This Halloween, we had an Elsa, a minion, and a teenager dressed in black jeans and a black shirt who claimed she was a "vampire hunter". Her mother made her put on a cape, so she at least had some semblance of a costume.
The vampire hunter deserted us for a friend's neighborhood. That's the cool middle school thing to do. Elsa had a great time in the gorgeous dress my mom made.
She trick-or-treated with Batman for a while and then hooked up with several other Elsas and assorted princesses. She was even brave enough to to reach over this not so dead corpse to grab candy.
The adult trick-or-treating was pretty stellar this year. I ended up with a glass of wine, a toasted marshmallow shot of Kahlua, and a Frito pie. Plus, I stole all the girls' Kit Kats. Score.
Then we have the minion. Weeks of planning went into putting together the perfect minion costumes with a friend. Minion socks, a minion jack-o-lantern, figuring out who would be the yellow minion and who would be the purple minion and then deciding they should both be yellow minions, making minion goggles... it seemed to be the grand master plan leading up to a perfect night of minion trick or treating.
Until it wasn't. Nina burst into the house sobbing, completely heartbroken. Apparently her minion partner in crime had left to trick-or-treat in another neighborhood with another friend. With tears streaming down her face, she declared, "I don't want to trick or treat at all!" It ripped my heart out just a bit to see her so upset. She had been looking forward to this night for weeks. I don't know how things fell apart, whether Nina had bigger expectations about being together that night than the friend, or whether the friend got a better offer and ditched her, but at that point, it didn't matter. She was learning that awful lesson that we all learn at some point... friends sometimes let you down, and it hurts. I gave her a hug, wiped the tears off her face, and told her not to let that ruin her night. I convinced her to go find another friend. By the end of the night, she had hooked up with four other girls and had a ball. Thankfully, the night was salvaged. She came home with a big sack of candy and a smile on her face. She still can't really talk about the whole minion ordeal though. It was definitely a night of Halloween heartbreak for one yellow minion and her mom.
When we started summer vacation planning, I said, "Beach!" J.C. turned up his nose. I said, "OK! Lake house!" His eye twitched. Then he said, "Let's do something different... not the beach, and not a lake house." Huh? What? My brain couldn't compute. No ocean? No lake? Possibly no pool? What sort of summer vacation is this? And why on earth would we consider it? In my mind, vacation involves a large body of water. Always. That's just how I roll. He won out though, and we made plans to spend a few days doing touristy stuff in Atlanta. At the last minute, I added on a night at the Great Wolf Lodge with some friends. It couldn't be a completely swimsuit-free vacation!
Our plan was to skip the last day of school in order to arrive at Great Wolf Lodge right at 1:00 when you can access the water park. As luck would have it, kindergarten graduation and a middle school awards ceremony interfered with those plans, so we got on the road as soon as we could after those events. As always, Great Wolf Lodge was a lot of fun.
That's Nina face down in the background getting slammed.
After 24 hours of waterlogged Great Wolf Lodge fun, we all felt about like this.
Then, it was time to head to Atlanta. Stay tuned for part two.
This past Christmas, Nina asked for a backyard zipline. J.C. and I talked it over, scoped out a location in the backyard and decided it would work. We knew we would need to take down a few small trees in the yard, but that shouldn't have been a problem. About a month before Christmas, a tree man knocked on our door saying that he was in the neighborhood taking down a tree for a neighbor and wondered if we had any trees that needed work. Without thinking much about it, J.C. told him no and sent him on his way. A few minutes later, it dawned on us, "the zipline!" We brought the tree guy over and asked him to cut down the one tree that J.C. was a little nervous about felling himself. It was leaning toward the house a little, so J.C. thought it was best to have a professional do it. Of course, the tree guy recommended a bit more work when he pointed out some trees that were brushing up against our roof. Five hundred dollars later, we were missing two trees and a bunch of limbs. Talk about an impulse buy. Anyway, Nina wanted the zipline, and we had been convinced the other work was necessary, so good-bye five hundred dollars. She better love that zipline.
Two days later, we received this email from our neighborhood HOA.
Good afternoon! The Architectural Committee of REDACTED wanted to reach out to you and get a little more information on a tree or trees you recently had removed.
Could you please provide more information on the removal, such as how many, why they were removed, do you plan to remove any more, etc., and I will forward to the Committee.
I have also attached the architectural guidelines. Tree removal is referenced on page 23.
Seriously? It was two trees... out of our backyard of MANY, MANY trees. Nobody could have possibly noticed that the trees were missing, but clearly somebody had noticed we had tree men in the yard. A neighbor had felt the need to report us to the HOA police. This didn't go over well with me, so I might have sent this email in response.
While I appreciate that the architectural committee has a job to do to keep our neighborhood looking neat and tidy, I do not appreciate the "Big Brother is watching over you" email two days after we had some work done.
My front yard is landscaped, and we keep the grass trimmed. My garbage cans are adequately hidden from view of the street. When the tree in our side yard was threatening to fall on our neighbor's driveway, we removed it and replaced it with a more suitable tree for that location. My backyard is woodsy and will continue to be so. I believe that my house and yard fit in with the rest of the homes in the neighborhood. The goal of the architectural committee is to maintain the overall aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood and to protect the value of our homes. The work done Monday did nothing to change that.
I should not have to justify the removal of two trees on my own property. Anyone driving past my house would notice nothing different from the way it looked a week ago. If the neighbor who turned us in would like to come talk to us directly, I'm usually home in the evenings to talk with my neighbors and answer any questions they may have. I've always thought of REDACTED as a friendly neighborhood where neighbors would reach out and talk to each other when they have questions or concerns, but apparently I was wrong. The architectural committee's response to seeing a tree removal truck in front of my house is overblown and unnecessary.
After much aggravation and many emails back and forth with the architectural committee, we got approval to remove the last few trees we needed to take out to make safe passage for the zipline. It turns out any tree over 4 feet tall that you want to remove needs approval. Really? Isn't anything under 4 feet tall a shrub? I understand the HOA's policies of approving paint colors before you paint your house fluorescent pink, and I understand why they have a rule against broken down cars in your front yard. I will never understand the amount of red tape we had to go through to remove a few small trees. We had to get approval from every neighbor whose property touches ours. One poor guy had just moved in that week. "Welcome to the neighborhood! Will you sign this form saying I can cut down a couple small trees in my own backyard?"
Needless to say, had we known ahead of time the expense, aggravation, and time suck that this Christmas gift was going to be, we never would have gone for it. Now that it is here, THE KIDS BETTER ENJOY IT. Daily. With friends. Without friends. During all their free time. For years. When they are home from college over Christmas break.
Fortunately, they are loving it. If it had been one of those gifts that is played with Christmas morning and then tossed aside, we might have tossed Nina out with it. It is now almost April though, and it still sees play time every weekend and during the week too.
The entire neighborhood seems to be enjoying it, so I'm expecting to be cited with noise complaints any day now. Surely I am breaking some HOA rule by having this many kids in my backyard without pre-approval.
While the most of the country was frozen solid with the polar vortex last week, Elise, Nina, and I headed to Texas Hill Country. It was a great getaway. We arrived in sunny Austin, and my BFF took us on a tour around town and out for a much appreciated Tex-Mex brunch.
In the afternoon, we went on a wild ride around the lake in a golf cart driven by her twelve year old,
and Elise taught M some jump rope moves. (M, you're welcome! I knew you'd love having this photo out on the Internet for all to see!)
That evening, we got all gussied up for my cousin's wedding.
The wedding was... interestingdifferentunique... um... I have no words. Really. I'll just sum it up with the music below. The bridesmaids walked in to the ceremony to this music. Play it. Seriously. Even if you are one of those people (like me) who never watches videos on blogs, just play a little of this. You won't be sorry. Now imagine you are sitting at a wedding watching bridesmaids walk in to the ceremony to this "music". No words for it, right? Or maybe too many words? Anyway, just play it.
It was definitely not your traditional wedding. In the midst of the Star Wars light saber candlesticks, Dragon Ball Z cake topper, black rose bouquet center pieces, and the explicit lyrics to Thrift Shop playing in the background, the bride looked gorgeous, the groom smiled from ear to ear, (sorry... lousy photo!)
and Nina debuted her Miley Cyrus pose with her cousin B.
Elise entertained her cousin E, and I was able to catch up with family.
For the rest of the weekend, we visited with more Texas friends,
and pigged out on Mexican food
The polar vortex extended our trip an extra day by mucking with flights, and that was just fine with us! We had a great time deep in the heart of Texas!
This past weekend, Elise's jump rope team had plans to perform at the Cyclo.Via Festival in Boone, NC, so we decided to make a family trip out of it. We drove up Friday afternoon with our friends the M family. Our first stop on arriving in town was the Dan'l Boone Inn which had come highly recommended by several friends. All I can say is... um... YUM... and... YUM again! The restaurant placed third in Southern Living Magazine in the reader's choice awards for country cooking restaurants. I can't even imagine how good the first and second place restaurants must be! If you ever find yourself in Boone, NC, a trip to the Dan'l Boone Inn is a must. I'm already regretting the fact that we didn't go there one morning for breakfast as well.
We had to wait a while for a table, but the gardens outside the restaurant are so lovely, we didn't mind the wait.
Of course, Elise is never without a rope.
It was getting dark as we approached the cabin we had rented. We were rambling along a gravel road, following directions like, "turn right at the little white church, then take a left after the bridge over the creek." We got to the "turn left at the tree with four blue reflectors on it" and started up the hill. Then we got to the part in the directions that said, "gun it!" I hit the gas hard, spun the wheels a bit, but made it all the way up to the cabin. The M family was behind us in their minivan. They gunned it and spun, gunned it and spun, gunned it and spun. They finally gave up and left the van parked halfway down the steep driveway. They had a bit of a hike with the suitcases, but fortunately, the cabin was great.
We put the four girls in a room with two bunk beds. That led to a late night of whispering and giggling before the start of a busy weekend. The show must go on though. The next morning, we got up and headed to Tweetsie Railroad.
Tweetsie Railroad is kind of hilarious. It is a Western theme park that opened in the 1950's. I'm pretty sure nothing has changed since then. That is part of what makes it fun though. There is definitely no "Disney Magic" happening at Tweetsie, but it is quaint, old-fashioned, hokey, and fun. Picture the Brady Bunch episode, "Ghost Town, U.S.A.", and you've got the idea.
See what I mean?
There is no shortage of fun photo ops at Tweetsie, and the kids tested all of them.
The main attraction at Tweetsie, as you might imagine, is the train ride.
(Totally unrelated side-note... it was not until I saw this photo that I realized all of my kids have very, very (almost obnoxiously) bright colored sneakers. How did I not know that?)
The train ride is fun. It stops along the way for staged gun fights and bank robberies.
Is there anything more politically incorrect than this "Indian" (I realize he should be called a Native American, but in the 1950's, you know his character was created as an "Indian") with his face painted red? It is in scenes like these when you realize that Tweetsie is a true relic. I doubt this show has changed a single line, costume, or set in over 50 years.
Besides the train ride, we also took a ride on the chair lift (love the view!)
saw a couple shows, ate some fudge, and went gem stone mining.
This little guy was pretty well soaked by the time we left. He had a ball though.
The Tweetsie plans mostly came about because the little guy is a big Thomas fan, and Addie fancies herself a cowgirl these days. We had the little kids in mind as we planned the outing. It turned out the big kids had a blast too though, so what a success!
The next day was Cyclo.Via. We timed our lunch horribly and ended up having to ask the waiter to hold our table with our food on it while we ran out to watch the jump rope performance. The performance was great, but we returned to soggy, cold food. We failed proper trip planning that day.
Since our lunch was a little less than satisfying, we stopped for some ice cream before heading out of town.
After that, we left Elise with her team for their other performances and headed back home along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It is like a little drive through Heaven up there.... so beautiful.
I'm glad we took advantage of Elise's team trip to take a little weekend vacation. I think everybody had a good time.
I spent the weekend at Myrtle Beach with my usual partners in crime for beach trips. Pictured below are the mothers to a total of 17 children. Clockwise from left: Wrinkle, Freight Train, Perky, Too Damn Sober, Texas, and Sexy Sausage. We were all about the nicknames on this trip.
If you've never been to a sleazy Myrtle Beach bar, your life is not complete. Picture a bunch of rednecks with confederate flag tattoos, women with big hair in tacky tube skirts three sizes too small, a couple of brides in their wedding gowns, and an 80 year old guy in a turquoise silk shirt... give them all jello shots in giant plastic syringes, and you're imagining the classy bar. The rest are worse. I started thinking about the difference in experiencing these bars as a 21 year old college student and a 41 year old mom of three...
At 21, you are thrilled to pull out your ID to show the bouncers.
At 41, you laugh as the bouncers ask for your ID, wondering why they bother.
At 21, when an old geezer starts flirting with you, you turn heel and run, sure that the old pervert is hitting on you, and scared that your friends will see you talking to him.
At 41, when the older guy at the next table starts chatting with you, you talk with him for a while, realize he's a funny old gay guy who likes to laugh at the cheesy rednecks, roll his eyes at the short skirts, and point out guys he thinks are in the closet. You realize he is totally harmless and just a lot of fun.
At 21, when you see the woman in the bright blue tank dress that is so short her butt cheeks are hanging out the back as she dances, you giggle and stare.
At 41, after giggling and staring, you wonder how her mother raised her to think that dress was appropriate. You start to panic wondering what you need to do as a parent to ensure your daughters never go out to a bar with their butt cheeks hanging out.
At 21, you look at the empty dance floor, wanting to dance, but never even consider going out there first. It would be humiliating. When a bunch of drunk women your mom's age go out there making complete fools out of themselves dancing alone, you roll your eyes while secretly glad the dance floor is no longer empty.
At 41, you strut out to the dance floor when you are ready to dance, whether anyone else is out there or not.
At 21, you scan the edges of the dance floor looking for the hottest guys, hoping one will ask you to dance.
At 41, you realize all the hot guys are jerks, and you don't care if anyone dances with you or not.
At 21, you argue over who is going to be the designated driver and groan when it is your turn.
At 41, you make the pregnant woman be the designated driver. In absence of a pregnant woman, you realize that $2 per person for a cab makes a whole lot more sense than having a designated driver, and you call a cab.
At 21 or 41, experiences may be different, but at either age, one thing is certain, you should never let your friends take a picture of you looking like this.