Saturday, August 30, 2008

Are You Ready For Some Football?

In exactly four days and nineteen hours the moment our household has been waiting for will arrive. The NFL season will have officially start. To say that football rules our house would be a major understatement. My husband lives, breathes, eats,  and sleeps football. I have never met anyone more obsessed with the NFL. If you think your husband is, I dare you to bring on the challenge. Does your husband watch the 1985 preseason game between the Dolphins and the Colts during the off  season just because? Does he spend countless hours rehashing moments of games past and is he quite possibly what keeps the NFL channel on the air during the off season? Does he read the news online and suddenly let out a gasp that makes you think a plane has crashed or  a baby was snatched only to tell you that some obscure 3rd string tight end has been cut? My husband does. Lucky for him he has a wife who loves the game. I know more about football than any other woman I know and more than most men I know. Alot of it is absorbed by just being in the same room as the encyclopedia of football information that is Paul and alot of it is because I watch so much football that I have probably reached unhealthy levels. If an NFL game is on, I have to watch it. I don't care who is playing. I love the game.

We are die hard 49er fans in this house. Our children don't get an option, they will love the 9ers or they will have to sleep outside. From the time they were newborns they have been shrouded in 49ers garb.

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They will be taught to love and embrace the team and hopefully sometime in their childhood, the 49ers will actually be a team to get excited about! We have been in what I like to call a "slump" for some time now. Paul takes the glass is half full approach and every year thinks they are going to perform better than expected and every year he gets crushed. I take the don't expect much and be pleasantly surprised if they do anything remotely impressive approach. I find it helps keep my blood pressure down.

This year was the second year we took the kids to 49er training camp. We used to be season ticket holders but two little munchkins put an end to that. Now that money goes to diapers and that time is spent in front of the tv. Lucky for us, training camp is free! Its a chance to get an up close view of your team and see what the future season may hold. Kids (or Paul) can try their hands at throwing passes, kicking field goals, or getting an autograph from their favorite player.  Its a nice way to spend the afternoon and get pumped up about the upcoming season

Here are a couple shots of us last year. The first is of the kids and the 49er cheerleaders:


The next two are of the kids enjoying the practice.



And here are us and the kids with our trophy:



And this is this year:

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Why must they grow up so fast?

Check out where your favorite teams have their training. It might be near you! It may be too late to go to football training this year but baseball spring training is only a couple seasons away and would be a great way to spend time as a family and introduce your children to the sport. Who knows, you might learn something too and ignite a passion that you never knew you had!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Photo Fiesta

Okay- this is my first week playing along with the incredibly popular Friday Photo Fiesta which is set up by Candid Carrie. At first I didn't really see how it fit into the format of my blog but I figured I would make it fit because, hey, its fun.

Here are my first entries:

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These two pictures were taken on our first day of our Yosemite trip this year. The top on is of me, Paul, and the kids at Bridelveil Falls and the second is of the kids looking down at the water that dropped from the falls and into a beautiful stream below. The kids were so excited about all of their new experiences and seeing water in a situation outside of their bathtub is always a treat. If you would like to read about our time in Yosemite click on  Day 1 or Day 2 and if you would like some advice on how to do it yourself check out my write up on Yosemite with Kids.  My hope is that I will inspire some of you to have your own adventure in one of the most amazing places on earth.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Earth Shaking Meetup

Yes, I am incredibly behind. I am still writing about my trip to Socal which was a month ago! But these things are still worth sharing so here ya go.

On July 29th we met up with some of my friends who have twins. I affectionately refer to them as the Socal girls. Two of the Socal girls weren't able to make it.  Nicole had to work and Tamara obviously doesn't read her email as often as she should :). Lucky for me Lisa, Heather, Tonya, and Shannon were able to meet at Irvine Regional Park so we could have a playdate.  Irvine Regional Park is such a great place. It is nestled in the foothills on the edge of the City of Orange and has tons to do. Among the activities on the 477 acre grounds are pony rides, paddle bikes, a train, six playgrounds, four softball fields, two horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, and even a zoo! It is a great place for a get together, a picnic, or just a lazy afternoon enjoying the beautiful Southern California weather. Our little group opted for a couple hours at playground number 4 (I really have no idea which playground it was but number 4 sounds good to me) .

Lisa was excited to finally meet the elusive Paul. Paul has been dodging Lisa for months and was finally forced to meet her. I don't know what he has against Lisa. I think I heard him rambling something about not liking valley girls..... Just kidding Lisa! Paul was on daddy duty and was a swing pushing machine. He even took on the pushing duties of other people's children because that is just the kind of guy he is. Or maybe because poor Shannon already had her lap full...

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The kids all got along great. Identifying body parts seemed to be a big topic of conversation:

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Mari and Ben enjoyed time with their friends on the play equipment, under the play equipment, and most of all, in the water fountain.

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Mari and Luke

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When Mari and Ben weren't socializing they were trying their best to wander off. Mari would try to do a brisk walk in whatever direction I wasn't and Ben opted for a full throttle run. Fun stuff.

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It was on the way back from one of these chasing episodes that I suddenly felt the ground below me start to move. Was it in earthquake? Yes it was! I yelled earthquake (as if the others couldn't tell) and ran towards the nearest kid. As soon as I got to Mari is was over. It was a good shake but it was much more quiet than normal because we were outside. The only sound I heard was the slight squeaking of the play structure moving and grooving. I have been in my fair share of tremblers. The worst being the 1994 Northridge Earthquake which was the most terrifying experience of my life. It was loud and it was as if someone was shaking our house like it was a rag doll. Stuff everywhere, no power for days, no school for over a week, not even remotely fun. This one was much more tame and just enough to get the nerves rattling and the news people in a frenzy. As a matter of fact it was the biggest earthquake to hit the LA area since 1994. How nice of the earth to wait until I was in town for the action. Nothing like an earthquake to send me into a tizzy. I have to say I did quite well, all things considered, and did not let the panic set in. After a few minutes of chatting about the shaking, things returned to normal. Paul and Jayden got in a rousing game of lava tag while the kidlets ate some snacks.

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Finally the time came when we needed to hit the road and get the kids down for a nap. Before we left, all of us got together for a group photo. Last years photo looked like this:


And this year, thanks to Lisa's wonderful talents, this years photo looked like this:

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All in all it was a wonderful day and I can't wait to see them all again soon. I love knowing every time I go down to see  family I get to see members of our twin family as well. You girls all mean the world to me!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday for Tuesday

So much has changed since last I gave an update. So many wonderful things have happened. First of all, Miss Tuesday is off the ventilator! She is breathing on her own and her O2 stats are great. She is slowly becoming more and more alert as they can wean her off the drugs and Mommy even caught a smile on camera (which is up to them to share if and when they feel ready).  She has even been able to spend some time sitting (with help) next her sister. Yesterday she ate some applesauce! Her first meal in weeks. And she is growing stronger by the day. She is even officially discharged from the PICU and will be going back up to oncology as soon as a room opens up.  She made it through her second round of chemo with a little less hair but so much more strength than before. This child is a miracle. And God has answered our prayers thus far. So the message is, keep praying! Please keep praying. All these prayers are helping Tuesday and her family in so many ways. She still has an incredibly long road ahead of her but it is so good to hear things are heading in the right direction.


The fundraising continues. This particular fundraiser should appeal to everyone.  An 18×24, ready to hang canvas One Face Portrait done of anyone you choose! Hand painted by Jeremy Anderson. He is a very talented artist. Check out some of his work.
Gwen Steffani
"Air" Jordan

The Corradetti Brothers, who's mother helped make this happen. Denise is a friend of the artist (and a woman I am proud to call my friend as well) and together they are making this happen. He is so incredibly generous to donate his time and talents to helping Tuesday's family. I know I would love to win this one. I would have to talk him into doing both of my kids of course. Who wouldn't want a hand painted portrait of their loved one? You know you would. And you know you have at least $5.00 hanging around somewhere that you were probably going to spend on crap you shouldn't be eating so instead take that $5.00, save your waistline, and donate it to a very worthy cause. All you have to do is click on the donate button to the right of my blog. The one with Tuesday's beautiful face above it. For every $5.00 you donate, you get an entry. Donate $25? That's 5 entries! If you blog about this auction, you get another entry on top of that! And think about all the other people you will be telling about Tuesday!

Thank you everyone! Keep that love and support coming. It means the world to Tuesday's family.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I hate Chuck E Cheese

I remember being a child and getting super excited about the Chuck E Cheese birthday party. My mom was not one for taking my brother and I to visit that party loving mouse "just cuz" so being invited to a posh party such as that was a rare treat.  Back then it was Mc Donald's or Chuck E Cheese if your parents were going to spoil you with more than a cake and a couple friends in the backyard. The mouse ruled the birthday party circuit. There was the ball pit. A large urine and feces covered wonderland of color and hours of fun. The giant play area with tunnels and slides that didn't burn your butt as you slid down them because they were made of that new fangled space age polymer we know as plastic and they were indoors! Lets not forget the skeeball. A Chuck E Cheese trademark where a child tested their bowling skills (or ability to cheat when nobody was looking by running up and throwing there ball directly into the 500pt hole) and won tickets to get all sorts of useless crap. Best of all there was sub par pizza served in a theater where our favorite Chuck E Cheese stars performed a bunch of animatronic hits. It was good fun for all.

Well either my memory is completely wrong or times have changed. Twice we have attempted Chuck E Cheese with our kids and twice we have been massively disappointed. The first time we took them to the one in Sacramento. What a frightening experience. Talk about ghetto fabulous. It must have been "Gangsta bring your illegitimate children day" because that is certainly what it looked like. The kids were excited so we got some tokens and checked out a few rides. There wasn't much to do besides a couple rides that kinda shook the kids and sorry excuse for toddler play area. No ball pit. No massively cool play structure. This just didn't seem like a good place to be. The topper for me was when the security guard inside the place walked past me and I saw he was carrying a gun! A gun! Inside Chuck E Cheese! We were so out of there.

The second time we attempted Chuck E Cheese was when we were in Southern California a couple weeks ago. I noticed there was a new restaurant near my mom's and I figured it would be safe and clean since it was in the heart of South Orange County. We still had a ton of unused tokens in our car so I figured it would a good way to entertain the kids for an hour or two. One thing I noticed at both Chuck E Cheese's is they now brand you to your child when you enter. They stamp you and your child with the same number that is only visible under a blacklight so someone can't come in and steal your child. I know it is a good idea but I found it incredibly depressing. What has the world come to? We have to barcode our kids so someone doesn't try to steal them out of a children's entertainment area? What a sad state of affairs.

After we got our secret stamp we checked things out. It was certainly alot cleaner at this C.E.C. And there wasn't a shady character to be seen.  I didn't see a security guard, let alone one carrying a gun. All good signs. So we let the kids loose. Ben, being Ben, immediately went for the balls. We decided to put our first token into skeeball. So we drop one in and......nothing. Okay- maybe the token got stuck. I drop another in. Still nothing. Son of a! We got an employee and had them refund our money and get the sucker started.

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Finally, skeeball heaven. Ben was happy to throw the balls in whatever lane he felt like and we were happy to let him since they mostly just came right back to him. Mari even gave a couple throws. Do I dare say we were going to have fun at C.E.C?

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Well I guess we kinda had fun. In a disappointed, laughing at how horrible the place was, sort of way. We had so many tokens eaten by the machines while were there. The employee told us they checked the machines every morning to make sure they worked but we dropped more tokens into those machines and had absolutely nothing happen then was even close to acceptable. It was so annoying. It got to the point where I didn't bother asking for an employee to come get my token back for me and get the machine running because one less token meant we were one step closer to getting the heck out of there. Once again,  there was no ball pit! There was a play structure but super cool is not how I would describe it. It was mediocre at best. And even more upsetting- no animatronic characters whatsoever! How  is that acceptable from C.E.C? It isn't. It was enough to convince me to never come back.

Here are some highlight photos of our time at C.E.C.

Ben looking absolutely thrilled with the rides. Evidentially the E in Chuck E Cheese  stands for entertainment.  I think Ben begs to differ.

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Mari did get some enjoyment from pounding things with the mallet but I think the biggest thrill came from pretending to drive the cars in the video game without a token in it.  Once again proving the best things in life really are free.

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I will say the mini air hockey was pretty cool

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but overall I would say this picture Paul took pretty much sums up our opinions of the place.

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We ended up giving away the last of our tokens because we just had enough. It was draining to be in that place. The kids didn't even seem to care that we were leaving.

Maybe I am missing something. Maybe we just picked the two worst C.E.C.'s in the country to visit. I dare the mouse to prove me wrong. Until then we stand our ground in declaring the place overwhelmingly lame and a token stealing rip off. Anyone else have similar experiences or are we just special?

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Big Disneyland Post

Its been a long time coming. Things kept getting in the way. I have been totally distracted by the Olympics amongst other things including a trip to Colorado. But finally it is time. Time for the great Disneyland post of "08.

I grew up going to Disneyland. Most of my childhood I lived in Simi Valley and it seemed like we made the journey to the "happiest place on earth" annually. It was only $20 for Southern California residents back then. Not the sixty something dollars per person it is today. I even chose to spend my sixteenth birthday at Disneyland. I have so many memories of that place. I remember crying in line for Thunder Mountain because I didn't want to go on such a scary ride but my dad insisted that we try it. I remember going on Space Mountain for the first time and being so proud of finally conquering a roller coaster and loving it.  I remember waiting forever to get on Dumbo and feeling like it was worth every minute  of extreme boredom in line as I soared through the air.  I remember Grad Night and having a strange boy hand me a rose because he thought I was pretty (this was huge for a not so confident 18 year old). And I remember going to Disneyland in college and getting stuck half way out of Small World in the rain. Our boat was poking out far enough to keep us wet but not far enough to keep us away from the continuous singing.  Enough to drive anyone mad.

I couldn't wait to make some new memories. It had been a long time since I had last been to Disneyland. About 10 years. I guess most childless people in their 20's don't put going to Disneyland for the 20th time high on their priority list (unless their name is Chrissy...) I was so excited to bring my little munchkins and even more excited that they would be getting in for free. Grandma was nice enough to treat me, Paul, and my brother Chris to a day at the park. She really is a great grandma.  Chrissy tagged along with her season pass in  hand to be the ultimate tour guide and experience her favorite place with her godchildren for the very first time. The first thing I noticed was the parking structure. When I was growing up you parked in Goofy and huffed it to the entrance. Nowadays there is a state of the art parking structure  and you have to take a tram to the entrance. P7274168  The former Disneyland parking lot that I remembered was now California Adventure and Downtown Disney. My how times had changed. Luckily when we got through the entrance I was instantly taken back in time . They still had the same entrance to Disneyland! Some things don't change. And honestly, much of Disneyland was just as I remembered it.

We headed towards Tomorrowland for the kid's first Disney ride. The rockets had a relatively short line so we decided to take those on first. I was disappointed that the rockets were no longer on top of the building housing the People Mover (the People Mover no longer exists!) but they still looked like a pretty fun ride. It was the kid's first experience in waiting in a substantial line because when we go to Marine World there is barely a line to speak of. They actually did quite well. Once they realized the pay out of standing in line they did extremely well in the rest of them. Here are some waiting in line shots:

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And here are some shots of our first ride. Note the terrified look on Grandma's face in one of the pictures. Priceless.






The kids had a great ride and were geared up for more. We used our fast pass and got on the Buzz Lightyear ride next. It is so fun to shoot all the monsters and gather points but the kids were way too awestruck to participate. So many lights! So many colors! So many sounds! It was toddler sensory overload, but in a good way.

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From there we headed over to Storybookland (some of us at a more brisk pace than others) and checked out all the miniatures on a boat ride that is one of the original rides from when Disneyland opened back in 1955.  They had updated some of the displays by adding more recent movies such as Aladdin and Little Mermaid but it was nice to see alot of the old ones still there. The kids were highly entertained.

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I won't bore you all with a ride to ride rundown but I will give you a few highlights. The kids went on Pirates of the Carribean and did so well. I was worried that the drops or darkness would scare them but they really enjoyed it.

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They were actually tall enough to go on the Matterhorn but I think that would be a little scary for a not even two year old, regardless of how giant they may be.  One of the most fun rides I went on was Splash Mountain with my brother and Paul. We got in the log with two other sizable people and I was up front and in trouble. Chris and I didn't just get wet. We got drenched. I literally saw a wave of water go over my head and on to us. The weight in our boat made for one spectacular soaking. Luckily it was warm out so it felt great. During this time my mom and Chrissy took the kids on Winnie the Pooh where they fell in love. They really liked the ride and afterwards they saw the people dressed as the characters and actually wanted to go see them. Normally my kids will not get close to anything dressed in a giant fur suit but this time they wanted to. So Mom and Chrissy got them in line for pictures. Luckily I got off the ride just as the kids were getting their turn. Note the drenched version of Sharlene in the pictures. Mari slowly warmed up to the critters as we went from Pooh to Eeyore to Tigger. She even ran to Tigger and gave him a hug! Ben was so excited that all he could do was run in circles around Tigger, squealing. It was so cute.

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We tried to get a shot of the kids in front of the castle in the mouse  ears but this is the best we got

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because this is what they did as soon as we put the ears on.

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Here is a shot of them passed out during nap time. Nap lasted about 45 minutes which isn't bad considering they were surrounding by so much activity and even with the lack of sleep they did great the rest of the day. They didn't even fall asleep again until we got home that night.

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The kids got to do a few rides in Fantasyland that didn't have a huge wait. These included the always popular Carousel,

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Snow White and Pinnochio. I especially enjoyed these four shots of Ben's experience with Uncle Chris waiting in line for and riding Pinnochio:

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They remind me of some sort of demented photo booth.

And since we are showing Uncle Chris bonding with the little ones I can't pass up on this gem of a shot in which Mari wants to get away from Chris ASAP but it was the best shot we could get of the two of them together and I think its rather cute:

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I would like to give the final shout out to the Disneyland parade. The kids loved it. They sat still as statues the entire time. Wide eyed, completely amazed little statues. Ben got the best seat in the house on top of Daddy's shoulders while Mari took  shifts with Grandma and Mommy. That girl is getting heavy! Anyhow- these are some of my favorite parade shots:

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To those who say 22 month olds are too young to get anything out of Disneyland I say hogwash! My kids had a great day. They loved the rides and the parade and truly gained alot from their first Disney experience. They were able to spend the day with their family in the "Happiest Place on Earth" and learn that waiting (in line) can lead to great rewards. They were able to give giant stuffed animals big hugs,  ride in rockets, watch pirates fight on either side of their boat,  and a see their favorite Disney movies come to life right before their eyes. Just think of all those little brain cells they created that day with all those new experiences. Too young for Disney? Never!