last trip, and Jacob had a blast...

Next up was the animal section.  We took a ride on one of those barrel trains (though we rode in the caboose), and checked out some baby chickens.  We headed over to see goats, pigs, cows, rabbits, and a couple other interesting ones...
So, this is a yak.  I found it hilarious because just the night before, Carter and I were reading an alphabet book and the "Y" included a yak.  At the time I silently bemoaned the yak because, well, how often do you see a yak in your daily life?  I feel like so many things used yaks when I was learning to read, and how many had I ever seen?  Well, now it's at least one.

Say hi to a very intense emu.  They are really interesting animals up close...cool feathers, dinosaur feet, a twisty neck, and crazy eyes.
Next we walked across a bridge into an area better suited for the littler kids, full of tricycles, gravel pits, and duck races.  Carter pretty much just wanted to hang out in this car.

Craig tried yet again to teach Jacob how to pedal (seriously, he just can't make his body do it...it is the weirdest thing), and then they headed over to one of the gravel pits where Jacob got to use one of the diggers...

Carter didn't want to sit on the giant tractor even though tractor is one of his favorite words, and the only other thing he liked was pushing around trucks in the gravel.

Knowing we were short on kid patience, we headed back out to head toward the hayride, which goes toward some other activities.  Such a classic view, no?

One of my favorite family pictures ever was taken on one of these hayrides (also when Jacob was three), but I couldn't get all smiles (or a willing picture taker), so this will have to do...

On the other side there was a tire crawl, pedal cart races, a little volleyball area, and this sports challenge, which had basketball, football, and baseball sections.  Baseball was the easiest for Jacob and he could have done it for hours.

Carter and I wandered over to the remains of one of the pumpkin patches, where he was very purposefully pointing and talking to these pumpkins...

When Craig and I first came to this patch (I was newly pregnant but had no clue), we did pumpkin slingshotting.  Now they have high-powered apple cannons, too! 
Hard to see, but they're up on an army truck shooting apples at targets.  Man, those things flew!
Because we were short on time and the kids' patience was waning, we skipped the long line at the zip line (which is my favorite thing to do) and Jacob just did one quick slide on the tunnel slide through a hill, and we started heading back toward the front of the farm.  We made a pit stop at the spider web while we placed our lunch order...

...then took an unsuccessful trip to the corn box.  Jacob still enjoyed it but Carter wanted nothing to do with it.  Jacob really wanted to pick out pumpkins, so we did a quick scan of the small assortment that was left (well, small compared to what I'm pretty sure it once was).  Carter liked looking at them enough that the tantrums stopped for a bit...
 ...and Jacob found his choice...

Carter was trying to pick them up, which is exactly what Jacob wanted to do at this age...

...and he found one he could lift...

We paid for the pumpkins and snuck in a pack of donuts for me to hide in the kitchen.  Sorry, it was hard enough to avoid all the other tasty food there.  I really wanted donuts.  We said good-bye to this guy, and headed out to lunch.

Carter was asleep before we ever left the parking lot, and got a cat nap in while we drove to lunch.  We had our tasty lunch of gluten-free pizza and a cheeseburger panini, then picked out half a dozen cookies (two s'mores, two M&M, two chocolate crinkle) and a chocolate half moon cookie to go.  Carter fell asleep again on the way home and slept most of the rest of the afternoon.  I headed out to work on my Halloween costume.  Progress was made, though I am totally going to embarrass myself at work on Friday!  All in the name of fun, right?

We had a low-key rest of the weekend but it will be a busy week trying to get ready for Halloween.  I'm trying to decide if my costume needs more tweaks, and I need to decide what I'm going to use to give Carter a mouse face, because I no longer have the makeup I used for Jacob.  Jacob's costume is ready to go, but I need to make him a batch of pumpkin cutout cookies so he's got something to decorate at school on Friday with his classmates.  I also need to decide what I want to bring to work for the annual day of gluttony.  I frequently make my double-decker pull apart bread, but it's complicated in the morning when I already have multiple costumes to finagle.  We shall see. 

And nowlet's start praying that Halloween night is pleasant for trick-or-treating...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lego!

Lego is a part of life in this family.  I grew up with Legos, as my brother was a big Lego builder.  I had a small set of my own that I liked, but once my brother outgrew them, I definitely enjoyed building with his.  My creativity was limited, but I still enjoyed it.  Craig loved Legos as a kid, and he started sharing his huge collection with Jacob pretty early on.  They spend a lot of time building and dreaming up things to build.  We have some Duplos waiting for Carter to be ready for them, too.

Jacob has gotten many sets over the years for Christmas and birthdays, and I've done my fair share of assembly.  For a while now I've been looking for a set for me.  I'm not sure why, exactly, but I guess I wanted one that was more my style, possibly one that I could use to play with Jacob or at least connect with him a little more on his level--you know, that Mommy has something cool.  My main concern with that scenario was that my set would most likely be a pretty pricey set and I couldn't really risk letting Jacob actually keep mine with his.  He'd steal pieces without even thinking about it, and they'd disappear into the abyss of Legos in our basement...meaning I'd never be able to build my fancy set again.  Even my cute free Lego store set that we got when we went to the Lego store opening here got gutted and I can't find the pieces I need to rebuild it.  Maybe someday if we organize the Legos better. 

I was mostly looking at the various Creator sets, which provide instructions for three different builds.  Last Christmas I was eyeing up a cool house that even included a light brick!  It was a neat modern house with a couple other options.  I never found it as cheap as I wanted it, though, and decided to just give it time.  Earlier this year I happened to see a new set, and it was exactly what I had been looking for.  It was a Creator set that could become a variety of different business/apartment combos.  When I was a little girl I played with Barbies and dollhouses, so this set seemed more up my alley than any other (well, aside from the $150+ super-fancy sets like the department store or the Parisian restaurant).  It was still more than I thought it was prudent to spend on Legos, though, but when my birthday came back in August, guess what the boys had waiting for me when I got home?

  
I almost made them take it back!  But I appreciated the sentiment, so it stayed.  And I started building.  Each building option in the set is hinged, so they can be a full building when closed up, or be open for playing inside.  First up was the flower shop.
Flower shop downstairs, apartment upstairs

The florist shop register.  Hard to see, but there's a couple flowers behind the glass.

This is the flower arranging station, complete with a spray bottle of water.

Upstairs is a fancy armchair and a table, plus two doors...one out to the stairs, and another to the balcony.  And yes, that guy is holding a chicken leg.

The exterior stairs...notice the cool planter and lighting...

The back entrance to the flower shop and the apartment balcony

The front of the flower shop is so cute...so many flowers and a cute canopy.  And how fancy is the work around the upstairs windows?
Next up was the mechanic shop with an office upstairs.  I love the corner placement of this one!
The wrench sign over the car bay is so cute!

Lots of cute little details in this one, including the cute picture window, key drop box, balcony, and cool stuff above the window

Inside to the left is the tool area, and the car and customer entrances are to the right.  Upstairs is an office with roof access, a coffee maker, and a flat screen monitor computer.

Back outside you can get a better view of the balcony and the view of the tools through the picture window, along with the key drop.
It broke my heart to take apart each of those creations, but it's all about progress!  Once I had tried out both of those smaller builds, I needed to move on to the big one!  This one had two buildings instead of just one, and it ended up taking me parts of a few evenings to get it all done.  Of course, when I took these pictures I forgot to add in the cool yellow car that was also part of this group!

This shows the two separate buildings placed together to look like a street, bike shop on the left and cafe on the right.

Front window of bike shop

Front window and patio of cafe...note the curtains!

Back of both buildings...bike shop loading dock on the right, stairs to apartment on left.

Balcony on bike shop includes a BBQ grill!

Inside of bike shop building...note the loading ramp from the loading dock and the double ladders to access the upstairs and the roof

Close-up of the apartment - bed on the left, and kitchen on the right.  The sink even has a basin and there's a frying pan on the stove!

Inside the café...I love the pendant light and the tiny table in the window.  The curtains are fantastic!

Downstairs in the café there are cupcakes on the counter and an adorable beverage machine!  Note the coffee cup hanging on the wall!  Upstairs is a side table with a cute lamp.  I didn't post one of the other side upstairs, but there was just a chair.  You also get a glimpse of the mini-garden on the roof.

The whole thing, opened up!  So charming, no?

The little arch was really cute with the sign comprised of the cup and the cupcake!

With that building closed up, the arch disappears and morphs into a two-sided sign.  And the ATM was awesome, complete with the dollar sign above the screen.
It's been a really fun experience putting these together.  The architecture is so pretty and so creative.  The fact that they can take a set of pieces and make three distinctly different builds is so amazing.  The concepts are all pretty similar, but they manage to tweak them just enough to keep each one unique.  I just love the little details, like the random stripes through the brick walls, the columns, the cute roof edging, and the sweet little window boxes.

I also earned some major cool points with Jacob, who said that I was a great Lego builder.  It stinks that I can't let him play with it, but he is totally the type to randomly steal pieces and I will never recover them enough to recreate this very expensive model.  But if he needs a neighborhood outside his baseball stadium, I might lend it out. 

Anyway, I know it's random, but this was a sweet gift from my boys and I wanted to share.  It was a lot of work and though it seems silly, I'm proud of it.