Archive for ‘Family Stuff’

January 7th, 2013

Mamavation Monday – January 7

CSA with loofa

The last week in my Mamavation journey was all about setting goals.  I want my goals – and the ones for my family – to be reasonable, attainable, and sustainable.  While I’d love to say that I’ll exercise 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, that just isn’t going to happen.  Neither is a complete change in the way my family eats – not immediately, anyway.  So, here’s what I think will challenge me (us), but not so much that hands go up in the air in defeat because it’s just too much:


  • I will lose one clothing size between now and April 4 (my birthday).
  • My family will transition to a mostly Paleo diet.  We’ll cut way back on breads and pastas, and increase our meat and veggie consumption.
  • I will exercise in some format (treadmill, Wii exercise games, outdoor activities) for at least 30 minutes 4 times a week.

I know those might not seem like huge goals, but they really kind-of are for stubborn me and my stubborn family 🙂  I tend to start out well with goals like this, but quickly lose steam and interest.  In selecting only 3 goals and making them attainable, I hope they will stick.

In the last week, I did well with the Paleo-ish diet, but bombed with the exercise.  I need to do better.  I will do better.

November 16th, 2012

Wii U Gift Guide 2012

I’ve never done a gift guide before, but since I’ve been stalking the internet in search of new releases, I thought I might put my favorites in a central location.  If they help anyone else with their gift-giving, then even better!

WiiU handheld

Wii U – We had a chance to try out the Wii U this summer at a Nintendo event in Atlanta.  We drove over thinking that the boys would really enjoy it, but really weren’t prepared for how much fun we had!  I’ve been a big Nintendo fan ever since I got that first NES back in the day, but none of the follow-on consoles or handhelds were as much fun for me as the original.  That changed for me when I got to play the Wii U – I had a blast!  We pre-ordered the Wii U and I can’t wait for it to arrive!  It’s even worse that I can’t share my excitement with the boys because it will be a secret until it arrives on our doorstep!  I’d like to think I might be able to wait until Christmas, but that just won’t happen – haha!

Even though they don’t know when the Wii U will arrive in our house, they have put together their game wish list for that happy day.  I appreciate that so many of the games seem allow single-player, cooperative, and competitive play through the same game.  That will make game play with all ages much easier!

Rabbids Land – We’ve loved those crazy Rabbids on the Wii and can’t wait to see what craziness they get up to in the amusement park!  The boys are going to be SO excited when this one arrives!  Be sure to check back because we’ll be sharing our thoughts and impressions on this one.

WiiU Ninjas

Nintendo Land – This was my personal favorite at the event in Atlanta.  It’s actually many different games all on the same disc, which I think gives it more playability for the long-term.  I really enjoyed the Ninja Castle game, where you use the Wii U pad to shoot throwing stars at your enemies.  (That’s me playing in the photo.) There’s more to the game, too, but that was my favorite part 🙂  My 4 year old son played Donkey Kong’s Crash Course over and over and over at the event.  My husband liked that one best, too, I think.  It’s unusual that we all agree on which game we like best, but 3 out of the 4 of us chose Nintendo Land.

The Wonderful 101 – I did not have a chance to play this one, but it was Alex’s favorite.  He would play for awhile, go try something else, and go right back to it.  He tried to explain it to me, but I think it’s one of those things that you just have to play to fully understand.  It was still called by its code name, Project P-100, when we played and I think that gave it something extra in the eyes of a 9 year old.

I’m sure that we’ll be adding many more games to our list once the release date gets here.  I’ll be sure to update both our wishes and our experiences as we go!

April 12th, 2012

10 Places I Want My Kids To See

Boys at HSVBG

Budget Travel just released their list of 15 places kids should see before they are 15. We’re lucky to have several of these places within driving distance – and one right here in Huntsville! If you’ve never been, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center should be on your list. It’s everything cool about NASA, rockets, space exploration, and science – all rolled into one. And they have an IMAX theater!

The Budget Travel list got me thinking about the places I’d like our kids to see before they turn 15. That’s eleven more years for Declan, but only six for Alex. We need to get a move on!

1. Tokyo, Japan – I’ve talked with Alex about visiting and he has little interest in it – he just wants to move there!  Rod and I have both been to Tokyo and absolutely love it the people, the city, and the food.  I’ve never felt safer in a completely unfamiliar place as I did when I was exploring the city on my own.  Truth be told, we would love to move our family there, even if it’s just for a few months.

2. Schloß Neuschwanstein, Bavaria, Germany – A visit to mad King Ludwig’s castle was the highlight of the trip my high school German Club took to German-speaking European countries way back in 1994.  We’d studied German every day for four years and it seemed like the many photos of this place in our classroom represented everything we learned.  It’s also the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle, and you can’t go wrong with Disney references!  I distinctly remember there was a TON of walking involved on this stop, so we might need to wait until the boys are a bit older for this one.

3. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco – The Golden Gate is on Budget Travel’s list, too.  It’s an engineering marvel and, honestly, really cool!  The boys have never seen the Pacific Ocean (or the Atlantic, come to think of it) and this would be a great stop.  San Francisco seems to be a great family destination and I’m sure we could find plenty of ways to have fun!

4. Löwendenkmal, Lucerne, Switzerland – This was also a stop on the German Club trip in 1994.  It hadn’t been high on my list when I saw it on our itinerary, but it should have been.  This monument is one of the most beautiful pieces of art I’ve ever seen.  It was created to pay tribute to the Swiss Guards who were massacred during the French Revolution, as they protected the palace in Paris.  I’m not sure the boys would really understand the significance of what the monument represents, but it’s an amazing thing to see, even without that understanding.

5. Kauai, Hawaii – I think Hawaii should be on everyone’s list!  We are not a huge beach family (the fair skin makes that pretty difficult), but Rod and I enjoyed our stop in Kauai when we were on our honeymoon.  As touristy as Waikiki is, Kauai is not.  There are even feral chickens roaming the island as a result of some tossed chicken houses during a storm many years ago!  The island is full of natural beauty – beaches, waterfalls, flowers, and birds.  There was a pretty cute fabric shop we stopped at last time, too.  I wouldn’t mind going back there for a visit, for sure!

6. Grand Canyon – This is one destination that everyone should see, right?  I still haven’t, but hopefully I’ll get there soon!  It’s only a day trip from Las Vegas, right?  Maybe that would be the best way to do it?

7. New York City – Another one that everyone should see!  Shortly after I graduated from college, I was relocated to New Jersey for work.  My office was just outside of the city and we could see part of the skyline from our parking lot on clean air days.  I was only there for about 9 months and my one regret from that time was that I didn’t take advantage of my proximity to the city more.  There’s so much to see and do with kiddos, though, so I’d like to do that with Alex and Declan!

8. Smithsonian – I think all of the museums under the Smithsonian umbrella would be great for the boys to see, but I think they would especially enjoy the National Zoo, Air and Space Museum, and Natural History Museum.  When I was looking at the long list of museums, I noticed the Postal Museum on there.  I had no idea there was a postal museum!  It says it’s dedicated to the history of America’s mail system and the hobby of stamp collecting.  Did I ever tell you that I was a stamp collector?  I am!  This one is going on my list for me, too!

9. Niagara Falls, Ontario – We’ve actually been here a few times with the boys.  It’s only a short drive to Niagara Falls from where I grew up, so we sometimes go for the day or a short stay when we visit in the summertime.  (You can read about our most recent vist here.)  I want the boys to remember how special and cool this place is, so I want to make sure we go back often!

10. Williamsport, PA – This one might seem like an odd addition to the list, but it’s a place that’s special to me.  I went to college in Williamsport and have a lot of great memories of the city.  I want the boys to be able to have a point of reference when I talk about things that happened when I was in college and maybe a memory of a visit to Lycoming will do that.  Plus, it’s the home of the Little League World Series and that is one of the best sporting events in the world!

What about you?  What places are on the list for your family to see?  Is there anything that I should have on our list and don’t?

March 28th, 2012

Go Fly a Kite!

The boys and I have travelled to visit my family in Pennsylvania for Alex’s spring break.  We try to come up here twice a year – once at Thanksgiving and once for the 4th of July.  Last year, though, my mom and her husband came to Alabama for Thanksgiving, so we thought we’d drive up for the week to see everyone we missed in November.

The weather here in NW PA is generally still quite chilly in late March.  When I was growing up, we would often use St. Patrick’s Day as our mark for the likely last big snow storm of the year.  That didn’t mean that it wouldn’t happen after that date, for sure, but it was a good way to remember that the end of the winter was near.  This year, though, they have had an unusually warm and mild winter, just like much of the rest of the United States.  The week before we left Alabama, it was 85 degrees for most of the week there and it was in the 70’s in Erie.  I looked at the weather for the next week when I was packing and it seemed that it would be a bit cooler, but still well above normal.  Apparently that changed while we were in the car on our way here because it was 24 degrees yesterday morning!  Holy cow, I was not ready for that!

The boys were going stir-crazy after 14 hours in the car and a day inside, so I decided that we’d head out in search of winter accessories and head to the beaches at Lake Erie.  We found gloves on clearance at Target, but also found kites!  It was perfect kite flying weather!

Kites at Presque Isle

That tiny little speck in the big blue sky is Alex’s kite!  He’s flown kites before, but I think that is the highest he’s ever had one go.  He was SO excited!  I need to remember how much fun this was so we can do it again.  The beaches will be way too crowded in July, but when we come back in the fall, it should be about perfect!

March 5th, 2012

Geek Dad Cool Contest

A few weeks ago, I came across a contest that Cisco Linksys were running. They were looking for the ultimate Geek Dad – a dad that has found a way to use technology to create new family traditions. I immediately thought of my husband, of course! By the nature of the work that Rod does, we have lots of technology in our house. We’re both geeks, for sure, and the boys have been exposed to a whole lot of tech in their short lives. I’m not sure you can be classified as a geek at their ages, but they’re well on their way!

The entry process required a short essay about a tradition that the prospective Geek Dad has started with your family. While we do a whole lot of tech things with the boys, I wasn’t sure how many fell into the “tradition” category. Then it hit me – there is one thing Rod started doing when Alex was just three years old that is a whole lot of fun AND uses technology. Alex started reading at a pretty young age and we wanted to be able to go back and show him what it looked and sounded like when he was a beginning reader and we wanted to be able to share this cool thing with family that weren’t living close to us. One afternoon, Rod set up a video camera and an audio recorder and we bribed Alex to read some of his favorite books for the camera. (We only had to bribe him to get started – once he understood what we were doing, he was all over it and wanted to record everything!)


Since then, Alex has read many more books for the camera and we’ve started getting Declan to read, too. Until very recently, Declan has just been retelling stories we’ve told to him. In the last couple of months, though, he’s been reading books on his own! It’s so cool to go back and watch Alex reading the same favorite books that Declan is reading now. Two books that have been favorites of them both are Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom and Go, Dog. Go!

I was completely floored a couple of weeks ago when I heard from the folks at Cisco Linksys that my entry for Rod had been chosen as one of the top 10 finalists! We are all so excited for everyone else to know what we do – that Rod is Geek Dad Cool! The finalists are all up for a public vote now, and we would be honored if you would cast a vote for Rod. The votes are being taken on Facebook and you can go here to vote. Just for casting your vote, you are entered to win a super cool new Linksys E4200v2 router! You can vote once per day until March 19th, when they will announce the ultimate Geek Dad!

Thanks so much to those of you who have already voted! I know that many of you have not only voted yourselves, but you have shared the contest with your friends and family and they are voting, too. I know some people that have joined Facebook just to vote for Rod and we are very grateful. I’ll be a nervous wreck until the end, and probably bugging people to death to cast their votes, too 😉 Thanks again, everyone, and I’ll let you know how we do!

March 1st, 2012

It’s Pinewood Derby time!

I love this time of the year. Not only do the days start getting longer and we actually see some signs that spring might be on the way, but it’s also the best time of the year for scouts. For Girl Scouts, that means cookies! For my Cub Scout, though, that means the Pinewood Derby!

We talk about ideas for his car all throughout the year, but he doesn’t usually settle on an idea until really close to the day of his pack’s derby. I know some families spend weeks working together on their son’s car, but we usually get it done in two or three afternoons and evenings of work. Alex’s car last year was a burrito on wheels and so, in keeping with the food theme, we happily present his car this year, “Sushi To Go!”

Pinewood Derby Car

We had so much fun making this car! Alex loves the Crayola Model Magic because it dries quickly so his creations can all become permanent pretty much over night. It’s also super lightweight when it dries, which makes it great for a derby car. The cars can only weigh 5 ounces at the most, and a good chunk of that is taken up by the wood base and wheels. He used the Model Magic to make the “rice” for the California rolls, the rice and salmon for the nigiri, and the wasabi. The carrots and cucumbers inside the rolls are match sticks with the ends chopped off and painted, and the seaweed around the rolls is scrapbooking paper we found at Michaels. I’m especially pleased with how the ginger turned out. He used a very pale pink velum paper, ripped it into pieces, and coated the pieces in glossy Mod Podge. They wanted to roll up like that when they were wet, so he went with it. I think the whole thing looks fabulous!

Pinewood Derby Car Prep

Alex won 4th place in the looks category at his pack’s derby and will get to compete at the district level! He’s SO excited! The car was pretty fast, too, but not fast enough to make the cut for districts. Either way, he’s proud of his car and that’s a very good thing. I’ll let you know how things turn out at the district event. There will be some tough competition there, I’m sure. I’ve already seen a pretty amazing Angry Birds car…

July 12th, 2010

Road Trip Mini-Vacation

Last week was our annual trip to Pennsylvania to visit my family.  I say “visit” because a trip to see family isn’t really a vacation.  There are always a ton of people to see, naps to be missed, and bedtimes that slip.  By the end of the week, I’ve found that our tempers are short and we need a vacation from our trip.  Hoping to avoid that this year, we decided to take a mini-vacation during our visit.  We packed up the boys and headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario, for an overnight stay.

Maid of the Mist

It’s less than two hours from where I grew up to the Falls, so I’ve been there many times.  One thing I never got to experience growing up was staying in a hotel that overlooks the Falls.  I thought it might be too expensive for our budget this time, too, but I searched the internet and was pleasantly surprised by the number of affordable packages right now.  We decided to go with the Family Fun package at the Hilton Fallsview.  It included the room, but also a voucher for $40 to Macaroni Grill (the first in Ontario) and breakfast at their amazing buffet the next morning for all four of us.  Plus, the Hilton has an indoor pool with a great water slide!

I can’t say enough about how wonderful our experience at this hotel was.  The staff were all genuinely friendly and knowledgeable and the facilities were first rate.  Chris, the gentleman that handled our check-in, even accommodated Alex’s request for a room as high up in the tower as possible.  We were on the 42nd floor, which made both Alex and Declan very happy.  Here are some views from our room:

View of the Falls from Hilton Fallsview

View of the Falls from Hilton Fallsview

The view at night is just as spectacular, but I wasn’t able to get any really good shots without a tripod.  They light up the water at night with different colored lights and it’s beautiful!  There are also fireworks displays on several nights and, in July and August, they do fireworks every Wednesday as well.

It was uncharacteristically hot the day we were there, so we didn’t do as many outside activities as we thought we might.  The room and facilities were well-suited for this, though.  We had two bedrooms, each with its own television.  There was also a fireplace in the room, but we decided against trying it out, even though the boys were VERY interested.  We spent a lot of time in the pool and I think my husband and Alex went down that water slide about 30 times.  Alex described the hotel as luxurious and I would have to agree.  The beds were so comfortable and the pillows were nice and fluffy.  We were sad to leave after only one night, but it was a great experience.  If you are planning a trip to Niagara Falls, I highly recommend the Hilton Fallsview!

June 24th, 2010

“Are we there yet?”


We are preparing for our summer road trip to Pennsylvania.  Google Maps suggests that it should take 13 hours, but we find that it varies between 14 and 16 hours.  It all depends on how restless the boys get.  Or maybe how many Chipotle restaurant stops we make.  It’s definitely one of the two.

One thing I’ve learned in the seven years we’ve been doing this (at least twice a year), is that the boys need to be distracted or things go downhill very quickly.  We allow them to watch movies and play on various gaming devices, but I really prefer that they do something that requires them to use their minds.

I was really excited when I found this Travel Bingo game the other day at Growing Tree Toys.  Alex will really get into the hunting and finding (and winning) aspect of it, while Declan will likely just make circles all over the bingo card.  Either way, they will both be engaging their brains and I will happy!

Does your family make long road trips?  How do you keep your kids from “are we there yet??” only 3 hours into the long journey?

June 21st, 2010

Testing the Tooth Fairy


Alex lost his first tooth in February of this year.  It had been hanging on by a thread for nearly a week before we convinced him to let us help things along.  When the excitement was over, I thought for sure he would run right upstairs and put the tooth under his pillow, but he asked for a sandwich bag instead.  He put the tooth in the bag and put the bag away in the junk drawer in the kitchen.  I asked him what his plans were for the tooth and he said that he wanted to save it for a bit.  More teeth jumped ship and after two months, we had a collection 5 teeth in the drawer.

One afternoon, Alex announced that he was going to “test” the tooth fairy that night.  He planned to place one of his saved teeth under his pillow to see if she would notice.  If his test was successful, he planned to place the rest of the teeth under his pillow the next night for “the big payout.”  I honestly don’t know where he comes up with this stuff.  So, bedtime came that night and it was one of the quickest and easiest bedtimes ever – go figure.  When he woke the next morning, the tooth was gone and there was money in its place.  Success!

Alex disappeared for a bit and came back with two notes to show me.  The first was a map for the tooth fairy.  That night was the big payout and he wanted to be sure she knew where to find those teeth.  He also clearly stated his expectations for the exchange.  You can see below that “I need $15.”  Uh-huh.

Tooth Fairy Map

In his next note, Alex left the instructions on where to place the money.  He also tried to pump the tooth fairy for information.  The note says, “Also, does one tooth equal $5?  I won’t tell.”  She didn’t answer him that night, but she did exchange the teeth for some more money.

Tooth Fairy Note

The first tooth of the next wave came out the other night at dinner.  I’m anxiously waiting to see how this round with the tooth fairy will go.  Does your family have any special tooth fairy celebrations?

June 15th, 2010

Water fun (and a parenting question)


It was hot this weekend.  It’s always hot in Alabama in the summer, but this weekend brought us temperatures in the mid-90s and a heat index of 105 degrees.  We don’t usually see that until mid-July, after we’ve had a chance to build up a bit of a heat tolerance.  Since we were already at Bridge Street, we let the boys have a little fun in the fountain park they have there.  It was pretty crowded, but the boys both had some fun.


I really try to let them just do their thing, but I find myself on a constant repeat of “don’t run, walk please, please don’t run” as they move from fountain to fountain.  I saw several kids slip on the concrete and fall while we were there.  None of them were hurt, thankfully, but I wonder if there might be some kind of non-slip padding or texture that could be added to this area.


We had a little trouble with getting Alex to follow rules while we were there.  Children are supposed to wear shoes and, as you can see in the photo above, not everyone does.  Alex didn’t have a problem with that one, but we also asked him not to put his foot over the hole where the water comes out.  There were so many children there that it was hard for them all to have access to the water and covering it up made it not fun for some children.  We asked Alex to be considerate of the other (smaller) children and have fun in other ways.  He did this at first, but when other kids his age started covering up the water spray and their parents didn’t do anything about it, he thought he should be able to do it, too.  We explained again that he needed to be considerate of the other kids, but he was hot and tired and it quickly turned into “but that’s not fair!”

We hear “that’s not fair” a lot around here.  Often, that just means Alex doesn’t like something we’ve said, but sometimes he’s right.  How do you handle things when friends of your children have rules at their homes that are significantly different than the ones at your house?  We’ve had some incidents in our neighborhood recently that have shown us that not all of the parents in our neighborhood are on the same page with what appropriate behavior is and I wonder if any of you have faced the same thing and how you handled it.  Share your thoughts and experiences, please!

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