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Our Trip to the Dallas World Aquarium, Part 3; The Good Stuff

Monday, August 31, 2009

(If you haven't read part one or two, feel free to catch yourself up... )

This is what I love about the way that my (and maybe yours?) memory works. Its been a few weeks since our trip, and looking back on it, I'm having a hard time remembering anything negative (I'm sure it will come back as I get to typing). I remember the uncomfortable and heavy heat that lingered in the air, partially because it was a rain forest, but mostly because we were stuffed like sardines onto a long winding path that seemed to go on forever, shoulder to shoulder with other Mom's and Dad's trying to heard their children, which seemed to make the awkward invasions of personal space OK.

Eleanore was anxious to see everything all at once, the plants, the animals, the cute little girl that she had met on the elevator that she swore was her new best friend, they were all so exciting. Charlie, was working hard at keeping himself out of the stroller, why would he want to sit way down there, when he could be way up here?! With our arms full, and our brains already so close to over stimulation, we inched our way down the muggy path and took in everything that the zoo had to offer.

Our first big stop, was to watch the Otters play. There had been a few little areas of interest along the way, maybe some monkeys, maybe some turtles (because there seemed to be both monkeys and turtles every 5 feet), but the Otters were a big splash with the kids.

...heh, get it? Big splash.
*hangs head in shame* Its Monday, can you tell?

The kids smooshed their faces against the glass, "oooh"ing and "ahhh"ing over the cute little creatures that were jumping and showing off for them on the other side. The otter really were cute though, even I (when I found 5 seconds to look up and focus on what we had even stopped to see) found myself tilting my head off to one side and letting out a little whimper of delight. I let the bazillions of germs that were invisibly smeared across the glass go, and watched my babies eyes light up as their imaginations kicked in.

And then there was this guy.

The family ahead of us had stopped to get a family portrait on this rock bench, so I had to be a copy cat and try the same. Only, by this point on the path, Charlie was exhausted and the second that we set him down onto the stone he buried his face into his sisters shoulder and opened the flood gates. We didn't even attempt another shot, we just scooped him up, and carried on.

Hey, the stroller did come in handy after all.

While Charlie napped away in his stroller, Eleanore got to soak up all of our attention on high. Towards the end of the adventure, we came up to a great big giant waterfall. You'd think that she would have been in awe, but instead...

"Its too noisy!", she yelled, as Daddy picked her up and tried to tickle out a smile. She held her hands over her ears until he set her down on the ground. Apparently when you're up in the air, everything is twice as loud.

"Come take a picture by the waterfall with Mommy! Come with me Elie, come see it!" I begged. I handed Daddy the camera, grabbed her by the hand, and yanked her over to an open space by the bamboo fence. Nicely though, nicely. I yanked nicely.
"NOOO!! Its too noisy!!!", she yelled back.
"Elie, look, look at the pretty waterfall! And smile at Daddy!"


She wasn't having it. I don't blame her though, really. We were trying to compact as much one on one time with her as possible, before brother woke up and we'd have to go back to our one child per parent ratio. We were overwhelming her, it was kind of loud, she was right, and she was tired. No picture with Mommy. That's okay. I'll live.


Also hanging out down by the waterfall, was this guy.

Clearly, we both shop at Target.

Rather than finishing off the journey the way that it was meant to be, by going straight from the waterfall down into the aquarium cave, we had to take a detour. I had previously promised Eleanore, about 20 minutes before, that we'd go into the gift shop. I said it in attempts to avoid a tantrum, and it had worked, I had postponed it. She had seen the toys and money suckers from the path above, looking over the railing and screaming "but there are toys down there!". In order to keep her moving, I told her we were on our way to pick out her birthday present. Dangit. I would say that, wouldn't I? Well to be fair, we had planned on letting her pick out her birthday gift there when the time came, I just wish I would have kept my mouth shut so that we could have finished our walk through, and then handed over the remaining bits of our vacation cash.

While in the gift shop, we reunited with Charlotte and her parents, who looked like they were ready to call it a day. Red faces, tired eyes... I could relate. I asked (told really) Christopher to take the kids to go sit down with them, and I'd shop. Mostly because I couldn't keep up with Eleanore grabbing everything and throwing it around saying "LOOK AT THIS MOMMY!" for another second. Once my distractions (family) were gone, I was overwhelmed with the most disgusting smell. At first I thought it was maybe just in my local standing area, so I moved across the room, gasping for air. No relief. The place smelt like diarrhea. Seriously, could this day get any better? Well, at least I didn't have diarrhea, right? And neither did my kids. It was probably the penguins (weird, right? Real live penguins, splashing around in a gift shop? Kinda messed up, I thought), who were in the gift shop. At one point, I remember smelling my hands, wondering "is that me?!". I picked out an eagle ray plushie for Charlie, and started breathing through that. There was no other way.

After a small treasure chest of money was pried from our pockets and traded for the overpriced toys (can you tell I'm cheap?), it was time to back track and go against the traffic, and go into the cave. Um, FAIL. The kids were done. DONE done. So past done, that... ugh, just done. Both kids were screaming, both kids wanted to be held. DONE.

We had to skip the cave, and head straight into the shark tank. And again, why did we bring the stroller? You want a workout? Take two kids to the Dallas Aquarium, you'll get one hell of a workout.

But in the end, it was worth it.

The shark tank, was, amazing. It was a long glass tunnel that you walk through, the sharks swimming above you, to the right of you, to the left at you, all around you. It looked like they were swimming directly at your face. So beautiful (and at times, scary ("please tunnel, please don't break and come crashing down on me")). The tunnel was lined with cement benches, and after awhile of waiting, very impatiently might I add, we found an open spot along the path, and sat down. I wish we could have spent more time watching them swim, but the kids made it very clear to us when it was time to leave.

On the way out there were pink flamingos, people painted up and dressed as birds, fish fish fish and more fish, a giant sea turtle bigger than our house... but we didn't have time to stop for any of that. We were all far too exhausted, and just pushed through it. By then, "get us out of here", was all we could think.

"Goodbye owls", we said, on our way out the door. They seemed to be looking directly at us, with a bit of of "tell me about it" in their eyes.

To be continued...
(yes, theres more)

Putting Together a Lovely Package

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Last weekend I disappeared into my bedroom for hours, tucking myself away from the everyday norm, and indulging in the trimmings and wrappings of the lovely package exchange. Before I made my great escape though, I had set up a craft camp on the dining room floor, to make a textured handmade wrapping paper for the things that I would be mailing away. While I tore apart vintage war letters and smothered them in a bright mixture of glue and pink paint, Eleanore and Christopher sat beside me (Charlie napped up in his bedroom) tearing up an old Dora book, copying my every move on their own brown paper canvas. I had given Elie a green shaker full of glitter, that she insists were star sprinkles (we watch Rainbow Brite at least twice a day), and while Daddy did most of the dirty work with the pasting, Eleanore had the fun job of topping off the project with sprinkles of "we're finished!".

I wish I could have filled my package with things that were slightly more delightful than what I had to work with, but to be honest, I put my package off until the very last minute. Coming down with the flu, and then my daughters birthday, and then a sinus infection, and then my allergic reaction (oh I'm full of excuses aren't I), the package just wasn't at the top of my to do list. But even so, it wasn't fair for me to make my swap partner suffer with a boring box for my lack of efforts, so I really focused on the part that I could make beautiful, the packaging, which was where the emphasis on the project should have been (luckily) anyways.

I pulled my pretty layered postage wrapping paper down from the wall where I had hung it to dry. It turned out exactly how I had imagined, taking on a flexible fake leather like texture. I tore the edges off, for a somewhat distressed look, and then ripped it into fitted squares (trickier than it sounds) according to the sizes of the various things that it would be blanketing. The first thing I wrapped was a large phone booth and hearts print that I had been saving for a rainy day. It fit nicely the sheet of paper that I had torn for it. I pulled out my basic brown twine, and my purple twine (I really need to get more colors because they're my favorite to use), wrapped them around the package loosely multiple times, and then fastened them on the under side.

Next I took a decent sized stack of war letters, for reading, crafting, or whatever she might want to use them for, and wrapped them up the same way, topping it off with a book of "love notes".

I had painted and decoupaged a little box as a case for a pair of earring that I was giving her, not knowing if her ears were pierced or not. I figured if they weren't, she could just hand them off to somebody else that might like them, and keep the box for herself. The box actually broke, on the inside lid, but it added to the distressed finishing, so I left it. I actually liked it better that way. I should have maybe gone over it with a quick coat of paint, but I was impatient, haha. I topped it off with a couple of organic lollipops, a huge favorite in our house, and it looked perfect.

I included a few other things in her package that I didn't take photos of. A Texas pin, a set of handmade pinup girl fall themed note cards (can you believe summer is almost over), a quick letter on some tea stationery...

I spent forever on the outside of the box. That's the part that took the longest. I used vintage sheet music, vintage letters, ribbons, old photographs, anything that I could get my hands on really, haha. For address labels, I used blank vintage army envelopes. It came together very nicely, I don't think I could have made it any more "lovely" than it was. I've always loved the packaging part of putting things together for others, but this swap took it to a new level.

I have a few packages to put together this weekend. They won't be quite as lovely, but I'll definitely put a little bit more of an effort into making them nice than I would have in the past. Getting packages is one of those things, that no matter who you are, when you get one, you can't help but feel loved.

Flashback Friday 1

Friday, August 28, 2009

Growing up, I went through best friends faster than I can scoop my way through a jar of peanut butter. I had self esteem issues, having been overweight my entire life (now I'm considered "average"), and I think I had a tendency to give my friendship to anybody that would accept it, no matter how they treated me, or what they thought of me.

I'm a very giving person, always wanting to hand out happiness and laughter, even if I don't get it in return. After the worst best friend that I ever had, a horrible person that contributed to the worst years of my life (someday I'll have to write about her, swap her name out to protect her identity), I pulled myself together, leveled out my head with a rolling pin and a large batch of sugar cookies, and told myself "never again". These days I don't open up to people quite as easily, I've found a best friend that I'll have for the rest of my life (the Godmother to both of my children, and the only person on this planet that really "gets" me), but I still welcome new people with open arms, just not letting them into my heart the same way I would have in the past.

One of my best friends, from around the 7th grade, until the 9th grade (I think?), was Brooke. She lived down the street from me, around the corner in a large newer house, with her hundreds of brothers and sisters. We met in the summertime, probably while I was riding my bike around the block. We'd spend hours upon hours, days even, at each others houses. I'd go with her Grandma's house, so she could take care of her horse. She'd come with me and my family out on our boat. We'd go to movies, the mall, do all of those teenage girl things that teenage girls do.

When school started, she became one of the popular girls. It was unavoidable in our small town. She was tall, athletic, and just gorgeous. Everything that I wasn't, but to me, that never mattered. I'll never forget the first time that she ignored me in the hallway. She looked directly at me, walking with her new cool friends, and then looked away as if she had never seen me before in her life. "I must have done something to make her mad. What did I do?", I wondered. We had laughed together just the night before. Maybe I had said something. Maybe she just didn't see me (but, she had). That afternoon on the bus, she smiled at me, but didn't talk to me. If she smiled... then she wasn't mad? What was going on here?!

Later that night she came over to my house, or maybe I went to hers? It was as if nothing had happened (because nothing had, happened). I didn't want to bring it up, because if she had been mad, I didn't want to remind her of whatever it was that I had done.

As time went on, this became a pattern. While we were at school she would act as if I didn't exist, not even so much as a glance in my direction, but while we were at home, she was my best friend. We would write each other notes during the day, and give them to each other after the bust dropped us off. I knew all about her popular friends, who she had a crush on, who she thought was a snob, but none of them knew about me. I was her hidden best friend. And somehow, I accepted that.

During the Basketball season I would go to the games and cheer for her. And then track season rolled around, and I would do the same for her meets. The first one at least. One day while we were hanging out at her house, her mom invited me to ride with her to an away meet, and Brooke's attitude suddenly changed. Before the night was over, she had turned into a complete bitch. There, I said it. I wasn't about to question it, because I was quite used to it. Her mom however, hadn't witness her daughter treat me like this before, and after bothering her about what her problem was, Brooke finally screamed out "I don't want you to go because you embarrass me!". Directed at me, of course.

So that was it. I knew that was how she felt, but hearing her say it out loud nearly tore me in half. She went on to explain (to her mom, not to me) about how I wasn't popular, and people didn't like me (not because I was mean or obnoxious, but because I was poor and overweight (and now that I look back, once high school rolled around, I wasn't even that overweight), nice right). Her mom told her that she was being a brat and that I was her best friend and it wasn't right to treat me that way, and I'll admit, having her on my side felt nice. It didn't change anything though. My best friend thought I was embarrassing, for no reason other than the fact that other people didn't like me. I walked out of the house crying, disgusted with myself.

Did you see what I just wrote? Yes, I was disgusted with myself.

Brooke eventually said she was sorry, but I couldn't erase her words and actions from my memory. We stopped being friends. I was sad when I saw her, jealous of the friends that took my place, but in the end I guess it was for the better.

In the above picture, we had just finished painting her bedroom, which I think was the last time that I ever went over to her house. And while she wasn't a good friend to me, we still had a lot of fun times together, and I'm grateful for a handful of our memories.

As a closer, I hope I can teach my daughter how to choose her friends better than I did when I was younger. I want to teach her that no matter what anyone else says, she is beautiful, inside and out, and not to let the opinion of another person define who she is. Ever.

A Few New Things

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I have stacks and stacks of colorful papers. Bags full of vibrant craft supplies. Heaps and mounds of pretty things just waiting to be cut up and written all over. So I made some things...

(Click on the photo to hop over to our Etsy shop)

Lately I've been trying to balance my "Stay at home mom" time, with my personal time. A difficult task, any mom would agree. I've been putting more time into sending out heart to heart packages and letters to friends, postcards and such. Yesterday I actually took a shower and dried my hair (with a new style, might I add), during the day. While the kids were home. By myself, haha. I've been making exercise a priority again, something that was so important to me but like everything else, got buried under my to do list.

I made a few new sets of flat cards (for recipe, address, whatever), and a couple new recipe boxes. The pink cupcake box already found a new counter to call home, but the raven box is still apartment hunting. I have a lot of unfinished things up on my table, that I'm going to try to work on a little bit every day. And it doesn't hurt that being around the bright colors make me happy.

Kiss. Smile. Laugh. Love.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sometimes we get so mad that we forget what made us mad in the first place. Sometimes we feel like our hearts are working overtime, and they couldn't possibly love anymore than they already do. Sometimes we just want to be loved back.

But the anger will pass, it always does. And we can love more, we always do. And they'll always love us back, just in thier own ways.

Sometimes we just need to stop. Be patient. Take a deep breath. Kiss, smile, laugh, and love.

I Can Pretend to Love a Balloon

I'm afraid of balloons. Even as a kid, the thought of holding one, even if attached to an extremely long and distancing string, was an anxiety attack full of helium that I'd run from, kicking and screaming at the very tip top of my lungs. Same thing goes (notice that's not past tense, I'm still VERY much a wimp at times) for fireworks, biscuits in a tube, pop rocks. All things that can at any given time, without warning (and will), explode. Luckily, now that we're gluten free, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I'll never have to open another tube of biscuits as long as I live. But my daughter, who I'm not sure has ever heard one pop, simply adores balloons.

Last time we came home from the book store, she sat in the backseat bouncing her green balloon all over the place, singing songs, making the balloon dance (something I taught her to do). While I sat in the front seat, driving white knuckled and holding my breath for minutes at a time, squinting at any and every sound, anticipating the big POP. It never happened, we made it home safely, heart failure avoided. I kept glancing up into the rearview mirror to see the smile on her face, which is probably what reminded me to breathe.

I, myself, would have never brought the balloon into the car with me. I would have given it away to another kid, or "forgotten" it back at the store. On the 4th of July I hold giant pillows in front of my body to protect me from the BOOMS and BANGS. I might be able to tolerate pop rocks again, but the memory of that extra loud SMACK that took place in the center of my mouth, orange flavored, when I was five or so, will never escape me.

But for her...

I can pretend to love a balloon.

A Lovely Package Came in the Mail for Me

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yesterday, with my youngest dangling over one arm trying to grab my cell phone off of the end table, and the oldest up in her bedroom screaming something about needing to use the potty (isn't that always what they're screaming about), I answered the door and greeted the mail man with a huge smile as he handed me a brown square package. At first when I heard the doorbell sound off, I thought maybe it was my Amazon order that I placed last week, a baby food cook book, and two new movies for Eleanore that we used her birthday money to buy. To my welcomed surprise, it was my lovely package!!

I waited for Christopher to come home before opening it to see what was inside. I knew he probably didn't care, but I wanted a witness, haha. You know that saying, "you can't judge a book by its cover"? Yeah, totally true. Lesson learned. As I was telling my swap partner in an email last night, I was all too quick to judge the contents of my package based on its outside appearance. It was wrapped in plain brown wrapping, with no fancy thrills like I had expected. And seriously, shame on me for being such a packaging snob. I'm really dissapointed in myself.

The insides of the package were opposite of the outside, and infact, quite lovely. Everything was wrapped in greens and pinks, zebra print and ribbons. A nice little note marked "lovely", sat on top waiting to be opened and read.

My favorite part of the entire package, were the shoe prints that my swap partner had taken herself. I don't know if I've mentioned it in awhile, but I love photographs of shoes. I don't like shoes, themselves, I find them to be more of a pain in the ass than anything (finding comfortable ones that actually fit, ones that match your outfits, too much work for nothing it seems, ick), but I love to look at them artistically.

My favorite shoes? A pair of black flip flops that I would have gotten for only $3, had I not walked out of the store with them hanging off the side of my stroller. I think some people call that shop lifting? I was distracted by babies, it was completely innocent. Had it been something over $10, I might have gone back and payed for it. You've done it too, right? ...right?

Inside the package marked "gfree", was some beautiful organic gluten free red vines. I love red vines, and have been complaining forever and ever about how they contain wheat, and I'll never eat another red vine again. The sad part of this story though, is that these red vines, the ones she sent me, contain fruit juice, which is not quite as bad as wheat, but to my stomach its really all the same. Wheat, gluten, fructose, they all disagree with me. Oh well. I'm pretty sure I can find a Sasquatch to eat them for me. *hands the bag to Christopher who is foaming at the mouth*

Among the colorful sheets of paper, my second favorite part of the package, next to the shoe prints, was a book full of postcards. "Happy Animal Time: 30 postcards", by Junzo Terada. Love love love. I love postcards, I can't say it enough. I haven't gotten any, or sent any, in way too long. This weekend I'm going to sit down and send some out. I bought some while I was at the Dallas Aquarium that I've been meaning to send, too. I'll have myself a personal postcard party. Who doesn't love getting a pretty postcard out of the blue?

I can't believe I was ever such a Snotty Susy over the outter layer of my parcel, pffft, because the inside of this package held such wonderful treasures. It really brightened my day. This was such a fun exchange to do, I can't wait until another one rolls around.

I hope she likes my package as much as I liked hers.

The Ultimate Gluten Free Birthday Cupcake

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eleanore's birthday has come and gone, thank god, because as fun as it was, it was exhausting. Not only did we go to the Dallas World Aquarium, but we had homemade cupcakes and ice cream with Elie's best friend, Charlotte. Yes, we even make our own ice cream (a little chocolate soy milk, some sugar and stevia, blah blah blah). I'm past the phase where everything has to be made completely from scratch, though. Over it. Really. These days I have absolutely no shame, and will gladly open up a box of cake mix. The easier, the better (I'm not supermom). I'd been wanting to try the new Betty Crocker gluten free mixes (for any new readers that don't know, we're a gluten free household, with a few extra food allergies sprinkled on top) since I heard about them, but hadn't seen them anywhere, and wasn't about to order them in bulk off of amazon without trying them first. I got an email awhile back, letting me know that they were at one of the grocery stores (the high end one that costs buckets of cash to shop at), so while out shopping for craft supplies one day, my friend Marie and I stopped by specifically to collect them.

I introduce to you, The Ultimate Gluten Free Birthday Cupcake...

Just a minute ago I admitted to not being supermom, but, with these cupcakes, I'd like to think I'm at least a closer runner up?

Making the cupcakes was the easy part. I prepared the gluten free Betty Crocker yellow cake mix into batter, divided the deliciousness (what, use egg beaters and its totally safe to lick) into 4 different bowls (I had seen this done by multiple people, and decided very last minute to try it myself), used Betty Crocker gel food colorings (I sound like a freakin' commercial don't I) to warp the plain batter into wacky unnatural looking pools of color, and then using a separate spoon for each color, dropped in dollops into the cupcake papers at random. I popped them in the oven for the minimum amount of time listed on the back of the box, and pulled them out when the oven told me to. So easy I almost felt guilty about calling them homemade.

But the frosting. That was the fun part.

I make my frosting from scratch, always. I freeze my sugar, to make sure its nice and cold, and then scoop a few cups into my dry Vita-Mix container, along side some tapioca starch. This can be done in any kind of blender though, I think I've done it my Magic Bullet before, too? It takes me less than 30 seconds to turn the granules into a fine powder. Or, obviously, you can just use powdered sugar that you have on hand. We don't buy powdered sugar, the reason for making my own. Anyways. I altered a recipe that I found online (I'm almost positive its from the book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World), ever so slightly, and this resulted in a delicious cookies & cream icing...

GF Cookies & Cream Frosting:

-1/2 cup Earth Balance (I'm sure you could use butter)
-1 3/4 cup powdered sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-1/4 cup milk (cow, soy, rice, whatever)
-1/2 package gluten free "Oreo" cookies

Combine everything except the cookies, beat until super duper fluffy. Put the oreos into a large zip lock, use a drinking glass or rolling pin to smush them. Add them into your fluffy frosting mixtures, beat on high for 30 seconds, and TA DA!

For the cupcake toppers, you can check out a simple tutorial that I put together by clicking here.

So yeah. There you have it. The ultimate gluten free birthday cupcake.

Nom nom nom.

Congratulations, Christopher!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Christopher spent a year or more, waking up early and going to bed late, every single night, Saturdays included, studying for his Staff Sergeant test. There was almost always a highlighter in his hand, and on the rare occasion that it wasn't, it was probably in between the couch cushions staining up our leopard print couch cover. Okay, so the stains came out. He would leave his study material laying around everywhere, on the floor, on the kitchen table, which would make it open season for the toddler to tear through, needing my urgent rescue daily. In May, the big testing day finally rolled around. Christopher went down to the designated torture chamber, and took it like a man. He put on his patient pants and waited three loooong months for the results to be posted. Thursday morning when I woke up, I glanced at the clock, it was 7:42. I was supposed to go downstairs and refresh the results page at a thousand clicks per second, just in case I could access the page before he could.

At 8:10, I got a text message simply saying "I made it". I was still upstairs juggling babies and good morning outfits, never having made it to the computer like we had planned.

Congratulations babe! All your hard work payed off. Even though you won't put your real stripes on until next summer (for now hes just a set of sticker stripes, he doesn't get the actual promotion for another year, another reason why the Air Force is awesome), you're still my Staff Sergeant, right now.

...man that was lame, haha.

Dr. Nose Ring

Friday, August 21, 2009

Let me start off by saying, I have nothing against nose rings. I've had mine pierced twice actually, but... have you ever been treated by a doctor with a nose ring? From now on if I see a doctor wearing a nose ring, I'm going to run. Doctors with nose rings, if you're reading this, take it out while you're at work, for my sake, please. I'll have no reason to fear you if its not in.

The other day I posted a little note about my having what I thought was a sinus infection, remember? I posted the pretty picture of the netti pot, tra la la, it was just a quick little- well anyways, as the day went on, things got worse. Much worse. The pressure in my face became unbearable, the dizziness surrounding my eyes turned into mind crushing madness, I forced myself into the doctors office. The second my husband got home from work, I drove myself down to the walk-in clinic (the hospital on base only has daily openings for active duty, they appreciate us spouses, really) to be seen right away. I've been to every walk-in clinic in town, more than once. They've all got a file for me.

I'm not usually too quick to judge, but when the doctor came in, I was pretty sure it could only go one of two ways. Either she was super hip, with her nose ring and short spiky hair, or she wasn't. She asked what was going on, I explained as quickly as possible, since she was acting as if she was in a huge rush, and then not even 3 minutes later she was out of my room, and finished with me. Really, lady? That's it? All she had done was looked in my ears, pushed on my face (in one spot, she didn't even give me the typical finger poke facial massage), and said "hmm, yeah its probably sinus related. Let me get you an antibiotic". A nurse came in and handed me the scribbled on paper, and that was that. OK, well, I knew I had a sinus infection to begin with, so it was kind of nice to skip all the nonsense. She knew what she was doing, and I had come in already knowing what was wrong with me. It worked.

Wait a second.

On my way out of the office, while passing back out through the lobby to get to the front door, I saw my must-be-in-a-hurry doctor, chillin' out max and relaxin' all cool with some friends, laughing about god knows what, in a far row of empty chairs. Is that what she had been in a hurry to get to? Is that why she couldn't even listen to all of my symptoms? Kind of lame, but, whatever. I had gotten my golden ticket for the drugs, I just wanted to go home and sleep.

I got into bed as soon as I got home. Clunked my tired legs up the stairs, and collapsed into a pile of blankets. Christopher took Charlie to the store to pick up my antibiotics, and I stayed behind with Eleanore, who I thought would be taking a nap, but got out of her room about 2 minutes after Christopher had left. Christopher later returned with a bottle of rather large blue capsules, and I popped one in my mouth without thinking twice. Bring on the relief! Earlier the nurse had praised me for breastfeeding, so I knew whatever they had given me would be safe for my milk. I decided to read the side effects just for fun, and- wait, what?!

"If you are allergic to penicillin, check with your doctor before taking this medicine".

Well, they had asked me what I was allergic to, they had written it down and circled it (which means I had checked with her, right), and then the doctor had decided to give me this anyways, so... it must be safe? I called Christopher up the stairs, and told him to keep an eye on me, to watch for any kind of allergic reaction, and then I tucked myself under the covers and closed my eyes.

*The middle of the night*
-Burning skin.
-Complete hysteria.
-Enough sweat to fill a bathtub. I've never seen so much sweat.

Thanks, Dr. Nose Ring, for being in such a big hurry to visit with your friends, and not taking the time to pay attention to the death sentence that you're writing down on paper for me to swallow twice a day. Please take note of my sincere appreciation.

When I went back the next day, explaining to the nurse what was happening (still dripping sweat, skin flaring red, pounding pain in my back), they put an urgent stamp on my forehead, threw me in a room right away, and skipped other patients to knock on my door. And oh good, its the same lady. But something was different about her this time. Oh... she wasn't wearing her nose ring, or her casual Wednesday outfit. She was wearing an actual doctors coat, and speaking in a tone as if she cared. Also, this time around, I noticed that the tips of her fingernails were a zebra print (maybe they had been the day before too, I just didn't notice because I was too busy staring at the fact that my doctor had a nose ring). Not the cool kind of zebra print either, the tacky Texas kind of zebra print (do you know what I'm talking about). She gave me an "uh oh" and a "that's not good", then handed me a plastic cup and pointed me towards the potty. I just called it 'potty', out of habit. That's how much of a Mom I've become. Wow.

Not only did I have an allergic reaction to the medicine that she had given me (duh), but I had gained a bladder infection to boot. It just keeps getting better, doesn't it? Man I'm so glad that she listened to all of my symptoms the first time I had seen her, and that she had payed attention to what my body will and will not tolerate.

Again, thanks, Dr. Nose Ring. A zebra print tipped thumbs up to you, lady.

Our Trip to the Dallas World Aquarium, Part 2; Starting an Impossible Journey into the Wild

Thursday, August 20, 2009

You'd think that getting inside the Aquarium would be a piece of chocolate cake. You walk straight up to the building, you push or pull open the door, you walk yourself inside. Ta da! Should be simple, right? Right.

But not for my family.

Its not that we couldn't find the entrance, we found it just fine, but once we got there-

Its almost as if, with each step that we took toward the door, the ground beneath us began to thin and crumble, and by the time we got there, we were standing on a single floating stepping stone in the middle of nowhere. Yes. That's exactly what it was like.

Eleanore's best friend Charlotte (along with her Mama and Papa of course) had made the trip from Abilene to Dallas as well, so we pulled the stroller off to the side to wait for them while they payed for their parking. Pedestrian traffic had no problems detouring around us, as we stood at the base of the beginnings of a winding jungle path, inconveniently putting ourselves directly in the sun. I knew that I wouldn't have a better opportunity to force feed grumpy baby, so I quickly whipped out my never before used travel bib (a gift from my friend Jessica), and some banana-apple-pear goo, hoping that he'd open up and say "aah", putting all fussing aside. It never works out that way though, does it? Somehow I ended up wearing twice as much of the yellow slime that originally was put into the package. Did any of it even make it into his mouth? I'll never know. Meanwhile, our friends had showed up, and then before I could finish feeding and cleaning up the fruit puree, drifted off down the winding path, taking Christopher and Eleanore with them. Charlie and I lagged behind, wiping ourselves clean from sticky Gerber residue. Wait, wait, we're coming!

Finally, Charlie and I caught up with the rest. By the time we got inside, Christopher had already bought our tickets (a small fortune, but luckily the kids were free), Eleanore was screaming something about seeing "divers", and Elie's bff Charlotte was heading towards the sardine sized elevator that the Aquarium staff was expecting us all to fit into, at the same time, together. "Take it to the third floor", they told us. *DING*, goes the elevator bell. We all stepped out of the metal box, 'we all' being ourselves, and a few other folks with strollers in tow, and there setup before us, was a beautiful artificial Amazon. All of the stress that had been building up melted off with the sweat from the humidifier. Until-

"I have to go pee pee". Ugh. Of course you do. We just got to where we need to be. Of course you have to go pee pee now. I couldn't remember at that point, if I had asked her downstairs or not, so I kept my cool, took her hand, assigned Christopher to the stroller/baby, and went off in search of the bathrooms. Christopher had said that in the elevator he had seen a sign that said restrooms 2nd floor. Great! We were on the 3rd floor, so we'd just take the stairs down, it would be quick, no setbacks. Little did I know, taking the spiral stairs with a 3 year old, surrounded by new and exciting strangers with lots and lots of kids her exact age, while holding it, wouldn't be as easy as it sounded. We got to the the level below us... there is no bathroom. I look over at the elevators on that floor, to see a sign that says restrooms 1st floor. Are you kidding me? I'm already sweating, and trying to hurry, because I know that everyone is waiting for us back up on level three, and I really don't want to have to clean up an accident within the first 10 minutes of our first family outing since 1958.

More running down stairs, more "you're doing great, you can hold it, we're almost there, keep holding it", and then eventually we find THE BATHROOMS. There wasn't even a line, thank goodness, and they were still clean (the place had only been open for an hour). Accident avoided, operation get daughter to the bathroom was a success.

I looked at the stairs, down at Eleanore, back at the stairs, back at Eleanore, and decided this time we were taking the elevator. I could handle being squished in with strollers and stressed out parents more than I could handle climbing a thousand twisty steps with an impatient freshly emptied little girl. Too bad the elevator took just as long, if not longer, to actually get down to us, and then stopped at 3 stops along the way. How was there 4 stops on a 3 level ride? I don't know, but there was.

When we reached the third floor, Christopher was sitting on a bench not far from the elevator, baby talking Charlie, right where we had left them. Soooo glad they hadn't gone ahead without us. If they would have, we'd never see them again. This place was packed. People by the hundreds. Thousands. But wait- where were Charlotte, Marie, and Anthony? ...Crap. They went ahead didn't they? Yes. Luckily, Eleanore was too distracted with all of the bird caws and squawks, to notice that her best buddy had gone missing. Maybe we'd catch up with them farther down the path? Not likely, but, maybe.

We stopped for a quick one handed family portrait, and then we launched ourselves into the branches of foreign trees and mosquito's.

To be continued...

A Sinus Strike

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

As if a sudden attack of the flu last week wasn't enough, I've now been smacked in the face with what I'm pretty sure is a sinus infection. I'm allergic to Texas, and have a small pharmacy set up on my kitchen counter to prove it. I ran out of blue allergen numbing pills last week, and the man of the house, the guy who takes the car daily, couldn't keep it on the top of his oh so busy (obvious exaggeration) memory to stop by the base clinic to pick new ones up for me. Hey, I understand, its not his face that's effected by the pollen and grass seeds. The absence of the immunity boost has taken a toll on my overall health, starting out as just a little sniffle, developing into a complete face and brain cave in. I've since gotten my prescriptions refilled (thank you Christopher, I do love you, I don't mean to nag) (yes I do), but my body has continued with its strike, and I'm now ready to crawl on hands and knees to a doctor, any doctor, that will offer me strong antibiotics and a hopefully some kind of ooey gooey shot in the hip that will make the room stop spinning.

-"nasal irrigation pot with geraniums", by haalexander, $30.00.

Our Trip to the Dallas World Aquarium, part 1. The Setup for Disaster.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ever since we've had kids, we've kind of been stranded in Abilene. By choice, though. We never really put forth the effort to venture out of our comfort zone. Here we have all the gluten free food we need, diapers and sippys galore, and air conditioning forever. Going out of town seemed like it would be more of a train wreck than a train ride.

A few weeks back, Christopher got a check in the mail from one of those vicious Air Force programs that in the end, totally ripped him off. While the check should have been $10,000, it was only $150. We had seen the lack of funds coming from a mile away, and gladly accepted the chunk of change that was given. Some money is better than no money, right? We tucked the un cashed piece of paper aside in a zipper pouch for Eleanore's 3rd birthday. We wanted to put it to good use.

"We should go somewhere", we discussed. "The zoo"? That's only 15 minutes away though, but she hasn't been there in months. Actually, she hasn't been there in almost a year (really?). "No, not the zoo", we agreed. "We can go to the zoo anytime".

"Sea world"?!, we pondered. "Yeah right, drive all the way to San Antonio... no".

"What about the Aquarium" ...

Yes. We would go to the Dallas World Aquarium. Dallas isn't that far away, is it? We've never been there, but we know people that go there on the weekends, so it can't be that far. We marked the calender, made sure not to touch the check, and borrowed a "My Trip to the Aquarium" book from the library. We couldn't wait.

A couple of days before our final departure, I got organized. I made lists of things that needed to be done, I packed bags of spare clothes and emergency towels, I baked bagels and cookie-brownie bars to snack on (traveling gluten free is hard work, yumm). I put together a backpack full of books and toys for Miss Eleanore. I gathered a collection of plushies and chewies for Mister Charlie (hes a baby, not a dog, really). I proudly crossed things off of my lists left and right. "Bring it on, trip" I chanted. Besides, I had a brand new gel pen that I was using, so the more strikes I got to make on the paper, the better.

The morning of the trip arrived. Eleanore had barely slept the night before, shaking in her Dora bed from excitement. We had gone to bed late, too, probably staying up to watch a rerun of Seinfeld or something. OK, there is no "or something", that's exactly what we had stayed up doing, and I know it. The alarm went off at 5:00 am. We both took showers, and then slumped ourselves downstairs for a cup of coffee and a breakfast biscuit (again, my handy baking skills for the win). We packed the ice bag (basically an ice chest in a giant pink tote bag), delivered the toys and towels (if you're wondering why I brought towels, its because I wanted to be prepared for every bodily fluid that the kids could possibly throw at me) to the car, and woke up the beasts.

The plan was, the kids would surely sleep the whole way there. We were hitting the road by 7am, the sun wasn't all the way up in the sky yet, the air was nice and cool, the gentle motions of the rocking car would ease them back into sleepy dreamy la la land. Surely.


Eleanore teetered on the edge of sleep for the first 10 minutes or so, but before we were even out of the city limits, her eyes were bouncing around from sight to sight, hunting for the Aquarium that she knew was hours away. Her legs were galloping and kicking the back of the driver's side seat, her hands had taken on minds of their own and were grabbing and hitting everything they could reach, and her mouth wouldn't, stop, talking. Animals this, land fish that, divers this, aquarium aquarium aquarium birthday that.

About an hour into the trip, we made our first stop. A random gas station truck stop type setup, just off the freeway. Eleanore used the potty like a good girl, Charlie ate when he wasn't hungry, then giving it back to us in a projectile manner, and Eleanore opened up her birthday package from her pen pal, which included a very special birthday dress that I had ordered just for this occasion.

Inside the package were a few gifts. A miniature "The Little Mermaid" tea set, and a bottle full of colorful pony beads. Neither were things that could be easily opened up and played with inside of the moving car, but that didn't stop an eager Eleanore from asking over, and over again, for the next 2 hours. Non. Stop. The dress though, she could put on and wear right away, and it fit perfectly! And with the dress, came some cute matching pigtail holders. She loved it.

By this point in time, Charlie decided that he was done sitting in his seat. He had been there against his will for an hour already, and was ready to come out and play now, thanks. When I responded to his cries with a "aww, its OK Charlie", this made him even more angry. Because to him, of course, it wasn't OK. He was stuck facing the back seat, with only a stupid fluffy Elmo book to look at. What the hell, Mom?


And then Eleanore, who couldn't stand the sounds of her brother crying, began to cry herself.

More crying. Crying x2.

And whining. And yelling. And complaining. And every other "I hate you" emotion that could possibly be directed towards a Mother and Father who are trying to enjoy themselves in the front seat while the kids are held prisoner in back. It was officially a family road trip. Our very first. And off to a great start.

I haven't driven in a big city in years. I'm from Portland, Oregon, where driving was never really hard, just kind of tricky sometimes. None of my previous adventures behind the wheel could possibly prepare me for the hell hidden amongst the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. My knuckles were ghost white, clinging to the steering wheel as if the tighter I held it, the more control I'd have over everything going on around me. I claimed the area all around me as my space bubble, and winced anytime somebody nudged it, or more frequently, rudely cut into it. By this point, Charlie had fallen asleep, thank goodness, but Eleanore was repeating "I have to go pee pee" one hundred times a minute. "Hold it", I said back to her, using my we're-going-to-die voice. She was in a pull up anyways, and by now I didn't care if we all drowned in pee, I just wanted to get there.

Three and a half (OK maybe four) agonizing hours later, we pulled into a parking space at the Dallas World Aquarium (but not after getting lost trying to find the damn place first). Somehow, luck must have had a soft spot for us after all, because we managed to grab a nice shaded place under a tree. Both of the kids were practically jumping out of the car before we could even get the emergency break on. We payed our $5 for parking, packed up the stroller (that we would end up using for nothing more than a luggage shuttle later), and started off on our adventure by foot. Eleanore holding Daddy's hand, Charlie holding mine.

To be continued...

A Birthday Flashback

Monday, August 17, 2009

The story of Eleanore's birth didn't play out the way it was written in my head. I had jotted down notes on how to breathe properly, sorted through and organized previously read paragraphs on how my water would or could break, and mentally prepared myself for the beautiful doom that would be heading directly toward my lady zone at full speed, leaving a gruesome path of disaster behind it. I was ready.

Things took a gradual yet quicker than expected turn onto a road titled "not how you planned to give birth", and after 20 hours of labor (12 of that being un medicated), my energy and will had run out, and a major abdominal surgery was in order.

I drifted in and out of sleep, my eyes covered in a new layer of motherhood, scanning my surroundings for my daughter who I had only seen for a second. I asked the nurse who was sitting at a table in the corner, for my family, over and over again. With every repeat request, she told me to close my eyes and go back to sleep. She got so annoyed at my constant grumbles, that she couldn't stand being in the same room with me, got up, walked out, and finally returned with my husband and daughter. It felt like I waited for hours.

I just wanted to hold her. My arms were stretched out for her before she was even in the room.

It was love at first sight, completely indescribable.

She was beautiful. And perfect. A reason to wake up every morning. This is what life was supposed to feel like.

Happy 3rd Birthday Miss Eleanore Sue. We love you.

Bippity boppity flu

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We've been mia for the past couple of days.

Huddled underneath heavy blankets, even though its nearing one hundred degrees outside. Slowly sipping water through sour tasting mouths. Crunching our film coated teeth down on dry rice chex, hoping that the bland cereal will slide right past our cramping stomach muscles. Doing everything we could not to admit the obvious.

We've got the flu.




DIY Cupcake Toppers

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Yesterday my neighbor and I ditched the kids, abandoned our husbands, and ran away to the craft store. We joked around about how when we'd get home (we were gone for 3 hours), we'd turn down our street to find nothing but a big steaming Crater in place of our duplex. We joked, but, I know we were both serious.

One of the things on my messy handwritten list, was "cupcake toppers". I browsed the assortment they had there, but nothing was satisfying enough to pick up and take to the checkout counter. I wondered if I had enough time to order some off of Etsy, but knew that they'd never make it here by August 17th. When I settled upon my not being able to find a decent pre packaged set of toothpick decorations, I finally said "I'll just make my own".

The phrase "I'll just make my own" can go one way or another. It can slide to the back of my to do list, and eventually fall over the edge into the pool of "I forgot", never to be seen or heard of again. Or, I'll actually do it. The pool of "I forgot" is pretty full right now, so I have to admit that when I said "I'll just make my own", I didn't think I actually would.

But, this time I actually did.

What you'll need:
-Lollipop sticks (you can get these in the baking section at the craft store)
-Images for toppers (I found mine by doing a google image search)
-Card stock

I was originally going to use toothpicks, but I wanted my toppers to be taller, rather than resting directly on the frosting.

First, cut out your images.

After all of your images are cut out and set aside, take one of your cutouts, flip it over, place it onto your card stock (I used a light purple color, to match the cupcake sleeves I'll be using for the cupcakes), and trace the outline. Do this once for every cupcake topper that you plan to make. You can use pencil instead of pen, so that you can erase your lines later. But if you're like me, then you really don't care what the backs of the toppers look like, and it doesn't matter, haha.

OK, now, its time to cut your card stock. Don't cut along the line that you just traced. Cut just outside of that line. You don't want your cutout image and your card stock to match up exactly, you'll want a little bit of extra room. After you've cut out all of your card stock backings, flip them over so the pencil side is face down on your work surface (I did it on the floor). Then, line the border of the backs of your image with glue, and set it in place on top of your card stock.

You're almost done. Now, get out your tape and your lollipop sticks. Flip over all of your freshly glued toppers so that the image is face down and the pencil tracings are face up. Set down your lollipop stick where you want it to be, and tape it into place.

And Voila!! Super cute cupcake toppers, that you made all by yourself :)

Miss Eleanore Sue is going to be mighty excited to have Rainbow Dash sitting pretty on all of her delicious gluten free birthday cupcakes, isn't she? I can't wait, hehe.


OH! And! I made a few too many, so, if you'd like to win a set of 6 My Little Pony cupcake toppers, please leave a comment. For an additional entry, you can tweet about this tutorial/giveaway (make sure to let me know you've done so, and leave me a link to your page). I'll pick a winner on Wednesday August 12th.

Edit: Thanks for entering for the spare cupcake toppers. According to the random number generator, entry number 10 won, and has already been contacted. But feel free to keep commenting on the tutorial :)

My zebra needs a home

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I made this blue zebra print recipe box over a year ago, shortly after making a special neon pink box for a friend's birthday. This was my favorite, out of all of our recipe boxes, to make. I noticed the other day, after getting my craft things organized, that this is the only box we have left. We've sold all of our other boxes (which means its time to get down to business and make some more, right), except the one I liked the most? Well that doesn't make very much sense. Boooo.

So then I wondered, if maybe the photographs I had previously taken of our lonely box, just didn't do it any justice?

Maybe this new photograph can help find my zebra box a home.

The only thing I have to wear is an old My Chemical Romance t shirt

Yesterday before we took Eleanore and Charlie to the library, Christopher came down the stairs, looking handsome. New Dickies shorts, a nice short sleeved button down shirt, just handsome. I love seeing him dressed in something other than his work uniform. While camo looks good on him, so does adult attire.

I looked down at myself, wearing my mom uniform. An XXL maternity shirt (they're just so comfortable), with some black food covered Bermuda length cotton workout shorts.


*Fast forward to right now.

I'm getting ready to take myself out to the craft store. No crying kids. No easily distracted husband. Just me. A few minutes ago, I went to put on a "nice outfit". Something that doesn't have banana mashed into it. Something not decorated in grease spots. Something that isn't a dead giveaway that I spend my days elbow deep in diapers and baby cereal. Something that I actually feel good about wearing.

I don't have anything.

Not, "I don't have anything" in a "I have things, I just don't want to wear them" kind of way. I really don't have anything.

I'm standing about two pounds away from an even fifty pound weight loss. The negative part of this scene, is the only clothes that seem to fit my new body, are clothes that I wore when I was nineteen years old. A lot of revealing dresses and skirts, and shirts that lack the length to cover the newly expanded nursing parts of my body. Nothing that my 25 year old grown up conscious is at all interested, or comfortable, wearing.

The only salvageable piece of clothing, is an old My Chemical Romance shirt. Not exactly something I'd choose to put on when date night rolls around, ya know?

I'm reluctant to buy new clothes. Not only because I'm probably going to have to put them on plastic, but also because the act of shopping for things that properly fit my body and look good at the same time, seems like more of a hassle than anything.

I'm having one of those days. An "I need new clothes" kind of day.

My daughter is being held hostage by an out of this world Military Brat

Friday, August 7, 2009

Its Friday, so that means its my day of the week to contribute to The Mama Dramalogues. You can read "My Daughter is being held hostage by an out of this world Military Brat", by clicking here. Have a great Friday everybody!