Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thinking outside of the box

Forget baby dolls and bendaroos. The best gift you can give your children is a box. That's it. A big cardboard box.

It seems as if the snow blower that came in the big box wasn't the real present after all. Bella and Mia's Enchanted Castle has provided (going on three hours now) uninterrupted, non argumentative FUN for two (TWO!!) children.

Here they are interior decorating their castle.

Oh wait, upon closer examination I think Mia used the castle as a quiet dark place to take a dump. Creature comforts.

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Goat Whisperer

To celebrate the Holiday season Bella's preschool put on a live Nativity for family and friends. The presentation coincided with our first snowfall of the season, which made it even more special. Bundled up, sipping some hot chocolate we watched as the three and four year old classes put on quite the nativity. The manger was decked out with some sheep and a baby calf, who kept mooing through Oh Come All Ye Faithful, making me giggle through it all--cuz really, it made a great baritone.

We watched as Mary was brought in on a donkey while two angels played a pretty entertaining game of tug of war with the arms and legs of Baby Jesus as they delivered him to the cradle of hay. I watched as all of the other kids dressed as shepherds made their way to the manger. For a moment I thought they forgot Bella in the barn because for the life of me I couldn't place her anywhere.

And with a rather loud guffaw I spotted my daughter (looking rather manly) leading the goat three times her size over to the manger.

Can you blame me for not recognizing her? How hilarious is this?

And what in the heck is she hiding under her turbin? Voldemort?

The kids were adorable. Some held on tight to a rabbit, or a chicken or in Bella's case a ginormous goat.

It was really precious to watch and it started our Christmas season out with a bang. As a parent, I adore these moments and take mental snapshots just as much as I take tangible ones. They're growing up right in front of me, so fast.

Sooo, fast.

On a sidenote, "the Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for any religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin.” -Jay Leno


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kiss my ass Ariel, you red headed merhussy!!!!

For Thanksgiving this year we headed to Los Angeles and Las Vegas for a week with our west coast family. They were so excited to see us. They've also made it a tradition that when we come to visit they take the girls to Disneyland. Nice tradition, huh?!!!

We've been very fortunate to have several Disney employees in the family. And if you're unaware, Disney is AWESOME about free family passes to the park-like 90% of the calendar year. Which means that luckily, we've gone several times over the past 4 years. But this time (above any other) was the most anticipated by our little Bella. She was so very, very excited that she hardly slept the night before because she was planning her entire day at the park. In fact, she woke up at FIVE AM ready to go.

Her first stop was the Finding Nemo ride (her favorite). For all of us older folks, the Finding Nemo ride is the improved version of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride. It was a total hit, which made up for the 45 minute wait. Mia loved it. She shrieked every time she saw a fish (animated or not).

But can I just say, waiting in line with an 18 month old TOTALLY SUCKS! Mia did not understand the concept of waiting, walking, waiting, then walking some more. She did this all day long and OH how I hate noodle legs!

She also thought it was funny to cross over into the other lines, which pissed off everyone around us. But Bella? Bella took the wait like a champ!

The second hit of the day was the It's a Small World ride which was finally reopened! And it did not disappoint! In fact, it was all decked out for Christmas/Holidays around the world. Mia kept oohing and ahhing the whole time. I think she could have spent the whole day chillaxin' in one of those boats!

Theme parks with kids just isn't the same as it is when you're 13 and with a group of friends. I remember hitting up every ride a couple times over. Throw two toddlers into the mix and you get to experience three, maybe four rides the whole day! I felt like we had to stop every 15 minutes. Pee break. Snack time. Diaper change. Meltdown. Now I know why parents stay at the Disney hotels and make a week of it. After a few more kiddie rides, we headed over to the Princess tent. And that's where the shit went down!

Okay, here's the deal, from the beginning Eugene and I have been very careful about introducing our girls to the whole princess mentality. In general, we want our girls to be strong, independent individuals--not ones who define their happiness through the presence of a man, err I mean prince. Sorry Sleeping Beauty, but napping through your lonely life until a man finally kisses you is freakin' pathetic. But, no matter how hard we tried to fight it----they crept in. From birthday gifts to christmas presents to toothbrushes, one day I looked around and found that I was surrounded by big hair and ball gowns. We gave up. Don't get me wrong, we don't encourage it but we don't discourage it either. Which leads us to the Princess Tent.

The Princess Tent is an attraction at Disneyland, where (if you have the patience to wait long enough--a minimum of 90 minutes) your child can get a picture with three princesses. Three. In case you were wondering there's like 8 pretty, pretty princesses. So, basically it's a crapshoot as to who you're going to get. But you see, there is a definite ranking order when it comes to the princesses. Top of the list? Cinderella, of course. Second? Little Mermaid. Third runner up? Belle. Fourth would be Jasmine, only because of her glittery outfit and not because Bella has ever even seen the movie Aladdin. And somewhere on the bottom of Bella's princess food chain is Snow White.

While we waited in line, I caught Bella saying to her Lola, "I want to meet Cinderella and Little Mermaid and Belle" with almost a maniacal twinge in her voice. I quickly started into my "you get what you get" routine which I find myself performing at least three times daily nowadays. Bella, half heartedly agreed with me, you get what you get. In fact, one of the princess tent cast members (Disney employee) overheard Bella panting over Cinderella and informed us that the princesses are at random--and that any three of the 8 princesses will be available. Too distracted by his ridiculous court jester costume, I completely ignored the foreshadowing that was coming out of his mouth.

After frantically finger licking Mia's bangs in place, I suddenly realized that I was a total sellout. Here I was, buying into all the hype. I was actually excited! Being next in line, I tried my best to peek around the corner to see who was there. Darn, I couldn't see. Just then the court jester walked us over to meet........Jasmine!

This was totally acceptable in Bella's Princess book. Jasmine! Cool hair and sparkly jewelry. Notice how the girls are looking at another Disney court jester taking ridiculously expensive pictures (of which we will totally not buy) instead of looking at their MOTHER who is screaming "over here! Bella! Mia! Jasmine!" At least Jasmine listened to me.

After our little photo-op with Jasmine, Bella could hardly contain herself as we were lead to.......BELLE!!!! TOTAL SCORE!!!! She even kneeled down for a better picture.

Bella was beaming with excitement! On the other hand, if you look closely, you can see Mia reaching for her belly button (which is hilarious because it's what she does for comfort). I don't blame her--totally embarassed by her mom who's jumping up and down squeeling like a banshee she's trying to "find a happy place."

After I took about 30 consecutive shots with Belle, we were lead over to......are you ready for this? ARIEL!!!!! THE LITTLE MERMAID!!!!! Holy shit, I've never seen Bella so excited. She jumped up and down. I mean, literally, up and down. She reacted like one of those Beatles girls from the 70's--she was that excited. I too caught the excitement bug. I mean there she is, so sweet and pretty with her long flowy red hair and her legs. Oh look-she has legs. Her wish came true, she's up here, where people walk, up where we run, up where we stay all day in the sun. OH MY GOD, ARIEL IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF US! CAN THIS REALLY BE HAPPENING? We noticed that there was quite the crowd gathered around Miss Ariel. And so we gladly waited our turn, watching with big eyes as a 12 month old (who could barely walk) googled at her pretty teeth a little longer than normal. Than we watched with big eyes as this older couple (like in their 40's-are you kidding me?) wanted to take a picture with her. Than it was our turn and we watched with big eyes as suddenly Ariel got up and somebody else was coming to take her spot. Oh. My. God. My blood started to boil. No way. No freakin way this was going to happen. Not now. I took one look at her replacement and knew what I had to do. I yelled and I mean, yelled. ARIEL! ARIEL! HEY YOU- LITTLE MERMAID- GET BACK HERE! Realizing that anger will get me no where in the happiest place on earth, I switched up my game. I became desperate. In a much kinder, gentler voice, I hollared, Ariel, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, JUST ONE MORE PICTURE, ONE MORE, JUST ONE, IT'LL ONLY TAKE A SECOND. And do you know what she had the nerve to do? Look me in the eyes and give me one of those pageant waves. A PAGEANT WAVE! CAN YOU EFFIN' BELIEVE IT? Almost in sobs, I look back at the scene and there's Mia, wisely massaging her belly button and Bella (who you know is totally on the verge too) and then there's Mulan. That's right, M-U-L-A-N. Mulan. WTF! Are you even a real princess? I mean, come on, MULAN? She's not even in Bella's princess food chain. She's like the plankton of the princess chain. No. Even worse she's the zooplankton who feed on the plankton of the princess food chain.

You get what you get.

Realizing that I made this poor, starving actress feel worthless and inferior, I apologized and told the girls (pretty unenthusiastically) to smile for the camera.

Too sad to look at the camera, Bella stared in the spot where Ariel once stood. Hoping, wishing, that she may just flutter around the corner once more. But no, Ariel never came back.

We made the best of our night at Disneyland, despite that little biatch from under the sea. We marveled at how cool It's A Small World looked at night.

While Mia slept, Bella smiled for a pic with her Auntie Nina

and her devoted Lola

and after being up for 14 hours straight with no nap, Bella's little body collapsed before we even got to the car. Until next time Disneyland, until next time!

Grandparents Day!

We recently celebrated Grandparent's Day at Bella's preschool. What a great idea, huh? I tried for a month to get Bella to spill the beans about what her class had planned, but she wouldn't budge. Their performance was top secret.

The students performed several prepared songs. Here's one of their jazzy little numbers:

After her performace we roamed around her preschool, noticing every detail.

We also seized the moment to get a picture with her and her teachers.

Miss Brenda

and Miss Veronica.

Mia, hopped up on a cupcake high, loved being at Bella's school.

My parents had a ball at the celebration. I don't think they get enough credit for all they do for our family-they are such great grandparents. In fact, we are blessed to have all four grandparents sharing in our childrens' lives. Papa, Nana, Lolo and Lola-thank you for taking such an enduring and selfless role in our daughters' lives. They will always remember your dedication to them.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Just the two of us. Part 2.

At 8AM (which is sleeping-in with Mia away) Bella and I pressed our internal snooze button and snuggled for about three more minutes until Bella promptly started tapping my cheek. She was so excited for day #2. After breakfast we layered ourselves for a nature hike at the Litte Red Schoolhouse forest preserve. Apparently, I used to take field trips to the Little Red Schoolhouse when I was little but I have a vague recollection of it.

And here it is, the Little Red Schoolhouse.

It was built in 1886 to replace a one-room log cabin school--the first school building of the area. Now the LRS is used as a nature center and wildlife preserve.

Inside, there were aquariums filled with our local wildlife--like this frog that caught both of our attention.

Or the crow that scared the crapper out of Bella.

Or the stuffed raccoon that Bella turned around and found herself nose-to-nose with. I've never heard her scream so loud. It was so funny I had a hard time consoling her because I couldn't stop laughing. Mature Gina. Next, we headed off for a little nature hike. It was about 13 steps into the trail when my little peanut complained that her legs were tired. Hoisting her on my shoulders we took off and met some friends on the trail. After hide-and-seek, stone throwing and "raining leaves" we fondly left the Little Red Schoolhouse.

After eating a quick lunch I dropped Bella off at school and found myself alone for the first time in as long as I can remember. I came home and realized the importance of this two hour break. Giving me just enough time to clean the house, make dinner, do the laundy Facebook.

After school, Bella and I took a nap and woke in time to see Astro Boy at the local movie featah (as Bella calls it).

Drowning ourselves in popcorn and leftover Halloween candy that I smuggled in we found that Astro Boy didn't hold our attention as much as we'd liked. About 40 minutes in Bella and I decided to leave.

It was another perfect day. I really cherished this time that I spent with Bella. It reminded me of the two years I spent with her before Mia's arrival. I adore those memories, my first memories of mother and child, they will always hold a place in my heart. But when Eugene came home at 5AM and put a sleeping Mia into my arms, I felt complete again. Her smell--I missed it. It's crazy how your children come with their own specific smell. The four of us slept together in our bed for several cozy hours.

And then the beasts awoke.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Just the two of us. Part 1.

A couple weeks ago, in passing, I mentioned to Eugene that maybe on one of his quick trips to L.A. he should consider taking Mia with him, so that she could spend some quality time with his parents. Seconds after uttering those words he had his calendar out ready to plan it. So this morning, we bid farewell to Eugene and Mia as they took off on their 48 hour adventure cross country.

Last night before I tucked Bella into bed we talked about our plans for the next few days. Bless her heart, she was so excited she didn't have to share my attention with her sister. In fact, she asked if her and I could play with "the fruitty smelling clay." She asked this because she has not seen the stuff since Mia was born because all Mia wants to do is eat it, so how cute that she'd think to seize the moment with her sister being gone. Anyway, as I thought about the "fruitty smelling clay" I realized several things:

1. I am way too anal about Play-doh/clay. I start twitching every time two colors get joined together, which undoubtedly leaves the clay (in this case) smelling less like grapes and looking more like dog food.

2. This "fruitty smelling clay" that Bella speaks of was purchased over TWO years ago at an artsy store in California. TWO YEARS AGO! EEWWWWWWWWW. THINK OF THE GERMS!!!

3. It was time for new Play-Doh.

I watched as her eyes lit up when I told her that we could go to Toys-R-Us and pick out some brand new play dough. Based on her reaction you'd think she just won the lottery.

After Eugene and Mia walked out the door, Bella and I headed out for our Wednesday morning ritual: first the yoga class for me and then the library for her. My yoga class was going perfectly. I found myself in the moment, had great balance and had a surprising amount of focus. Until...the woman in front of me let out a tiny little toot, which sent me spiraling down into a deep dark vortex of laughter--of which I could not control.

What am I twelve?

After yoga we headed to the library and I was thrilled not to watch after a certain 17 month old as she usually pulls every book from the shelf or dumps every crayon on the floor or any # of things that I have to prevent Mia from doing. Nope, not today.

Walking through the aisles of Toys-R-Us I was reminded how easy it is with just one child. So, so so easy. A 3.5 year old makes the perfect sidekick. Since we were on no schedule we explored every nook and cranny of that store. Like the glittery hula hoops that were so big she could barely hold them in her hands.

Or the stationary bike that almost made her sweat.

Or the princess shoes that come six to a pack. SIX. What child needs six pairs of dress up shoes?????

Or the freaky baby dolls that kept crying in unison as their motion sensors were triggered every time we walked past them, leaving Bella and I in stitches.

Or the GODFORSAKEN BARBIE HOT PINK CADILLAC ESCALADE HYBRID EXT that kept her attention for almost twenty minutes.

Are those plastic sub-woofers in the back? Are you kidding me?

What ever happened to the Big Wheels of the good ol' days? Those were the best! We headed over to the Play-Doh aisle and she debated back and forth before settling on the Play-Doh Magic Swirl Ice Cream Shoppe. Wise choice, my dear.

I never knew you could do so many fun things with Play-Doh (remember I'm a dough Nazi). All I ever supplied my kids with was a few shape cutters and the dough--there's a whole world of Play-Doh contraptions out there. Who would have thought you could make soft serve ice cream, with strawberry toppings and sprinkles out of Play-Doh!

We played with the ice cream shoppe for hours! Day 1 was perfect!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Anybody got a baby I can breastfeed?

Because no matter what I do these days, I can't seem to lose any weight. I don't understand. Since joining a gym, in which I work out a minimum of 3 times a week, I haven't lost anything. Nope. In fact, it's creeping in the opposite direction. What gives?

No, I'm not pregnant.

No, I'm not eating any more than normal.

Actually, it occurred to me that this plateau began right around the time that I gave up breastfeeding. Crapper. My metabolism has completely shut down sinse that teary-eyed night two months ago. I knew that breastfeeding burned a ton of calories, but I guess I never really factored it in to my daily regime. I factored it as an "extra" bonus.

Anybody got any recommendations on how to kick start my metabolism again?

I purchased the Biggest Loser Wii game--which looked really awesome when I saw the previews on the show. If anyone can kick anything into gear it's Jillian Michaels.

Doesn't your heart go out for her thigh muscles? Poor things.

I haven's stepped onto the Wii fit board since my hilariously, tragic fall last January. Why is it that my falls are ALWAYS hilarious? And why is it that my falls are always seen by PEOPLE I KNOW?

That's it--I'm going to face my fear, stand on my wii fit and get yelled at for about 30 minutes from a digital avatar that looks like me. Wish me luck.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's been a hard-knocked life ALL WEEK!

I've always loved Halloween. It goes back to my mom and her excitement and dedication to this particular holiday. She always made the coolest most creative costumes for us. Like the time I was a martian beauty pageant winner, Miss Mars, in which my mom Elmer-school-glued-green Cheerios all over my face and slapped a bald cap on my head. Total project runway. The point is, she put a lot of thought into it.

My mom's enthusiasm has rubbed off on me. I now realize why my mom was such a nutcase over the years--it's without a doubt the most exciting day of the year. Costume choice in our family is a topic of conversation that usually starts in August. Ridiculous, I know. In Bella's case, her mind was made up back in May when she took one look at the new locket necklace my sister purchased. Oops, I'm sorry-- it's not a necklace, it's a Juicy Couture necklace. Which is exactly what Bella says to anyone who dares to call it a necklace. Thanks, Gabe.

So yeah, she saw the "Annie-esque" locket necklace and decided right then and there that she wanted to be Annie for Halloween. Which was fine by me, since she loved the movie and the music anyway. My sister, god bless her, even put teeny, tiny pictures of our family inside the locket necklace--how awesome is that? You rock Gabey, thank you. You're going to be an awesome mom one day.

Of course, no Annie would be complete without a loyal dog!

Mia, on the other hand, had much less of a choice in the matter--seeing as she barely talks and all. Although, to my credit, I honorably chose something on her behalf--a cute little black cat. Dude, Mia goes BONKERS over cats. Every time she sees one she squeals, claps, and does a stomp yer' feet kinda dance. How could I not? Unlike my mom, I cannot sew at all, so I left it up to the geniuses over at Halloween Headquarters to help me find the purrfect feline attire.

I remember a time in college when I was so poor I handed out my canned goods to the kids who dared knock on our white trash door. Seriously, green beans? You betcha. I must have been drunk. I've come a long way since that Halloween. This year, Eugene thought he would be sensible and buy the candy from Costco. LIKE A 10 LB. BAG. The worst part about it, he bought the bag three weeks ago. Which means we had about 2lbs. left over to hand out. Damn Halloween. I keep justifying it because the portions are so small. C'mon Gina....line all those teeny tiny Snickers bites up and whatta ya get? A freakin' chocolate footlong!

As much as I love Halloween, I've found the week prior tends to be the busiest week of the year. We played dress-up 3 times before the actual day arrived. Between the library story time, Mia's sing-along class, my gym, Bella's pre-school and the local nursing home I was exhausted. Knowing that Mia would tire of her costume long before Halloween arrived, she donned a pirate dress and a penguin at the above mentioned events. Bella wouldn't budge though. She insisted on being Annie for each event. My sister, fashion genius and hair stylist extraordinaire, put Bella's hair in curlers THREE times this week. Believe me, I tried to get her to wear a red curly clown wig- but man, the girl's got some standards.

Looking back on the week I think we've had about 27 "hard knock life" dance parties. Here's #17:

I love how Mia HAD to have a couple curlers in her hair just like Bella.

I remember what it's like to sleep in sponge curlers and it's not easy. But she did it like a champ. I even peeked in on Bella while she was sleeping and found her face buried into her pillow, butt up in the air, sleeping on her hands. Hah. Beauty is pain.

So, yeah, this week? Super busy. Oh and how can I forget the 1AM trip to the emergency room with Mia. She had a nastly fall off of a chair onto our brick floor. Lovely. After carefully watching her, my mom and I both assessed that she was fine. About two hours after she fell asleep she woke up in a screaming fit. Which could have easily been a nightmare but also could have been a concussion. Not wanting to chance it, my sister and I took her in (Eugene was out of town for work, so you could imagine how he felt). We were seen fairly quickly and after a catscan and a check-up they concluded that she was fine. Pfew. Here she is in a teeny-tiny hospital gown that made me thankful this was the only time I was seeing it. I've always had a soft spot for kids in hospitals.

But no ounce of sleep deprivation could keep us from enjoying our Halloween. After a spooky brunch at our house, Eugene set up a make-shift studio and took some pics of Bella, Mia and my seriously handsome nephew Erik.

Mia did not like us adding whiskars and a black nose to her face at all, but I'll never forget her smile when she saw herself in the mirror. She was so excited. She kept looking at herself then looking at me almost as if to say, "woah, I'm a cat." Looking back, it was my favorite moment of the day. In fact, she kept the cat costume on all day long! I had to pry it off of her for naptime. While Mia recharged her batteries, Bella and I headed over to a birthday party at our neighbor's house.

Like my make shift Gryffindor Harry Potter costume? I really wanted Eugene and I to dress up as John and Kate (ya know, work the asian/caucasian combo) but Eugene was a party pooper and didn't dress up. Once Mia woke up, she was ready for more candy.

We headed out to Trick-or-Treat

The girls had so much fun. Mia didn't understand the meaning of just "one." She literally raided several neighbors' candy bowls. It was pretty cute. While we walked along I thought about all the Halloweens growing up here in Illinois. The leaves all over the ground, pumpkins everywhere, beautiful fall flowers, the smell of burning wood, this was Halloween. I've missed it and I'm glad that my girls got the chance to experience it.

After inhaling M&M's, tootsie rolls, licorice and hershey kisses (and that was just me) the girls found the energy for one more Halloween Hard Knock Life dance party.

Three minutes after this video was taken, we ALL passed out. Happy Halloween!


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