Friday, June 29, 2012

Tiny Dancer

Last Saturday was the all-important first dance recital. Mia took her first tap class this year, and although this was not her first dance class, it was her first recital, since last year she was the flower girl in my brother's wedding. (If you have been reading for awhile you may remember my learning curve from last year when Mia took her pre-ballet class so you may possibly understand my concern for getting it right.)

{Here's my tiny dancer all prepped for her dress rehearsal.}

I had a lot of anxiety about the recital. For one thing, I had been warned by Mia's friend's mom that her friend had spent the past two recitals crying in the back room the entire time. See, we had to drop her off and she wasn't allowed to sit with us. (I can't remember whether or not she could sit with us if we bought her a ticket or not... I guess I could check the recital handbook, which was several pages long. No joke. I was already kind of annoyed about having to buy tickets for Brett and myself for $13 apiece.) And although her dance was the second to last performance of this recital (It was the Saturday matinee and the third of four recitals.), I didn't want to take her at intermission because I feared that we wouldn't get decent seats, (after paying for seats it's general admission) and if we couldn't see her, what was the point? If you are sensing that I am frustrated by how BIG of deal all of this is, you are right.

Getting her ready was stressful. The handbook said that buns were required. Considering Mia's recent self-haircut and my general lack of hairstyling skills, this was no easy feat. I used a lot of bobby pins and hairspray, which are both foreign objects to my five year old. This was after getting her into her outfit (thankfully, we didn't snag the tights) and trying not to think about how I hoped she didn't have to use the bathroom at all since I didn't want a stranger helping her in and out of the costume, especially considering she couldn't wear underwear with the costume. After a reasonably successful bun was formed, I had to place her little "pillbox" type hair accessory, and make sure that it was stay (it had come loose during the mandatory dress rehearsal and so I had to try to fix it as best I could before they were put in silly poses for a required group professional photo following the rehearsal. Is it just me, or would it make more sense to take pictures before they dance?)

{This is the bun and "pillbox" before dress rehearsal. I made sure that "pillbox" went around the bun for recital since that is how the other girls were wearing it.}

Next came makeup. Oh boy, was this something I fretted over. I wanted to make sure she had enough to fit in (since after dress rehearsal I worried that I hadn't used enough), but not so much that she looked like a clown. There were a couple of disasters involving mascara and eye liner (both were removed before I did too much damage), and I wondered how in the world those pageant moms on "Toddlers and Tiaras" do this to their kids all the time. In the end, I thought she looked very pretty with foundation, blush, lavender eye shadow, and lipstick. Brett laughed at me before we left because I was trying to make the lipstick as perfect as I could (even knowing that it would likely be gone by the time she went on stage and there was no way of knowing if anyone was going to touch it up for her). "No, do a bigger kissy face," I told her. It is difficult to apply lipstick to her tiny lips.

{Makeup may be a new thing for this girl, but glamour poses are not!}

I dropped her off 20 minutes before 1:00 showtime. She seemed fine with being left since she saw a couple of friends from her class. I mentioned to one of the mom volunteers that it was her first time in hopes that she would help her if needed. She had her backpack with extra makeup, water bottle, doodle pad, crayons, coloring book, a book about dance, and some forbidden snacks. (Hey, it was going to be a long time and I didn't want her to get cranky from hunger so I packed pretzels and a Fruit Roll-Up, which were the least messy things I could find in the pantry. It turned out that she and her friend were told they couldn't eat, but she said they ate as much as they could before getting caught.)
{The end pose of "High Hopes" is the second cutest part of the dance routine. Everyone loves when the girls all stomp their feet in unison to the part about not being able to "make that ram scram."}

This was a loooooooooong show. Counting the 15 minute intermission, it ran 3 1/2 hours. It probably could have been trimmed down significantly if they had skipped the musical theater numbers (all of the songs from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and then "Grease" in the second half) and that's not counting all of the filler skits (so that the older girls could change costumes approximately 20 times because obviously they need to perform ALL of their numbers for ALL of the four recitals. Grrrrr.) I had no idea that they did all of that. Plus after Mia's number, there was a large group performance of "Thriller" followed by company bows, which took awhile. Poor Logan crawled from Brett's lap to Grandma and Grandpa to me over and over and played with the contents of my purse. The only good thing was that we didn't need to buy a ticket for him because he is still 2. I was mentally crossing my fingers that he didn't lose that purple ticket that they told me I would need to get Mia at the end.... surely, they weren't complete sticklers about that? And then about a quarter of the way through the first half he started asking at the end of each number, "Done now?" (And he didn't do this quietly.) Thankfully, the people around us thought it was cute and even told me so at intermission. Brett took him out and bought him snacks from their concession stand (Cheetos and Oreos) and took him outside for as long as possible. I was truly shocked that it was enough to get him through the recital.

We were all hot and tired by the end. Poor Mia was actually rubbing her eyes during her 2 minute stage debut, tap dancing to "High Hopes," and obviously looking adorable (if slightly unsure of all the moves). Brett pointed out that all the kids in her age group needed to do was walk on stage and the audience let out a collective "awwwwww." Any dancing they did was just icing on the cake. My face was actually tired from smiling while the little ones danced (that and the special needs classes; they were probably the biggest hits of the show). I still can't get over the fact that she had to go last. Who expects a bunch of 4-6 year olds to wait that long? Apparently, the dance studio does. They must have been oblivious to the fact that these kids should be their crowd-pleasing bread and butter, not those high school girls that they felt the need to show off repeatedly.

Finally, it was over and I was anxious to retrieve her from the band room. I tried to go through the nearest door, which I had used to take her backstage at dress rehearsal along with many other moms, but it was blocked by a large man dressed as a zombie (remember "Thriller" was the finale?) who informed me that he wasn't allowed to let anyone through. Not one to argue with the undead, I got into the massive group that was shuffling toward the main exit. Brett told me not to worry; we'd get her soon. I ran into Mia's friend's mom in the hallway and told her I wasn't sure where the end of the "line" was. It was really just a traffic jam of moms waiting to pick up their kids. She suggested that I stay with her, so I did. Then, once I gave someone my ticket it seemed to take too long for them to bring Mia to me. I could see her lined up in the adjacent hallway but I couldn't have her, which was nerve-racking. Eventually, someone brought her to me, explaining that her ID tag on the back of her costume had been hidden by her backpack so it took longer to locate her. Just when I thought the stress was over, she walked out into the crowd, took it all in, and immediately asked me if I had flowers for her.

Um, no, I didn't realize that we had to buy our kids flowers. I thought the gift was a year worth of dance classes. Silly me. And Brett had spent our money on overpriced junk food. Thank goodness for Grandma. She quickly went and bought Mia a bouquet of brightly dyed Gerbera daisies (which are in a vase of purple water right now, even though I have changed that water). That did the trick. She was happy again and let us take a couple of pictures that she had refused prior to getting her flowers. She commented that a few other kids were getting gifts, but thankfully, she didn't make an issue of that. She did complain that she had to "be in that room for hours," and I couldn't blame her. It was definitely an experience. Now we know what to expect, and we can hopefully plan better for next year. She says she can't wait to take tap again, and that tells me that it was all worth it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Close Call

I knew I had my cell phone in my pocket when we left the post office. I had set it on vibrate since we were heading to the library. It wasn't until the Read, Music, and Play session was mostly over when I realized that it wasn't in my pocket. I figured that I had put it in the diaper bag or our book bag, but after taking those apart, it hadn't turned up. I explained to Mia that we were going to get their reading prizes, we had to look for my phone. (We are doing really well so far and they both earned their big prize, a beach ball, plus a smaller prize. Mia chose one of those annoying squishy things you send flying with your fingers and Logan decided on a truck.)

So, I asked the children's librarian where to find the Lost and Found and she told me to check with the main desk. I mentally reviewed the description of my phone in case they needed to know (LG Cosmos, the kind that slides open for texting, has a hot pink/black/white cover on it with flower/butterfly design, and the wallpaper is set with a picture of the kids and Ritzy). Unfortunately, after checking out our books and videos, the lady at the main desk said they had no phones turned in recently and I told her I was sure I had lost it in the past hour or so. She suggested I go back downstairs to the administrative offices where cell phones often get placed in a safe. After having no luck there, I was starting to get worried. The woman in the office commented, "It's nerve racking isn't it?" She added that I should check back another time because it might get turned in, which I didn't find particularly reassuring. It would only get turned in if it was in the library to begin with, and I wasn't feeling as confident about that.

I never thought I was one of those people who are connected at the hip with their cell phones, but it turns out that the thought of losing it was pretty scary. For sure, it was starting to put me on edge not knowing where my phone had ended up. Not only do I like to have it with me wherever we go in case of emergency, but it also has lots of pictures of the kids (since Brett got me that new memory card, I've been using the camera feature much more often; I just haven't gotten around to uploading any of them onto the computer. This means they would be lost, or worse, in the hands of a stranger.) Not to mention, I have practically every number I would ever need to call programmed into my contact list so I don't need to look up the number for the pediatrician or the dog groomer or the salon (or poison control).

As a last ditch effort, we retraced our steps throughout the library, first through the children's section, then upstairs through the racks of murder mysteries, which is where I had to stop before the story time began. I asked the kids to look on the ground as we walked to the van, and looked around inside the van as I put them into their car seats. On the way out, Mia had suggested that maybe it was lost forever, and I was starting to think that may be the case. I decided we would stop at the post office on the way home just to see if I had dropped it there. Shortly before we were at the post office, I glanced down, and right between my feet was my cell phone. I don't know how I didn't see it when I got in, but I was totally relieved by my close call.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Fish Tale

Cheap Entertainment
Our most recent family trip to visit Grandma and Grandpa happened to coincide with the 7th Annual Kids Free Fishing Day in Traverse City. This past Saturday was what seemed to be the perfect day for fishing (at least to this amateur fisher who admittedly knows next to nothing about the sport). I heard that they had stocked 1000 rainbow trout, and the event was totally free including bait, a borrowed fishing pole, and food. I figured we had nothing to lose. We would for sure leave with at least one trout (the limit was 2 per child so we could have ended up with a total of 4 if luck had been on our side), and I wasn't completely looking forward to this since I had no idea what we were going to do with a dead fish -- certainly not eat it, anyway. So even though we didn't really know how to fish or what in the world we would do if we caught a fish, we headed out for a family adventure. Both kids were thrilled at the thought of fishing and I was happy to have some form of cheap family entertainment.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part
They were a bit less enchanted when they learned more about what fishing really entails. As we waited in line to get our gear, one family was just leaving, and I overheard the mom announce to nobody in particular, "We got skunked. We fished for an hour and caught nothing." I realized that this was an important point that I had overlooked in prepping the kids (and myself, it turns out) and took the opportunity to tell them that we might not catch anything.

Once we got our Dixie cup of worms and a pole, we found a spot that wasn't too crowded and I asked Brett if he wanted to put the worm on the hook or if he wanted me to do it. I can't remember why I even asked that. He told me I should do. That should have been my first clue that he was not fond of fishing. Despite the worm's squirming protestation, I got it on the hook. I double stabbed it, too, just to make sure it stayed on. We were ready to go. Brett cast the line and let Mia reel it in, then he repeated this process to give Logan a chance. Over on the other side (where it was pretty crowded), people were reeling in fish left and right and after a few minutes of waiting, I convinced him that we had to move the the other side where the fish were obviously biting.

{Logan reels in the line.}

{Mia was excited to go fishing for the first time.}
{This is the spot where the fish were not biting.}

The only difference there, it turns out, is that we got a closer view of everyone else catching fish. And occasionally, someone's line would get tangled with ours. Plus, there were the crazy folks who wildly cast their lines backward with total disregard to the tons of people, mainly children (hello, it's kids free fishing day) who may have gotten hit. I kept seeing mothers snapping photos of little kids holding up their fish while standing next to their proud fathers. I was getting a bit disheartened. When was I going to get a chance to take a similar picture? More casting, more reeling in, more waiting. Logan got antsy, so I took him off to get plates of hot dogs and chips for both kids.

{And here we are at the spot where I was sure we would catch a fish...}
{Logan decided that eating a hot dog was better than fishing.}

"The One that Got Away"
I brought him back as quickly as possible, because I didn't want to miss that moment when Mia got her first fish. And, of course, I would finally get to take that all-important photo. Then, the grandfather next to us helped his grandson reel in fish number two, and I noticed that his hands were totally covered in blood. Eewwww. Even knowing that they had a station with volunteers waiting to clean the fish couldn't make me get excited about the idea of actually catching a fish. Mia wasn't ready to give up, though. Brett told me they had a fish nibble on the worm while we were off getting food. Logan was content for a bit since he had food. Like that other family, we kept on trying for an hour when Logan was really, truly fed up with the waiting and we had to call it quits. There would be no bloody fish to deal with (whew, dodged a bullet there) and unfortunately, there would be no proud family photo. However, I mentally patted myself on the back for hooking that worm so well that it stayed on for a full hour, nibble and all. Trying not to think about "getting skunked," we headed off to find more fun...

{Such concentration. Too bad luck wasn't on her side.}

Catch of the Day
What we found called for more waiting. After about 1/2 hour we made it to the front of the Great Lakes Children's Museum booth. (Brett took the kids one at a time off to get their free tee-shirts from another booth while we waited in line.) Fortunately, we didn't have to leave completely empty handed. Mia made this pretty print using some sort of rubber fish and printmaking ink pressed onto cotton cloth. (Logan had decided that he was done just as we made it to the front of the line, so Brett had taken him to the van to wait.) With Mia's pink and purple fish print, we left the free fishing day, and one of the Rotary volunteers told her, "What a pretty fish" as we passed. I laughed about how it was the only one we had caught.

{This is a cool project, and I have to say I prefer fish art to real fish any day.}

{Detail of the fish print}
In the end, I was a bit surprised that we didn't catch a live fish. I thought it would actually be easier, which just shows you how little I know about fishing. I had to remind myself that the goal was to have fun as a family and I think we managed that. I get the sense that Brett would prefer not to do any more fishing. Logan may have been a bit too young, so there is always next year. Mia handled the disappointment about not catching any fish well, so I was pleased by her attitude. And I decided that we have to try again next year. I told my parents how well planned out this event was. It really was nice to get a chance to try out something that Mia has wanted to do for quite awhile without the hassle of investing any money. This definitely met my expectations as far as cheap family entertainment goes. Admittedly, I wanted that photo with Mia looking thrilled with her catch. I am sure that day will come, so I will just need to wait.

After our fishing foray, we made our way over to the Grand Traverse Library to check out the children's garden. It was also very nice (and free), which I loved. The kids' favorite part was the wooden train. I enjoyed all of the sculptures and the sun dial that told us where to stand in order to get our shadow to tell us the time.

{Logan as conductor}

{Mia in the "dining car"}

{And peeking out the window}

{I think the look on his face says it all: a great day of family adventures!}

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fruits of Our Labor

Why does it seem like the world has started spinning faster this summer? Here I am posting about something that happened nearly 2 weeks ago: our first trip to the strawberry patch, which was way back on June 6. I was hoping to make it back again, but I fear the season has passed us by. At least the kids and I had a good time while we could. Logan probably ate more white strawberries that he should have, but then again, he probably ate more strawberries than he should have, period. And eating them right after you have picked the berries is just about as close to Heaven as we can get, so I don't blame him. So many, many tasty things can be made with strawberries, but we managed just a few with our 5+ pounds. (And I had high hopes and dreams of becoming someone who knows how to can... Guess I will have to wait for the next season.) I am not complaining. Every bite was worth it.

{Logan was excited about the tractor-pulled wagon ride, so he didn't mind the wait.}

{So sweet! These are the Early Glow variety. Definitely getting them again!}

{One for Logan....}

{This one looks good to me.}

{Here they are actually picking berries.}

{It was a beautiful day, but I was glad we went in the morning. The sun was hot.}

{Rain boots + old clothes = good idea. I only wish they had agreed to wear hats.}

{Even though he had his own container, he kept sampling from our haul of berries.}

{Note: I don't know whose stroller that is in the background, but I don't recommend taking one with you if you are berry picking. We did that once at the apple orchard, at it's more trouble than it's worth. Just my two cents.}

{A sign of a good time: berry-stained face!}

{This strawberry jelly is easy to make and really yummy. The first jar is already gone!}

{These strawberry white chocolate muffins were ah-ma-zing! Must make them again and again and again... not overly sweet, just perfect.}

{I kind of wish that I had piped whipped cream around the outside edges. It would look so pretty, but truthfully, it tastes good, so I don't care too much about the presentation.}

Shimmering Strawberry Pie 
6 cups strawberries, halved
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 recipe Oil Pastry for Single-Crust Pie (or if you're like me and want simple, a ready-made graham cracker crust)

  1. Prepare Oil Pastry for Single-Crust Pie*. Prick bottom and sides of pastry generously with tines of a fork. Bake in 450 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until pastry is golden. Cool on a wire rack.
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine 1 cup of strawberries and the water. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes.
  3. In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar and cornstarch; stir in berry mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature.
  4. Fold remaining strawberries into cooled syrup mixture; transfer to pastry shell. Cover; chill for 3-4 hours.                                                                                                                        * Oil Pastry for Single-Crust Pie: In a medium bowl stir together 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Combine 1/4 cup fat-free milk and 3 tablespoons cooking oil. Add milk mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir lightly with a fork until dough forms; form into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, slightly flatten dough. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Ease pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond edge of plate. Fold extra pastry; crimp edge as desired.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rock On, Kids!

I know this isn't the most original of project ideas, but we painted rocks recently. Actually, it was Mia's idea. We started the looooong process of clearing out our rock bed in the front of the house, and she commandeered some of the rocks for painting. Since I know I good (simple) idea when I hear one, that's just what we did. This project can be as simple as you want (paint all rocks a single color each, and display on a shelf or in a jar) or more complex such as painting designs or even creating dimensional faces with yarn, puffy paint, googly eyes, or other materials that you have available.  If the weather is nice, you could even do this outside to save yourself some cleaning up. Don't have rocks? Take a nature walk; then you have a two-for-one activity. Or try smooth pieces of wood or all those sea shells you have sitting around.

{Even little ones can do this.}
  • rocks (any shape/size available)
  • paint (We used acrylics; tempera would also work.)
  • paintbrushes
  • smocks or old clothing
  • newspaper (to cover work surface)
  • paint tray (We use old Styrofoam meat packages -- Wash well before using.)

{Mia's Rocks}

Optional Materials:
  • puffy paint
  • googly eyes
  • feathers
  • pom poms
  • sequins
  • beads
  • yarn
  • buttons
  • acrylic gems
  • stickers or rub-ons
  • tacky glue (unless you used self-adhesive items)

Mr. Mischief

{Not normally where I like him to wear his diapers...}

{Good thing he's cute.}

{Who me?}
{Yes, you! Tiny pasta everywhere... Did I mention that he's cute?}

{An all-too familiar scene... but at least he's cute!}
{He can tie knots. Who knew? Poor dog didn't know how to deal with this.}

{Speaking of the poor dog, here he is stealing her food yet again.}

{Yes, I let my child eat dog food. What can I say, other than he's cute!}

{"Me a doggy. Woof woof." He'll outgrow this someday, right?}

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Baby Mine

It seems like I have been way, way too busy to sit down and post anything lately, but here is a little tidbit of life at the moment. I found this super cute Dumbo costume last weekend at a garage sale for only $1.50, and knew I could not pass it up. (We had just watched Dumbo for the first time that week, so the timing was perfect.) Once Logan saw it, he happily tried it on. It fit nicely, and I hope it will still fit well come October, but if it doesn't at least I won't be out too much money. With his new costume on, he was excited to go trick-or-treating and asked if we could go in the wagon. How quickly kids pick up on things like that. Last Halloween, it was very difficult to convince him to wear his costume, but once he realized we were serious when we said he wasn't going to get any candy without it, he put it on. Now, Halloween can't come fast enough. His favorite part of the costume is the floppy ears, which he demonstrated flapping for me. The cutest thing is that instead of just calling me "Mama Lion," he now sometimes calls me "Mama Elephant." It's so sweet, and I wish he would stay my baby for as long as possible.

Baby Mine
From "Dumbo"
Music and lyrics by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington

Baby mine, don't you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Rest your head close to my heart
Never to part
Baby of mine

Little one when you play
Pay no heed to what they say
Let your eyes sparkle and shine
Never a tear
Baby of mine

If they knew all about you
They'd end up loving you too
All those same people who scold you
What they'd give just for the right to hold you

From your head down to your toes
You're not much, goodness knows
But you're so precious to me
Sweet as can be
Baby of mine