winter weather, week 2

The crazy snow/ice stuff we’ve been having lately has resulted in this: Catie has been in school for 1 half-day in the past 2 weeks. Last Monday – 11 days ago – the schools had an early release day because of inclement weather. It was closed the next 4 days. School was open this past Monday, but Catie was sick, so Dave kept her home with him. School has been closed due to weather every day since then.

One half-day out of 10 school days. That seems insane. But, same as last week: Dave and I are juggling the childcare stuff back and forth, daycare has been open a few days this week (which has helped significantly because they have a school-age program for kids on break, so Catie can go there too), and generally, we’re fine.

I mean, of course it’s always frustrating to have your routine thrown off, but compared to a lot of people, I don’t have much to complain about. Our power stayed on, and nobody has been sick (other than the colds we all get this time of year), so it’s been ok.

Catie likes an audience when she plays Wizard 101 on my laptop. (And yes, they're both sitting on Chris's lap. Again.)
(Side note: I hate the wallpaper in my office, which is why it’s covered in kid artwork. If this house wasn’t a rental, I would tear it down so fast.)

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I will admit, however, that I am not at the top of my parenting game when the kids are home while I’m trying to work. They get way more screen time than they should, because it’s the easiest way to keep them quiet and happy so I can concentrate. Catie has played more hours of Minecraft this week than I can count, and Lucy’s new obsession is the movie “Aladdin,” which she probably watched at least 20 times.

And I mean, on the scale of annoying Disney movies, there are far worse options than “Aladdin.” Robin Williams as the Genie is pretty brilliant. But good lord, if I ever get the song “A Whole New World” out of my head, I will dance for joy. I would rather hear “Let It Go” all day than that song.

At least she’s moved on from her brief “Snow White” obsession, though. I had forgotten how high-pitched and screechy Snow White’s voice is. That movie was going to break me sooner than later.

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On one of our recent snow days, the kids were starting to get restless and whiny, so I suggested we do a Family Movie Night. I know, I know, more screen time, just what they need, but we were stuck in the house and I was dead from working all day.

We got “Big Hero 6″ on pay-per-view, since none of us had seen it. Lucy was bored because there’s no princesses and no singing, so it wasn’t her type of movie. Catie liked it, even though it made her cry. And Chris and I both really enjoyed it, probably more than the kids.

I will say, my favorite thing about the movie was that there were two nerdy, science-loving girls who were totally badass and just as tough as the boys, and I kind of want to make Catie re-watch the movie every day just to reinforce that message. For a kid who already thinks of herself as weird for not liking “girl stuff,” I don’t think she can see that too much.

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Random and off-topic, but since I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time around my kids lately:

My favorite recent Lucy-ism is when something bothers her, she says, “it makes me annoying!”

Also, anything that happened in the past is “last earlier.” As in, “We went to the mall last earlier.” It could’ve been yesterday, could’ve been something that happened a year ago. It’s all last earlier. I have no idea where she got that, but I’ve heard it so many times that it kind of makes sense to me.

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While this winter weather break has been manageable, I would really like some warmer temps right about now. Not just because my work productivity plummets when the kids are home or because I’m worried about all the school they’re missing, but also because I am tired of running on my treadmill since the sidewalks and greenways are all covered in ice. A little nature would be nice. Hopefully it’ll be back soon.

February 27, 2015Permalink 2 Comments

haircuts and snow days

The last time I got a cut and color was close to six months ago. I’ve been long overdue for a while, and lately I’ve been really itching for a big change. I texted my hairdresser, Kim (who’s also a friend of mine), and set up an appointment.

In the past, when I’ve mentioned making major changes to my hair, Kim usually advises against it. And since she always makes my hair look great, I usually defer to her advice. This time, I was planning my argument in advance: my face has gotten less round/more oval with the weight I’ve lost, and I feel like the long hair is sort of dragging it down and making it look even longer.

Instead, as soon as I walked in, she looked at me for a minute and said, “So! How adventurous do you feel today?”

And this is why I love her: she gets me.

So. I kinda went and chopped many, many inches off my hair today.
The before and after shot.

She also re-did the color, with a few dark red panels underneath that only peek out if I’m in the sunlight. Nothing too severe or crazy, but enough that I felt like I got a major change (at least by my relatively tame standards).

I’ve gotten lots of compliments on it already, and Chris loves it. Funny story: way back when we first met, I remember that his dating profile said something about how he liked girls with short hair, and I kind of joked that if that was the case, I clearly wasn’t his type. Yesterday, I had told him that I was going to get a haircut, but I didn’t tell him how much I was taking off (I would normally just trim maybe a 1/2 inch), so this was kind of a surprise. And based on the way he couldn’t stop touching my neck last night, I’m going to venture a guess that he seems to be a big fan.

As for the kids, Catie said she liked it. Lucy gave me the backhanded non-compliment with, “Wow, Mommy, your hair sure is… different!” Um, thanks? But, you know, this is a child who says she wants “long hair like Rapunzel,” so I’m probably not taking my fashion cues from the three year-old.

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Completely unrelated topic jump!

This week has been insane, weather wise. The schools let out early on Monday because of snow in the forecast, and they’ve been closed all week because of icy road conditions.

I was kinda bummed that the kids are at their dad's on their snow day, so I didn't get to take them out to play. I'm glad he texted me these. (Catie looks like she's meditating on the ice, but she was just mad about having her picture taken.)
The girls liked the snow the first day. After that, they were just kind of over it. (JUST LIKE THE REST OF US.)

And really, I’m incredibly lucky because our daycare has been open a lot of the time that the schools have been closed, and even when they closed early (during the worst of the weather), my parents helped out, Chris has helped out, and Dave and I have managed to divide up the time with the kids, so we’re both able to meet our deadlines and not go crazy.

Making silly faces.
Well, ok, maybe a little crazy.

It’s been a stressful wrench thrown into our routine, but we’ve gotten through it fairly easily. I don’t know how other families with less of a support system manage when these things happen.

Really, though? I mainly want the snow to melt so I can get back to running without worrying about slipping on ice. And yes, I know that by comparison to other parts of the country, the amount of snow and ice we’ve gotten here is nothing. (Sorry, people of Massachusetts, but there’s a reason I only lived there for a year, and then moved at the first opportunity. Southern girls don’t do snow.)

And I also know that in another 3 or 4 months, I’ll be complaining about how hot it is when I run. The thing is, I don’t really mind the cold all that much, I can bundle up and still run. It’s just the ice. The cold weather can stick around as long as it wants, as long as the sidewalks and greenways are clear.

Oh well. I’ll stop whining now, go lace up my sneakers, and fire up my tablet so I can watch a movie on Netflix while I run on the treadmill. There are worse things in life, I know.

February 20, 2015Permalink Leave a comment

how I talk to my kids about diet and exercise

This past Sunday, I went for a run while Chris stayed the girls. The half-marathon is in 6 weeks (yikes!), and I try to do my long training runs on the weekends when I have more free time. The kids are with Dave on alternate weekends, but when it’s my weekend, I usually leave them with either Chris or my parents while I go for a run.

I’m very careful with how I talk about diet and exercise with my girls. And a lot of that is because of my own baggage: I picked up a lot of negative body image feedback from hearing my mom complain about how fat she was when I was a kid. Back then, she was maybe a size 8 or 10 at the most, so she was most definitely not fat, but I know I internalized a lot of what she said. I don’t want Catie and Lucy to pick up any negative self-image issues from me, so it’s something I approach with extreme caution.

Since Catie is older, I can talk to her a bit more. We’ve talked about how Mimi has back problems, and how I want to make sure I don’t end up in pain like she is when I get older. My emphasis is more on health/strength, not the number in the back of my jeans. We’ve talked about how she gets enough exercise because she gets recess every day, but grown-ups don’t, and my job means that I sit at a computer all day, so I have to make my own recess time.

With food, we talk about how it’s important to eat healthy foods that are good for our bodies, and how some foods are treats that are only “sometimes foods” – all the normal stuff, I guess – but I don’t really talk to them about my food habits. They eat their food, I eat mine. Unless I point it out, they aren’t going to notice that they’re eating mashed potatoes and I’m not. So I don’t make an issue of it.

But even still, they pick up on stuff. Catie once made a comment (and I cannot remember the context of how it came up) that she was “glad everyone in our family is skinny.” I kind of did a mental record-scratch, and said that “skinny” isn’t necessarily a good thing, because if you’re too skinny, you won’t be strong enough to do the things you want to do. The point is whether or not we’re healthy, not whether we’re skinny or fat.

(And we’ve talked about how we don’t talk about other people’s bodies because it might hurt their feelings. She’s friends with a little girl at school who gets teased by other kids for being overweight, and it upsets Catie a lot, so it seems like she gets it.)

And then there are stupid things that come up, like when “All About That Bass” came on the radio for the 37,000th time, and Catie asked me what it meant when she said “boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” In that case, I just said that it was kind of a grown-up joke that was inappropriate for kids, and she didn’t press it.

So, I get that they’re going to pick up on body image expectations from society no matter what I say, and that the best I can do is basically damage control.

Lately, Lucy has been fascinated with my exercise habits. If I’m doing a strength training workout at home, she tries to join in with me. She’ll say, “Lookit me! I do my essacise too!” Then she’ll do a dramatic pratfall and land on her face, and I basically die because you really shouldn’t laugh when you’re doing push-ups.

This past Sunday, when I was getting ready to go for my run, as soon as I put on my workout clothes, the questions started:

Lucy: You all sweaty now?
Me: No, baby, not yet. [I hadn’t even left the house yet.]
Lucy: Why you wear that headband?
Me: It keeps my ears warm when it’s cold outside.
Lucy: Why you wear headphones?
Me: Because I like to listen to music when I run.

And the one she asks the most often:
Lucy: Why you go running?
Me: Because you keep growing and getting bigger and stronger, so I have to be strong too, so I can keep up with you.

A couple of hours later, after I’d run over 9 miles, I walked in the house sweaty and exhausted. The girls were on the couch with Chris watching a movie. Lucy saw me, and hopped up and ran to me.

She said, “You do your essacise, so you strong now? You can carry me now?”

And all I could think was, oh, my sweet girl. I’ll carry you as long as you’ll let me.

Me & my Lucy.

February 3, 2015Permalink 7 Comments

8th birthday party in the books

On Saturday, we had Catie’s birthday party. As I mentioned a while back, we had agreed to do a small party at our house, with just a few friends and her cousins.

She wanted to have a Minecraft-themed party, but the problem is that Minecraft doesn’t really have much in the way of merchandise. Action figures, sure, but not party supplies. So, I hit up Pinterest and found some cool, free printable Minecraft stuff for her party. Print-your-own stickers for goody bags! A stencil so you can make Creeper faces on balloons! That kind of thing.

I really liked the Minecraft food labels I found:
Found a bunch of free printable Minecraft stuff on the Internet, so I could do these fun food labels. (Not shown: the "dirt blocks," aka brownies. And "TNT" which was strawberry Twizzlers. Those got gobbled up fast.)

And Minecraft cake toppers.
8th birthday cake (with Minecraft cake toppers).

(I do realize that nobody is ever going to ask me to be on a competitive baking show. But this is the cake she wanted, and she was happy about it, so whatever.)

The kids had fun, and the great thing about their age range is that they mostly entertain themselves. Lucy was the youngest kid there by far, and I knew that the whole Minecraft thing isn’t her scene and she’d feel left out, so I turned on Frozen for her in the living room. She watched her movie and had her grandparents all to herself, while the rest of the kids hung out in the playroom, playing Minecraft or working on art projects or whatever.

What’s weird is that I was so stressed about the party beforehand, but once it started, I was fine. All the kids had fun, and I didn’t really need to obsess about every last detail nearly as much as I did.

Fun with balloon static.

So, yeah. It was pretty great.

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Random funny aside: my sister flew in for the weekend, which meant Catie got to spend some time with her favorite person on earth. On Saturday night, my sister and I were in the bathroom with the girls while they were in the tub together.

Tracy was explaining to Lucy how she’s the big sister and I’m the little sister, just like Catie is the big sister and Lucy is the little sister. She said, “So I’m like Elsa, and your mommy is like Anna!”

Catie kind of snort-laughed and said, “Yeah, except you don’t have ice powers.”

It just so happened that right then, Tracy walked out of the bathroom to go get something from the next room, and as soon as she was gone, Lucy turned to Catie and in her most Stern Teacher Voice, said, “Catie! That was really rude!”

Like, you can’t just TELL someone they don’t have ice powers! Maybe she does and you don’t know!

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Catie spooning Beaumont. He loves the attention.

Anyway, hooray for birthday parties! A good time was had by all, and the party successfully exhausted everyone. Even Beaumont.

Catie is 8

Yesterday, Catie turned 8 years old.

8! (Birthday party is on Saturday, we'll have cake then. Tonight: birthday brownies.)

Most years, I try to write a blog post talking about what my girls are like at this age, at this moment, to try to capture them for future reference. I mean, I never did baby books, so this is basically it, you know?

I don’t think I can really do that with Catie anymore. She’s gotten to this age where most of the time, blogging about her feels like an invasion of her privacy. She’s complicated, she’s challenging, she’s difficult, and she’s also amazing and wonderful.

Seven has been the hardest year we’ve had by far — possibly excluding the newborn phase when I was crazy from post-partum hormones and sleep deprivation. It’s really thrown me for a loop. I mean, the toddler years were hard, of course, but then I felt like we hit a groove around the time Catie turned four. Four was great! I could reason with four. And then from 4 through 6, each year got progressively more and more fun.

Then 7 hit, and it’s weird, I have friends who talk about how second graders are the hardest, and I’m starting to think that maybe they aren’t joking. Because this has been the year that made me question my own parenting abilities more than any other. 7 has kicked my butt.

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We’re not doing Catie’s birthday party until this weekend, and we’re just doing a little party at our house with her cousins and a couple of friends from school. But since yesterday was her actual birthday, my parents came over for dinner, we had Birthday Brownies (as shown in the pic above), and she opened her presents from us.

Funny story: way back at Christmas, Catie asked for a stuffed/plush bearded dragon. I searched online, but could not find one anywhere. There was a lady on Etsy who used to make them, but she closed her Etsy shop when she went back to graduate school.

So, I went on Twitter to ask if anyone knew where to get one. And lo, through the power of social media, a Twitter friend happened to know someone who can sew stuffed animals, she saw a picture of a bearded dragon, and said, “yeah, I bet I can make that.” I sent her a couple of pictures of Spyro Jones, and you guys, she even matched his color scheme and everything.

I couldn't find a plush bearded dragon toy anywhere, so a friend-of-a-friend made her one. God bless social media.

Needless to say, that was a huge hit. Catie loves him.

Watching Scooby Doo before school with her new toy bearded dragon.

She brought it to bed with her last night, and snuggled with him while she watched cartoons this morning before school. She asked if she could take it to her dad’s “for when I start to miss the real Spyro Jones.”

A girl and her dragon.
For reference, that’s the real Spyro Jones. He’s gotten slightly huge.

(And of course, yes, I let her take the toy bearded dragon to Dave’s. How can you say no that?)

I feel like Catie is just on the cusp of a lot of changes, most of them good, and I can’t wait to see what 8 has in store for us.

Happy birthday, Catie-bug! We love you to the moon and back.

January 28, 2015Permalink

39 and change

This past Friday was my birthday, I’m now 39. Which is only notable because it’s the last birthday where I can say I’m in my thirties, and the Big 40 Milestone is looming next year. (I’m actually not all that fazed about turning 40, but give me another 11 months or so and maybe I will be.)

This was my weekend to have the kids, so Chris and I went out to dinner on Thursday, the night before my birthday. This is how I’ve changed in middle age – I have no desire for more stuff in my life, so I don’t really care about gifts. But a really nice meal that I don’t have to cook? Yes, please.

(For the local people: we went to Dean’s. Every single thing we ate was delicious. Highly recommend.)

Funny thing, Chris was about an hour late getting home, and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be worried or annoyed. When he finally got to the house, I found out that he’d been going from one store to another trying to find tulips, because he knows they’re my favorite flower. And it’s pretty hard to find tulips in January, since they normally bloom in the spring. But he persevered.

Birthday flowers the night before my birthday. He's good. (I am also cracking up that the florist lady wrote "2 lips" on his order instead of "tulips.")

I told him that while I appreciated his thoughtfulness (he remembered my favorite flower! That’s very sweet!), he really didn’t need to go to all that trouble. Leave the tulips for Mother’s Day, and just get whatever for my birthday. I’m pretty excited when anyone gives me flowers, it doesn’t really matter what type.

(Except lilies. I think they smell like rotting garbage. They’re pretty to look at from a distance, but I don’t want them in my house.)

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Friday, my actual birthday, was… less great.

Backstory: Catie’s birthday is 11 days after mine. She decided this year that she wants to have a small birthday party at our house – just her cousins and a couple of friends from school. I am completely ok with this idea, as is my checking account.

But! She also decided that she doesn’t want a grocery store sheet cake (she says they make her stomach hurt, which… ok yeah, that’s legit). She says she wants a strawberry cake with vanilla frosting.

Keep in mind that while I am pretty good with basic entrees and side dishes, baking is not my thing at all. I’ve successfully made a loaf of banana bread, but that’s about it. I don’t even own cake pans, the only cakes I’ve ever made were a straight-up box mix dumped into a 9×13 casserole dish.

So! I scour the Internet (well, ok, I asked on Twitter and a bunch of my friends sent me links) for recipes, and I asked my mom to dig through the box of my Grandmother’s recipes. My Grandmother made the most amazing cakes, and she always made them for our birthdays when we were kids. I remembered there was a strawberry cake that she would make for my sister, because that was her favorite. (My brother and I always asked for her chocolate cake. Which is another recipe I should get from my mom.)

My mom found my Grandmother’s strawberry cake recipe, and it turns out that it’s almost exactly the same as this one on Taste of Home. I also found a pretty basic recipe for vanilla frosting. But since I’ve never done anything like this before, I thought I better get a practice run to make sure I could actually do it, before the day of Catie’s birthday party. So hey, my birthday! Perfect excuse to make a practice cake, right? I bought some cake pans, borrowed my mom’s 10,000 pound KitchenAid standing mixer, and attempted to make a strawberry cake with vanilla frosting.

The actual cake part was fine. I need to buy some wire racks for cooling the layers, because the trays I used made them stick and tear a little (I made the torn side face inward on the layers so it wasn’t obvious). But then, the frosting. The damn frosting. The texture was all wrong, it was like dried-out crumbly Play-Doh, and I couldn’t spread it, and it was starting to tear up the cake, and I just… lost it. I kept thinking that if my Grandmother was here, she’d know what to do, because she was the cake expert, and I wished she was still around to help me.

Basically: a damn birthday cake made me cry.

Then I sucked it up, snapped a picture of it with my phone, posted it on Twitter, and asked for help. I got several good ideas – run my spreader knife under hot water to help with the frosting that was already on the cake. And for the remaining frosting, add a few teaspoons of milk and stir like crazy until the texture was more creamy, less crumbly.

birthday cake

I mean, look, I’m not at any risk of ending up on one of those competitive baking shows anytime soon, but I made a cake. With the help of social media, sure, but still. It counts.

When I picked Catie up that evening, I told her about how I’d done this practice cake for her birthday, and I was so excited because it meant that I knew I could make the kind of cake that she wanted. And I don’t know if she was just overtired or if all kids her age are unintentionally cruel, but she just laid into me that it was NOT AT ALL the kind of cake that she wanted, and I was going to ruin her birthday with my stupid cake that was not what she wanted, and why would I do that to her, and and and….

Normally I shut it down pretty fast when my kids are rude, but it had been a long day dealing with this cake thing, and after all that work and effort that I’d put into it? I started to cry. (Again! I cried twice on my birthday! Yay me!) Which made Catie feel bad, so she started crying and apologizing. So, you know, at least she’s capable of showing remorse and isn’t a complete sociopath? I’ll take my silver linings where I can get them.

We made up before we went to get Lucy at daycare, then we went to my parents’ house for dinner.

Birthday cake with my babies. Doesn't get much better than that.

And for the record? That cake was delicious. Not as good as my Grandmother’s, but that’s an impossibly high bar.

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The rest of my birthday weekend was nice. The weather has been so unseasonably mild, and we’ve taken advantage of it. Chris hung out with the girls on Saturday morning so I could go for a long run (7 miles! Also, the half marathon is less than 2 months from now! OMG!), and when I got back, he had cooked breakfast for all of us – bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, and French toast. Running for over an hour and then walking into a house that smells like bacon? Aaaaamazing. Later we went to my parents’ house again, so the girls could plant flowers with my mom.

On Sunday, we took their scooters out to the neighborhood greenway. We stopped to check out the ducks and geese at the lake, and went to the playground. That was pretty fun.

Nice day for scootin' on the greenway.

Checking out the ducks and geese at the lake

Aside from the stupid cake stuff (and I still haven’t totally figured out what I’m going to do for Catie’s birthday cake next weekend), 39 has been pretty good so far. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

January 20, 2015Permalink

First Night, First Week

Last week, Chris and I bundled up ourselves and the girls, and met up with my cousin and her family, then piled all eight of us into an SUV (God bless third row seats) and went to First Night, an event here where they do a New Year’s countdown and set off fireworks at 7 p.m., so the kids can get home and get to bed on time. (Well, sort of. Better than keeping them up until midnight, anyway.)

Catie & her cousin Elizabeth at First Night, downtown Raleigh
Catie and her cousin Elizabeth could not be more different, and they are crazy about each other. They walk down the street holding hands and it is the cutest thing.

And it’s funny that Catie is taller than Elizabeth, since the first time they met, they looked like this:
Elizabeth & Cate
That 4-month age difference ends up as a wash sooner than later.

I tried to get a selfie with Chris, but Lucy wouldn’t allow him to set her down, and she wouldn’t smile for the camera, so… yeah.
Lucy was NOT into this selfie at all.
Chris couldn’t find his regular knit cap, but it was super-cold, so he grabbed this hat that said “Veteran” on it. (He was in the Army for a while, but he can’t remember where the hat came from.) We joked that he looked like he belonged at an RNC convention with that hat, it doesn’t really fit his style at all.

Last year, after the fireworks, we stopped for Krispy Kreme donuts. This year, we decided that should become part of our annual tradition. The big kids went to watch the assembly line of donuts being made (it’s kind of cool how you can watch them on a giant conveyor belt), and Lucy and I snagged the first free table while the other grown-ups waited in line for donuts.

Lucy and I passed the time by goofing around with my phone.

Lucy wanted to take pictures while we waited for our traditional New Year's Eve donuts

New Year’s Eve was supposed to be Dave’s night to have the kids, but he had no interest in doing the First Night stuff (he’s not a fan of big crowds). Instead, I dropped them off at his place afterward, then Chris and I went home, got in our PJs, snuggled up on the couch and watched the midnight countdown on TV. It was quiet and lovely.

This week, I’ve started back to work, but Catie is still out of school for the next three weeks for her winter break. (Lucy is back at daycare, I think she missed her friends during the two weeks she was out.) Catie didn’t want to go to her regular daycare this time; she’s one of the oldest kids there, and I think she’s gotten bored with it. She’s old enough that she could theoretically stay home with me, because she’s pretty self-sufficient and doesn’t get underfoot too much while I’m working, but she’d be bored out of her mind.

Catie and my cousin Cat’s kids are both on the same year-round school schedule, and it just so happens that my aunt and uncle come up from Texas to help out with Cat’s kids (their grandkids) on track-out breaks. My aunt Susie said she’d be happy to take Catie too, so this week, I’ve been taking her over to their house in the mornings, and she’s been getting to play with her cousins all day. She’s had a blast, and she comes home happy and exhausted.

My aunt has even been getting Catie to eat foods that she normally never touches, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’m not sure if she has some kind of voodoo mind power or what, but it’s fantastic. Not to mention that it’s saved me a ton of money that I haven’t had to pay for childcare, so I’m going to call that one a win all around.

So, hooray for having awesome family members who help out! It’s really great to have that support system when you need it.

How we do vacation
No reason for posting this, I just think it’s funny. Mainly because of Lucy’s face in the background as Elsa has a very serious talk with Ming-Ming from the Wonder Pets. And Catie is in love with that Zoomer Dino she got for Christmas.

January 7, 2015Permalink