A family movie outing

December 23, 2015 at 12:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I could hardly wait all year for the new Star Wars installment to hit the theaters. It’s the first new movie since the disappointing prequels, and the reviews claimed this one was a huge hit. Liam is only a luke-warm Star Wars fan (pun intended, ha!), and Violet is past her sleeping-all-day phase, so I knew it was going to be a challenge. But it’s Star Wars (!!!). I had to give it a shot.

10489966_1127490407261072_4066073151441130583_nSo James, Liam, Violet and I headed to the Warren Theater on a Tuesday to see the noon show. We allowed ourselves plenty of time in case the theater was crowded, and thankfully it wasn’t. We had the cry room to ourselves, in fact, which was a bonus because Violet had two explosively poopy diapers. The first one happened right when we got there, so while James handled the food I was able to clean her up in the bathroom. She peed all over the changing pad while I was changing her, so it was a bit of a fiasco. But I managed to get her dry and into fresh clothes long before the movie started. Liam and James were so impressed with the cry room that they decided to stay in there with me despite the risk of noisy interruptions. And there were plenty of those. I felt like I was in constant flux, putting Vi down on the floor to play, picking her up to nurse, bouncing her up and down to nap, cradling her with my arm asleep while I munched on kit kats, and repeating the whole process again and again as the movie progressed. I missed a few bits with the second diaper change (I was able to stay in the room, at least, instead of heading back to the bathroom), and then Liam started getting bored about halfway through and kept trying to talk to me. At one point he sat on the floor and entertained his sister – this sibling thing is finally starting to pay off! It turns out 2.5 hours is just a smidge too long for my almost seven year old’s attention span. But he seemed to enjoy most of it, even if the plot points went over his head.

Despite the constant interruptions, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I’m hoping to see it again – my mom offered to watch Violet so my dad and I can go see it while I’m in KC over the holiday. But we’ll see…Violet has been especially fussy today, and I think she’s teething again. She still won’t take bottles, and she’s not entirely thrilled with solid food. I usually only leave her with a babysitter for an hour at a time, or two hours, tops. Perhaps if I time it with her naps, or if I put her to bed before we go, we can manage it. How did I end up with such high-maintenance children?!

First Movie Night

October 16, 2015 at 11:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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James is out of town for four, and now possibly six weeks, while I hold down the fort with two kids. Yeah. Fun. We finished week one without too much drama, except that Liam keeps guilting me about paying more attention to Violet than to him. And it’s true – she needs A LOT of attention right now. And Liam is mostly okay with that. He gets up early and plays with her in the bed so I can take my time waking up. He pushes the buttons for her on the exesaucer. He hands her toys when she drops them and he’s the only one who can get a real giggle out of her. But if she starts crying, forget it. He never wanted a baby sister. Babies are so annoying!

In order to make it up to him, I decided to start a movie night on Fridays. I told him all about one of my favorite movies that I saw in the theater when I was about his age, The Dark Crystal, by the same guy who did the Muppets and Sesame Street. A brief outline of the plot and he was sold. (Although, hearing my description, I realized what a truly bizarre movie this is. Probably why I love it so much.) He got so excited, in fact, that he set up a “snack café” on Wednesday night. Behold.

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Popcorn is $1. Chips are $3. Candy is $11. And Kix are $100. And he emphasized that I had to pay him REAL MONEY. For two days he drilled me on proper snack café procedure. Enter the line HERE. Stand BEHIND the jump rope. Pay the cashier (Liam) in this spot. Give your movie ticket (which he cut out of green construction paper) to the ticket taker downstairs. It was at once adorable and annoying. Pretty typical for our little Liam.

Finally, it was Friday night. All through dinner he was jibber jabbering about how excited he was about movie night. We ate dinner early and got Violet’s bedtime routine started an hour early. She’d missed her afternoon nap, so surely she’d go right to sleep? Except I forgot that babies operate under Murphy’s Law. It was like SHE KNEW that I wanted her to give us two hours of peace and quiet, and she just wasn’t going for it. I tried three times to get her down, and finally at 7:30 she seemed to sleep soundly.

Liam excited stood at his post. I told him I’d like popcorn, and he said, “One dollar, please.” I pantomimed giving him money. He stared for a beat. “Mom, remember? I wanted real money?” Sheesh, this kid. So I dug a dollar out of my wallet, and he placed it in the “cash folder.” Quite the entrepreneur. I told him there was no way I was shelling out $11 for candy, and he didn’t make a federal case about it. Carrying the food downstairs, I gave my ticket to one of his stuffed animals. Then I took a seat next to Lucy, who incidentally had her own ticket as well. This kid!

I’d forgotten how complicated the plot for The Dark Crystal might seem to a six-year-old, so I had to do a lot of explaining. What is a prophesy? What is a conjunction? What is a shard? But I think he got the gist. He certainly got the visual elements. And he was just as delighted as I was when Kira revealed that she had wings. I told him when I was a girl I wanted to have wings, and he replied, “I wish boys could have wings, too.” Violet interrupted our viewing twice, but Liam didn’t seem to mind pausing it while I got her settled down again. She’s not usually this fussy at bedtime, so I’m hoping our subsequent movie nights work better.

It was great to spend some quality time with my boy. I love that he’s finally at an age to share in some of my favorite movies, and he doesn’t get scared by them or not understand them. I’ve already got plans to show him Hocus Pocus, The Monster Squad, Willow and Labyrinth. But he did ask if he could pick the movie sometimes, so we may have to alternate. I’ll be interested to see what he chooses…though I may have to insert a rule that it can’t be a movie we’ve already seen a hundred times.

Incidentally, I stumbled on this page on IMDB and realized I saw quite a few of these in the theater that year. I think my parents would trade off taking me to the movies while the other one watched Jill, who would have been between 6 months and 18 months that year.   

To the Movies!

April 2, 2015 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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While Liam’s in school, I’ve decided to indulge in an occasional afternoon matinee. I figure I might as well take advantage of this time while I have it. Here’s a rundown of the best ones I’ve seen this school year:

Boyhood (2014)
The concept of this film fascinated me – filming in real time over 12 years as all of the actors aged. And coming in when the lead character, a boy named Mason, was the same age as my own son, just made the film resonate even more with me. I kept imagining what Liam was going to be like at nine and twelve and eighteen. I loved how the filmmaker took seemingly trivial parts of Mason’s life and showed how those are the moments that made him the young adult that he turned out to be. I’m not surprised this has Oscar-for-Best-Picture written all over it. Ethan Hawk and Patricia Arquette were both amazing in it, as well.

Incidentally, the movie was so long that I had to leave early to pick up Liam, and I missed the last 15 minutes. However, I was delighted to see it on our in-flight movie lineup on our way back from Paris, so I was finally able to finish it. A modern-day masterpiece!

Wild (2015)
This film was produced by and starred Reese Witherspoon, about the true-life journey of a woman who goes on a 3-month solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail in order to recover from recent traumas in her life and rediscover who she is. I’ve always been fascinated by long-distance hiking. Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods is one of my favorite books. But I doubt I would ever attempt it, especially after seeing this character, a woman very much like myself in stature and strength, struggle to survive. But survive she does, and the film’s use of flashback to let the audience slowly discover what drives her to take on this drastic adventure is truly moving. Bring along a box of tissues, for sure!

Selma (2015)
I couldn’t resist seeing this amazing biopic of Martin Luther King, Jr. about his organization of the historic march from Selma, AL to Montgomery in order to pass the Voting Rights bill of 1965. This period of history has always fascinated me – I took “History of the 1960s” my junior year of college – and the film brilliantly portrays the struggle and the people in this cause. I liked the way the filmmaker humanized Dr. King, and although I’ve heard some criticisms about the portrayal of Johnson and his aides, it didn’t detract from the movie at all in my opinion. (Although I do agree with critics — we studied Johnson and read some great biographies about him in my class, and he really was more on the side of the minorities on this issue.) I also found it fascinating to see the reporters on the scene and how important that was for the civil rights movement. I could almost picture my own grandfather among the reporters, covering race riots in the South for ABC News in New York at that time. He once told me a story about getting a brick thrown at him through the door of his news van, and how his team would get sabotaged with sugar in their gas tanks.

We just celebrated Martin Luther King’s birthday recently, and this was the first year Liam talked about it. One night before bed he asked, “When did Martin Loofer King take down the White Only signs?” So I talked to him about how different times were back then, back when grandma and grandpa were kids, and how unfair it was for a lot of people. How Dr. King had a message, and how he wanted to put things right for his people, for all people who struggled with racism. He seemed to sort of get it, though racism is a pretty heavy subject for a kindergartener. It brought to mind this podcast I heard on This American Life a couple years ago. (Fast forward to minute 13:10 to hear the part that mentions Martin Luther King. It’s amazing. I cry every time I hear it.)

American Sniper (2015)
Military movies don’t usually interest me, but I’d heard so much about Bradley Cooper’s performance that I decided to give it a go. And he is amazing in it. The film brings up a lot of issues about soldiers reintegrating into society, PTSD problems, and the strain it puts on families. I heard an interview with Cooper about how the main character, Kyle, was killed while they were writing the script and trying to get the film produced. So they had to change the ending, which in turn changed the message of the film. Powerful stuff. It reminded me a bit of The Hurt Locker, and like that film, I’m not sure I’d want to see it again. It was good, but it’s also emotionally draining. Especially because my brother-in-law served in Afghanistan, and I couldn’t help thinking of him and what he must have gone through over there. He did his fair share of kicking down doors and interrogating people with the constant threat of snipers, roadside bombs, and even friendly fire. Liam told me the other day that he wants to be in the Army when he grows up, just like Uncle Mike. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Still Alice (2015)
This film, starring Julianne Moore as a women diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, really hit home for me in light of both my grandparents having this disease before they died. It was fascinating, and heartbreaking, to see her slow descent into complete memory loss, and how her family coped with it. I can’t say it was my favorite movie of the year – the secondary characters seemed a bit flat, though Moore’s performance was a standout, of course. But I found myself contemplating how I’ll cope with my own parents if one or both of them suffers this awfulness in their later years. My mother is especially susceptible because both her parents had it. It’s one thing to hear from my aunt and my parents how they coped with my grandma and grandpa, and it’s another to have to walk that path yourself. 

Cinderella (2015)
It seemed fitting to take Violet in utero to a movie I have a feeling she’ll want to watch ad nauseum when she’s the right age. We took Liam in utero to see Walking with Dinosaurs at the Sprint Center, as I recall, and he’s wild about that special. Of course, six-year-old Liam wanted nothing to do with this “girly” movie, so I decided to see it by myself while he was at school. And it was delightful! Chock full of actors I recognized from two of my favorite TV shows (Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones), and faithfully retelling one my favorite Disney animations in a live action film, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Great casting, great SFX, and enchanting. I can’t wait to watch this over and over and over in a few years!

Not much else is striking my fancy before my due date, so this might have been my last solo movie outing. Bummer. However, I think I can totally talk James into seeing Pitch Perfect 2 when it come out, assuming our little bundle stays in the oven as long as she’s supposed to. It’ll be cutting it close – the movie comes out May 15 and Violet is due to arrive May 19 – but if my premonition that Vi will actually arrive AFTER her due date comes true, I’ll welcome one last date night to distract me. As I recall James and I saw a movie on Christmas day in 2008, two days before I went into labor. Perhaps that’s a sign!

We Heart Harry Potter

June 20, 2014 at 10:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Like most kids his age, Liam tends to get obsessed by certain characters he sees on TV. For years it’s been Curious George. Then it was Jake and the Neverland Pirates. He went through about a month of watching nothing but Dinosaur Train, which I didn’t mind because of my own interest in dinosaurs. But now, finally, Liam is obsessed with something that I love, too.

A couple of months ago we put on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on a lark, not sure if Liam would have the patience to sit through an entire film. We wondered how much he would follow it, and if it would sustain his interest. He sat through the whole thing, completely enrapt. He went downstairs and discovered there were seven more films! Mom, let’s watch them all!

We started out just watching the first three, skipping over the dementor parts in the third film because they were a bit scary. But then I started wishing we could continue the story, so I relented and let him watch the fourth one, dutifully skipping over the entire Voldemort fight scene at the end. After a few weeks of that, I figured, hey, why not watch all of these and just skip the scary parts? Liam had been begging me to let him watch all the films, and the poor kid just wants to see what happens. I was a little nervous he’d see too much and he’d have nightmares, but so far he seems fine, and it’s certainly satisfied his HP obsession. He loves the end with all of the characters grown up and seeing their own kids off to school.

About a month ago I thought we’d try reading a chapter a night from the books as well. The first night he didn’t pay a lot of attention, but each night since then he lays there listening, stopping me to ask questions from time to time. We’re almost finished with The Chamber of Secrets now. It’s been so long since I’ve read the series, it’s been really fun for me to read, as well.

Last weekend we had the babysitter over to watch Liam, and he managed to convince her to watch the last of the Harry Potter films. I’m sure he didn’t have to try hard – she told him she’d never seen it. I asked him if she’d fast forwarded over the scary parts, and he very proudly told me, no, he’d watched the whole thing with her. Like he was trying to impress her. Oh boy. Still, no nightmares, just requests to watch the whole series in a row again. And I don’t mind – I never get sick of these movies. I thought about limiting him to just the first three again, but I figure now that he’s already seen it, what’s the harm? It’s not like he can unsee it. I feel a little weird with him watching something PG-13, but I think mostly I’m afraid what other parents might think of me allowing it. And, really, it’s not like I’m letting him watch Jaws or Alien or something. It’s still a children’s story, at least.

He’s always telling me tidbits from the movie, leaning over and saying, “You know, that Whomping Willow is a really mean tree.” The other day he said something in Parseltongue, and it sounded just like the movie. Needless to say he wants to be Harry Potter for Halloween this year. And I can guarantee you he’ll want to see the new Diagon Alley at Universal when we finally make it back down to Florida. Poor kid doesn’t remember that we already took him when he was 2. He’d even had butterbeer and Bertie’s Every Flavor Beans, but couldn’t remember those, either.

It’s been really fun sharing this with him. Makes me look forward to other movies I can introduce him to, especially the ones I loved as a kid.

Dog Days of Summer

August 20, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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August is long and hot…and boring. Life in Wichita has been slow. The house is mostly put together, and I have lost my motivation to do much exploring, especially with this pesky summer cold that won’t quit. However, the past couple of weeks haven’t been completely uneventful. Here’s what we’ve been up to.

  • We found a babysitter! Actually, our neighbor across the street wasn’t available, so she referred us to her cousin just down the block. But she showed up on time and Liam loved her. And she even charged less than our babysitter in Florida. Sweet! James and I went out for barbecue at Pig In Pig Out, voted best BBQ in Wichita on various websites. It was a very unassuming place in a sketchy neighborhood (aren’t all the best BBQ places like that?), and we were glad we got there early because they closed at 6. On a Saturday night. Weird. But oh my, the ribs were awesome! They didn’t have okra (sad face), but they had some killer green beans. James got the pulled pork and turkey, but he thought my ribs were better. So fun to try new restaurants – it’s one of my favorite things about moving to a new city. After dinner we saw the new Percy Jackson flick, which was better than the reviews led us to believe. All in all it was a nice date night. My only complaint was that Liam was still up when we got home. But we’d made an early night of it, so we didn’t blame the babysitter. He was at least in jammies and in bed getting a story read to him by the time we got in at 9:30. I think next time we’ll have to stay out later.
  • Liam saw his new pediatrician, and he did great! The doctor was attentive, answered all our questions, and really spent a good deal of time with us. She was super delicate when examining Liam, and he responded well. She even sent us home with a book, something they do for each child when they visit. She recommended we put Liam on daily Miralax, which may or may not help with the potty training. We’re still struggling with that.
  • I discovered my last optometrist in Orlando was smokin’ something. He recommended that I get a field vision test every six months because I was a glaucoma risk. Which had me pretty worried. But the guy here in Wichita looked over my records, ran a few tests, and said he didn’t agree. He suggested I come back in another year and they could do some other tests along with my eye exam. But he doubted I had any risk of glaucoma. Whew!
  • Liam still refuses to cooperate at the dentist. This is our fourth visit with him, though our first time with this new dentist in Derby. He dutifully sat and watched James and I get our teeth cleaned, but no amount of bribing or begging got him to sit still for his turn. The dentist said it was no big deal, we’d try again in another six months. I shouldn’t be surprised…Liam still has trouble even sitting to get his hair cut. I’ve been cutting his hair myself at home just so I don’t have to mess with it.
  • We booked our resort for Disney! We’ll be staying at The Dolphin for Oct 16 – 23. They have a deluxe spa there, so I think we’re going to go in for a couples massage. And we can take a boat or walk to Epcot every day for the Food & Wine Festival. We also plan to go to Sea World to see the Antarctica exhibit that had just opened after we left. And Liam will be staying the week in KC with my parents. We can hardly wait!
  • We finally broke down and jumped on the Netflix bandwagon. I had been catching up on Arrested Development on IFC, and I could only view the fourth season on Netflix. And I figured, since we’ve got the first month free, I might as well gorge on some other noteworthy shows – specifically Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black. The latter two have been outstanding, while AD was been a bit lackluster. But I was assured it picks up halfway through, so I’m slogging through. It’s awesome that I can also watch on my Nexus 7 and my iPhone, which should come in handy with our upcoming travels.

Speaking of which, it seems we have a lot of traveling and events look forward to. I’m leaving tomorrow for a short trip to KC to sell some books at Half Price (nine boxes worth, because James came to his senses), visit with family and friends, and pick up two more bookshelves from Nebraska Furniture Mart. Derby is having a festival on Saturday which includes an ice cream social and an outdoor movie, so if I’m feeling motived, Liam and I might take the ol’ stroller up to High Park and check it out. Sunday we’re off to Parent Orientation at his new preschool, and he’ll be starting right after Labor Day. And it looks like we’re getting lots of visitors in September – James’ friend Travis, my sister and her kids, and my parents. Then we end the month in Texas for my sister-in-law’s wedding. So while the dog days of summer still linger, we’ve got a busy fall ahead.

A week with Grandpa

July 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Our week with Grandpa Bob just flew by, and now that Liam’s down for his much-needed nap, I can share all the fun stuff we did. We had a lot of fun in the sun, which wasn’t James’ cup o’ tea. But he weathered it without too much complaint, despite the sunburns.

IMG_1019Saturday afternoon we spent at the pool, and with a little coaxing we got Liam to swim out in the deep water with daddy and grandpa. He’s still timid about leaving the steps, and he adamantly refused to go underwater. I figure he’ll have enough of that next Monday when we start up another round of swim lessons. Before I got him to leave the house, he modeled his little life jacket and swim ring for me. Of course, he wouldn’t actually wear them in the water. But at least I can see how freakin’ cute he is in them. Sigh. Maybe next summer.

On Sunday we headed to Lake Eola for the farmer’s market. I was one week too early for okra, but I picked up lots of fresh peaches, mangos, and tomatoes. Bob suggested we try brussel sprouts in lieu of okra, so we cherry-picked the smallest, most tender-looking specimens for Sunday’s dinner.

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We stopped at City Fish for lunch and a refreshing microbrew. It’s one of our favorite seafood joints, and conveniently right by the market. Yum! Because Bob was staying a little longer than he has in the past (which we love, by the way!), I decided to trot out our favorite dinner recipes. Sunday we grilled our awesomely spicy Haitian VooDoo Sticks, which we serve on pita bread with cucumber, tomato, and Archer Farms Tzatziki Yogurt Dressing. Bob sliced our fresh brussel sprouts in halves and sauteed them in olive oil with minced garlic, then topped them with shredded parmesan cheese. And let me tell ya, they were to die for! I’d tried brussel sprouts as a kid and hated them, and while my sister has always told me they’re way better fresh, I didn’t quite believe her. But I stand corrected! We will definitely be adding these puppies to the menu.

On Monday, to help James recover from his scalp and shoulder sunburn (my poor white boy), we took Liam to see Pixar’s new hit, Brave. Liam was so good during the movie, only once getting up to switch from daddy’s lap to mine. The steady stream of Reese’s Pieces probably helped, too. We all thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and Liam is still talking about “the girl with the red hair” and “the bear”. I was a little concerned he’d be scared during some of the fight scenes, but he seemed just fine. In general, Liam doesn’t seem too fazed by what he sees on TV. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

DSC_0002Tuesday we decided to trek to the beach. Last summer Bob, Liam and I had gone to Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic side. But because Liam and I had had such a fantastic time at Siesta Key, and Bob had such fond, but distant memories of Sarasota, we decided to try Clearwater on the gulf coast. Bob was jonesing for some Cuban sandwiches, so with a little googling, we found Columbia Restaurant in Clearwater. Bob remembered eating at their location in Sarasota years ago, so it was settled. We arrived just in time for lunch. We got a table right by the water, with lovely views of the inlet. We all ordered their famous Cuban Sandwiches, their 1905 Salad, and James tried the Spanish Bean soup. Best Cubans we’d ever tasted! After deciding to save half our sandwiches in the cooler for later, we indulged in dessert: James with Churros and caramel, chocolate, and guava dipping sauces; Bob with white chocolate bread pudding; and me with the Key Lime Pie. We sampled from each other’s plates, and I thought the bread pudding was the most outstanding. Best of all, as we were enjoying our meal, a couple of manatees lumbered by, and we watched them from the railing. Very cool!

Then it was on to the beach! We drove up Clearwater Beach a ways, but being July 3rd, the place was packed. We opted instead for the less crowded Sand Key, which was just south. Our waiter had told us it was a broken shell beach, so we knew it wasn’t going to be anything like Siesta Key. While the sand was disappointing, the water was not. Once you got past the small shells in the short break, you could walk quite a ways out and still keep your head above water. I’d never been that deep in the ocean with Liam before – I’ve always been nervous about taking him past the break when I’m by myself. But with Bob, James and I passing him around, it was actually quite nice. And the water was so warm! But full of seaweed – perhaps from the tropical storm that had hit that beach the previous week. Back on shore, James and I took turns building sand castles so Liam could knock them down. The sand was quite course, with an interesting salt and pepper color to it. Digging down a few inches, the shells became more apparent. I’m starting a sand collection in little glass bottles, and the Sand Key sand looks quite interesting, especially sitting next to my fine, white Siesta Key sand. I’m such a Midwesterner, I had no idea beach sand from the same general area could be so different!

For Independence Day, we stayed home and cooked another of our favorite meals, Tuscan Sausage Ragu. After dinner, we headed to downtown Avalon Park to see the fireworks. James wasn’t feeling up to going (surprise, surprise), and just as well – it was packed! I decided to park in the grass pretty far back rather than hunt for a closer spot. We checked out some of the booths, then headed back to the car in time to get our chairs out and watch the fireworks. Liam absolutely loved it! This is the first time I’ve actually taken him to see big fireworks, unless you count the time last December when I walked him in the stroller down the street far enough to see them just over the trees. He’s talked about that for months, so I figured he’d like to see them a little closer this year. When the show was over, we packed up the car, and as I was strapping Liam into his car seat, I suddenly felt like my feet were on fire! I’d stepped on a fire ant hill in the dark…in sandals. Let me tell you. That shit hurts. After much cursing and ripping off of shoes and slapping my feet like a lunatic, I managed to get myself composed enough to drive us home. In bare feet, mind you. And I had to off-road it to bypass the nasty traffic. From the back seat, Liam said, “Mommy, are you going to cry?” I told him, “Maybe. This doesn’t hurt quite so bad as childbirth, but, geez, feels like almost!” My feet were still stinging when I got home, but after slathering them with some cooling Benadryl, I took Liam to sit in the drive way and watch our neighbors shoot off roman candles. He seemed just as impressed by that as with the big fireworks. Of course.

Intent on avoiding the Disney/Universal/Sea World corridor, on Thursday we took Bob to Winter Park, a trendy, upscale area with shops and restaurants. We arrived just as the Amtrak was pulling into the train station in the adjacent park, so Liam, of course, went bananas. For lunch we stopped at our favorite Orlando restaurant, Bosphorous Restaurant, for some delicious Turkish fare. This time I tried the Moussaka – ground lamb, eggplant, and cheese served with rice. Heaven. Again we decided to save half our meal for dinner and indulge in dessert. While James and his dad enjoyed their rice puddings, it was nothing compared to the new thing I decided to try: Kunefe. It was a huge plate of shredded phyllo dough, sweet cheese, and a sweet sauce. They threw in a few whole pistachios for good measure. Wow.

Aside from eating well, we spent most of the rest of the week at home, where Liam would take grandpa upstairs and play trains. Or he’d follow grandpa out to the back porch to play in the sand box. Wherever grandpa was going, Liam was going, too. James and I got chastised for lingering too long. “Daddy, you can go now.” Or, “Mommy, go inside!” Liam wanted grandpa all to himself. After brunch at Keke’s today, we explained that we were dropping grandpa off at the airport so he could go back to Illinois. Liam pondered this a moment, then said, “But I’ll play with him tomorrow, then.” Poor kiddo. I have a feeling tomorrow morning’s going to be a tough one, explaining that grandpa isn’t here anymore. But grandpa will be back soon. We promise.

You had me at Muppet…

December 7, 2011 at 12:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Not since Toy Story 3 have I been so emotionally involved in a children’s movie. Liam sat still for the entire show so I could actually choke back a few tears without having to chase him around the theater this time. The movie wasn’t sad — really funny, actually – but it was particularly nostalgic for me. I remember my mom bought us a tape of Muppet songs that my sister and I listened to over and over. Rainbow Connection was my favorite, and now it’s Liam’s favorite, too. With this new Muppet movie come some welcome additions to the repertoire, notably a hilarious cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit which I embedded above. (Liam calls this the Meep Meep song, lol) It’s even funnier in the movie because the kidnapped host, Jack Black, keeps interjecting, “You’re ruining one of the greatest songs of all time!” The jokes were smart and quirky, the songs were outstanding (thank you, Bret McKenzie!), and it was so sweet to see the old gang reunited. Seriously, I got all choked up when the show lights came up and they all sang the Muppets theme song. I was suddenly transported to my parents living room, sitting on the green shag carpeting, eyes glued to the Muppet show. I was still pretty young when they aired in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, so I don’t really remember any specific episodes. In fact, I was probably watching repeats. But I do remember wearing out our VHS of The Muppets Take Manhattan and religiously watching Muppet Babies every Saturday morning. I had some high expectations for this movie, and it definitely delivered.

And let’s not forget Liam! He was such a good boy! It probably helped that he’d been listening to the soundtrack every day for a week before we went. He recognized all the songs, and kept asking when, “The Rainbow Song,” was coming. I brought lots of snacks and milk, and you should have seen how cute he looked sitting on the edge of his own seat, a bag of veggie chips in his lap, and his milk sippy in the cup holder. He eventually moved to my lap, then wanted to stand up and watch through the row in front of us. But he didn’t wander around at all, and he seemed to really enjoy the movie. He came home saying, “We saw the Puppet movie. I liked it.” And he keeps requesting I sing the Rainbow Song. Though today he asked me to play it on the radio (my iPhone hooked to the iHome)…I guess my rendition isn’t cutting it anymore!

There’s something special about passing down a beloved childhood icon to your own children. I remember my mom reading The Borrowers to me when I was girl, and she probably felt the same way I do now with Liam. It’s wonderful that he’s finally at an age where these things have real meaning to him.

Needless to say, we’ll be getting this movie on DVD. In the meantime I’ll just have to make do listening to the soundtrack every day. But I don’t mind, with songs like this one:

Muppet Madness!

November 30, 2011 at 10:53 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Last night while admiring neighborhood Christmas lights on our after-dinner stroll, this podcast convinced me we have to see the new Muppet movie. Liam’s never seen the Muppets, but I treasured the movies, spin-off cartoons, and toys in my youth. I mean, who doesn’t love Muppet Babies?! James doesn’t share my enthusiasm for the Muppets, so it looks like I’ll be taking him on a weekday morning, probably in the next couple of weeks. In preparation I downloaded a handful of songs from the new movie soundtrack, and since I sing Rainbow Connection to Liam almost every single day "(“Mommy, sing the Rainbow song! Again!”), I think he’ll like it. With any luck he’ll be able to recognize enough songs to keep him captivated through the film. That and a bag full of Reeses Pieces should help.

The beach, a play date, and date night

October 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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That about sums up our week. Liams been bad about the naps, and I’m still trying to catch up on all the shows I missed while in KC, so I haven’t had much time for blogging. Right now I’m at the park with Liam, fetching “orange bear” from the bottom of the slide and depositing him at the top of the stairs so Liam can push him down the slide. Apparently quite fun for both of them.

Anywho, it’s still blazing hot down here in FL, so we spent Wednesday afternoon at Cocoa Beach. I’d forgotten how much finer the sand was there than at Playalinda, and now that it’s fall the crowds were much lighter. I could even leave the stroller in the car and carry Liam since I didn’t have to bring a whole picnic lunch. We stayed about an hour as we watched a storm approach. Our umbrella almost blew away! We got drenched on the way to the car, and of course it blew over in no time. I tried to talk him into going back to the beach, but he wanted to go home. That actually worked out well — normally I’m so tired and sunbaked after a day at the beach, but this time we both felt fine. This might turn into a weekly afternoon excursion as long as the weather holds out.

On Friday we had a friend over to play, one-year-old Nicole and her mom Mandy who we met at swim lessons and have met up with a couple times. Liam did a great job sharing his toys, and while they didn’t really play together like Liam and Jean, they still had fun. We’re making this a weekly playdate since Mandy has Fridays off of work. Yay for new friends!

Last night James and I left Liam with our sitter so we could go out for a date night. Because we can almost never agree on a movie, we thought it would be fair for one of us to choose the restaurant and the other choose the movie. James chose Portobello, an Italian place in Downtown Disney that he and his family used to love when they lived here before. He was a little disappointed in his favorite appetizer, a thin crust 4-cheese pizza, but our entrees were great, and the white chocolate creme brûlée was amazing! After dinner we saw the movie I chose, 50/50, which I’d heard good things about from friends and NPR. We both really liked it — great performances and very well written.

Liam got his R2-D2 costume in the mail, and with a few minor adjustments, I think it will fit him. I say I think because I have yet to get him to agree to try it on. Sigh. It was only $15, so I won’t be completely heartbroken if he refuses to wear it for halloween. But bribery does work pretty well on him now, so I’m thinking I’ll just tell him the only way he can get candy is to put on the costume. At least it should work long enough for me to snap a few photos. Let’s hope.

Two Weeks in KC, and a Helluva Return Trip

October 5, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Have you ever been on a flight where something nutty happens and you can’t wait to tell whoever is picking you up this crazy thing that happened on your flight? Let me tell you, when you are the CAUSE of that nutty thing, it isn’t nearly as fun.

Let me preface this by saying Liam hates wearing the airline seatbelt. He’s perfectly fine being strapped into his stroller, on the bike seat, and in his car seat. But for some reason he hates that damn seatbelt on the airplane. The last three flights we’ve taken in the past couple of months the attendant has let him ride on my lap. But this time our attendant was a stickler for the rules, and she wouldn’t let up. As we were landing, she hovered until I got him strapped in – mind you, kicking and screaming like I was poking him with sharp sticks. He managed to wriggle free and climb into my lap, and sure enough she came by to nag me again that he needs to be belted in. She even said, “The plane can’t land until your seatbelt is on,” as if a two-year-old will listen to reason.

And I lost it. Like full on banshee scream-fest. I immediately felt horrible and apologized, then burst into shoulder-wracking sobs. On the plus side, I think I scared Liam straight. He spent the rest of the flight sitting quietly, eyeing me with concern and holding my hand. What a sweet boy I’ve got! The guy in the aisle seat next to me — bless his heart for putting up with two hours of toddler shenanigans followed by massive mommy meltdown —  offered me some sage advice after I’d calmed down. He asked if this was my first kid in that knowing way that grandparents have. Then he said, “At this age, if you win the battle today, you’ve won it for life. And if you lose the battle today, you’ve lost it today.”

As I left, the naggy attendant and I made amends, and several people approached to give me pats on the back or praise for how cute Liam was on our way to baggage claim. It’s amazing the kindness of strangers. I came home feeling physically deflated, like a spent party balloon. Two weeks in my hometown among friends and family made me feel intensely lonely upon my return to Florida. I took a much-needed nap, had a nice cry, and felt quite sorry for myself.

But this morning I awoke to find an email from one of my Florida mommy friends asking me to join her for a class at the Y on Friday. I felt immensely better. We took a bike ride in the afternoon, and I rediscovered all the things I love about my new hometown. Shorts weather in the fall. The swaying palm trees. The sunning geckos. Home feels like home again.

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As for our trip, we had a wonderful time! Liam really bonded with his cousin Evie. They played and played and played the first few days we were there. Liam especially loved playing with the dollhouse – the same dollhouse Jill and I played with as little girls, one that my grandfather made for us. We spent one morning at Deanna Rose feeding ducks, petting cows, and riding a pony. Actually, Evie did all those things while Liam watched. He’s grown wary of animals, among other things. (Slides, trains, people…)

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James joined us for a long weekend, and we had a great anniversary date night while Liam stayed home with grandma and grandpa. We had dinner at Genghis Khan (yum!) and saw Moneyball (snore!). It got great reviews, but for me it combined the two most boring subjects on the planet – baseball and statistics.

For week two I mostly hung out with friends, meeting for dinner or lunch on my own and meeting for play dates with Liam. We had mixed results with our play dates, and I’m glad I limited it to just a few. Liam’s still so shy with new people. I gorged myself at my favorite restaurants – Lucky’s Brewegrille (who incidentally took my favorite burger off the menu, but they still made it for me anyway!)

On the weekend dad and I headed to the zoo for an afternoon of adventure. But we were met by 10,000 girl scouts at the front gate, and we wisely decided to save the zoo for next year. Instead we took Liam to Union Station, where I think he had a much better time admiring toy trains in the relative peace and  quiet. I heart this photo:

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We had lunch at Fritz’s just before the lunch crowd hit, and Liam sat enraptured by the little trains in the ceiling delivering the food. Then we took him to the planetarium for the same preschool show I used to take him to in DC, the one with Big Bird and Elmo talking about the stars and learning Chinese. Last time he went, I remember thinking it was so cute when he’d point and say, “Elllmmmo!” and “Mooooon!” This time he talked through the entire 30-minute show in this weird stream-of-consciousness toddler monologue. “The moon! It’s going up! Big Bird! Elmo! They going around! I want to watch Monsters Inc. I like ice cream!” And so on. Non-stop. Hard to imagine eight months ago he was hardly talking.

I’m glad we stayed for as long as we did. Liam got very comfortable at grandma Julie and grandpa Mark’s house. He had plenty of time to play with Evie, copying her every move and utterance, hilariously. We took them for a walk, and it was so cute to watch her walk along the sidewalk, running her hand along the parked cars, and Liam following right behind her, arm outstretched to touch the cars, too. We had one night to play with Camden, his nine-year-old cousin, who intimidated him a little, but was super sweet getting out his old train set and laying it all out for the kids to play with. Liam pretty much ignored Milo, except to notice that, “Mommy’s holding Milo!” and five minutes later crying, “Mommy needs put Milo down!” Now we’re thinking 4 or 5 years between siblings might be a safe bet.

Sunday night mom and I went to see The Help while dad took a turn babysitting Liam. Mom and I really enjoyed the movie, and I think dad really enjoyed bonding with Liam. They watched Cars (again!), then he convinced Liam to try a movie not in his regular repertoire – Wall-E, one of dad’s favorites. About halfway through, Liam got a little sleepy, so he changed into jammies and brushed teeth. Then in typical grandpa fashion, he asked Liam if he wanted to go to bed or finish watching Wall-E. Guess which one Liam chose? But no bother – I told dad to keep him up as late as he wanted. I could use a morning to sleep in. And wouldn’t you know it, the next morning dad got Liam up and fed him breakfast for me! Then Liam strolled in to wake me up, proclaiming, “Mommy’s home!” Dad said Liam didn’t know I was even home from the night before, lol. I asked him what he wanted to do, and he said, “Want to watch Wall-E!” Seems he didn’t get to finish it the night before. This kid has a good memory.

I was sad to leave my family behind knowing we probably won’t see each other for awhile. It’s looking likely my parents won’t be able to make the long trek down to Florida this Thanksgiving, and my sister can’t really afford a trip down next year, either. But I’m hoping if I truly won the airplane seatbelt battle, I can make another trip to KC in the spring or early summer. And then, after my dad retires, my folks can drive down next Thanksgiving, stopping off along the way in the Deep South for some sightseeing.

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