Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Tell-Tale Picture Wall Revisited

Almost two years ago I wrote a blog post about the picture wall in our upstairs hallway, which had a full row of pictures for John and only a baby picture for Sam. It was a classic example of second-baby syndrome. (You can click here to read the post and to see what the wall looked like.)

Well, it took me about two years, but I finally updated the picture wall with Sam's pictures! 

I think the reason for it taking so long is that my expectations of perfection tend to paralyze me at times so that I don't even try to do certain things (what if I don't pick the very best pictures or put them together just right?). But I've been getting better at letting things be good enough and then being done with it. So one day in April I went into my photo archives, picked my favorites, and spent some time on Shutterfly putting together photo collages and personalized 8x10 pictures of Sam. It was easier and faster to do than I thought it would be. And voila, an important To-Do List item is now (finally) crossed of my list! Now I no longer feel automatically reprimanded when I see that wall in the hallway. I'm also glad that Sam's getting an equal amount of representation. I love both of my boys equally and I'm glad that the picture wall now shows it!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Brody and the Bug

When our cat Brody spots a bug in the house, he usually snaps it right up a for a little snack. Read on to see if (or how) he does that here. On another note, I like these photos because of the combination of sunlight and shadow (although I think his face is a little too much in shadow), and because of how the sunlight illuminates his soft-as-silk gray fur.

 "Oooh, look at that nice little bug."

 "I know what you're thinking. Am I going to ruin this bug's day (and life) or will I be merciful and let it go?"

"Decisions, decisions."

"It's getting further away. Hmmm. What to do, what to do?" 

 "Okay. I let it go. I chose to be a peaceful predator this time. Bonus points for me today. Can I have a snack?"

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Rest of April

Iowa had a mostly cold, rainy April this year. On April 17th we got a big storm--much bigger than I thought it would be. Unfortunately for me I was out running errands that morning, so I couldn't enjoy the storm from the comfort and safety of home. I don't think I've ever driven through rain that was so heavy and relentless. I got completely soaked when I ran to and from my car, and I ended up staying at Bed Bath & Beyond for at least three times longer than I needed to be there, walking around the aisles listening to the rain pound against the roof and the wind howl while it was dark as night outside, hoping that the storm would pass. Finally I left because I had to get home in time for Sam to be dropped off from preschool. A number of roads were flooded and I had to turn around a few times to find safer roads to drive home on. There was heavy wind, thunder, lightning, some hail, and of course the rain was pounding down so hard at an almost horizontal slant at times. I was worried that a tornado was going to crop up, but fortunately that didn't happen. I was so relieved when I drove into our garage safe and sound, and when Sam got home soon after that.

In our almost three years of living in Iowa, I'd never seen a river appear in our backyard until that day.


Our swingset was surrounded by at least an inch or two of water.


It reminded me of this swingset in the Bahamas that John played on in March:

Only that one was way better and it was supposed to be surrounded by water!

Peter brought me home a bouquet of pretty cream-colored roses one day. Roses are my favorite flower and I love to photograph them when they bloom in all their swirly beauty.

There was a really cool full moon one night. I need to learn how to take good night pictures on my camera.

Sam was chilling out on our bed one day while I was upstairs doing some spring-cleaning. It was such a lovely day (finally!). I love our bedroom, especially in the afternoons when it's full of light.

The blanket that he's lying on top of is so soft. Our comforter was at the dry-cleaners. I think it's definitely worth it to invest in good quality bedding because sleep is so important to health and we (hopefully) spend over one-third of our lives asleep!

I love our four-poster bed. We bought it as newlyweds when we lived in New Jersey as a reward for me having just gotten my first real professional job out of college with a salary and benefits (it was an editing job at a publishing company). We could replace it with something king-sized now, but I don't want to. I love it too much. I'd be fine with having this bed for the rest of my life.

Sam brought home this cool life cycle of a caterpillar from preschool. I'd never seen it done before like this with a kernel of corn and pasta shapes. How clever!

I think it's amusing when kids put their shoes on the wrong feet and have no idea they're on wrong.

Here are my own feet (with the shoes on the correct feet! Yeah!). On the last day of April it was hot enough that I was wearing a skirt, t-shirt, and my cushy flip-flops. I love warm weather!

Remember my living room redecorating plans? I've been working on them! I replaced the cheap ficus tree from Wal-Mart with a nicer one.  

Here's the old tree. It's now in the basement rec room, where it looks rather nice. I like the effect that greenery can have on a room, even when it's fake greenery. I'm all about the convenience of artificial plants!

This is the new tree. It's sturdier, taller, and more elegant.

Also in April I ordered new window treatments for the living room, which ended up costing twice as much as I thought it would. I didn't realize how expensive window treatments can be, and I didn't even get very fancy ones. They better be worth it! I'm looking forward to getting them installed sometime in the next few weeks (although I'm a little nervous about it...what if they're not what I'd envisioned and we don't like them very much? We're stuck with them no matter what and because of their price they won't be getting replaced for a long time!).

I love the blossoms on this tree in our yard. It's only in bloom like this for about two weeks out of the whole year!

And that was April!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Just Two Boys and a Vespa

Check out this cool Vespa that was in a little Italian cafe onboard the Disney Fantasy. The boys loved it!
 (Until they started fighting over who got to sit where and I had to drag them out fighting. Boys!!)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pirates in the Caribbean

Last week I wrote about the princesses onboard the Disney Fantasy--now it's time to write about the pirates! Disney cruises have a Pirate Night where everyone can dress up like a pirate, even the characters, and there are fun shows on the top deck followed by fireworks at sea. The night before when our room attendant turned down the room, he left pirate bandannas for each person in our family to wear for Pirate Night. This was the bare minimum. Many people got totally dolled up and went all out in the pirate gear. So fun! We were boring and mostly stuck with our bandannas; maybe next time we'll get a little fancier.

Those are some authentic-looking pirates!

At dinner the waiters were all wearing pirate bandannas and vests.

Sam and I got to meet Pirate Mickey before dinner. (John was at the Kids' Club, a place that he absolutely loved spending lots of time at. More about that in another post!) 

I was glad that Sam tolerated the bandanna being tied onto his head. He can be pretty picky about things like that. Here he is playing with it while we waited in line for Mickey. I brought the eye patch and head wrap from our costume box at home. And I made sure that he wore a "Jake and the Neverland Pirates" t-shirt that day. See, we dressed up a little more than just the bandannas! Well, Sam did anyway.

One of the ship's photographers took this picture of us at dinner (again, John wanted to eat dinner in the Kids' Club that evening, the little stinker). I wish I'd been wearing my bandanna in this picture!

Sam was not interested in posing for the photographer. He was enjoying his mac & cheese too much. He looks a bit like he's saying "Arrr, matey!" here anyway.  


There were two shows on deck. One was earlier in the evening with the Mickey characters and the other one was with actors and Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, just before the fireworks. I liked that they did two shows, one designed more for younger kids and the other for older kids, teens, and adults.

We watched the Mickey show from afar because we got there late, so our view wasn't that great. See the characters on stage? They're blurry and small, but they're bigger on the big screen above the stage.

The floor that everyone's standing on is covering the two pools that lie just beneath.

We learned our lesson and got there early for the 10:00 p.m. Pirates in the Caribbean show, so we had a good view of that and of the fireworks, except for a stage-lighting contraption that blocked the view of the sky a bit. I was sitting on the ground holding a sleeping Sam so I couldn't take many pictures.

(See the stage-lighting thing in the picture below that's kind of in the way?) 
The fireworks show was really good! Much better than what this picture shows. Disney is the only cruise line to have fireworks at sea.

Here's John with his light-up sword and captain's hook.

It was a unique and entertaining night, and it was fun to bring out our inner pirate. 
Aaarrrr matey!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Fragments

1. We saw Iron Man 3 the day after it came out two weeks ago. I've never seen such long lines to get into a movie in my life! Luckily we got good seats anyway. And it was worth it because it was an awesome movie! Part of that awesomeness was Robert Downey Jr., who has become one of my favorite actors in his roles of Tony Stark/Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes. I like his personal story of overcoming his addictions and going on to find success in life. The other part of the movie's awesomeness was that it featured Downton Abbey in two scenes. How awesome is that!? (I know, I'm using "awesome" a lot in this paragraph.) Who would ever put a hugely popular action flick with the prim and proper Downton Abbey? The brilliant director, that's who! You can read about it here.

2. Last weekend I saw The Great Gatsby. As you may know I really enjoy seeing movies of books that I've read. I like to see how the story gets interpreted on screen as compared with my imagination. I first read Great Gatsby in high-school and I read it again a few months ago for my book club. I don't love the book really, but I can appreciate why it's become the classic that it is. I thought the movie was good; it exceeded my expectations. It reminded me of the huge crush I had on Leonardo DiCaprio when I was in high-school, which was amusing to think about. And I liked how it captured the Roaring Twenties in New York. And it reminded me that Daisy Buchanan is one of my least favorite characters in all of literature.

It was good but overall I liked Iron Man better!

3. Speaking of books and their movies, The Maze Runner by James Dashner is being made into a movie. I read this book and the whole trilogy last year and I liked it. Shooting for the movie started in Louisiana this week, and it's supposed to be released next February. I'm sure Peter and I will go and see it (he read it too.) I don't think it's nearly as good as The Hunger Games but it's pretty good.

4. We've been having beautiful weather in southern Iowa this week: sunny and mostly in the low 80s, which is perfect weather to me! There's a white lilac bush in our front yard that smells heavenly, and many of our trees are blossoming beautifully in vivid pink and purple flowers. The windows are open which lets the fresh fragrant air into the house and I love how the sunlight streams in with it too. After a long cold winter and spring, these things are especially welcome and wonderful. Storms are supposed to move in this weekend so I'm enjoying this perfect weather while it's here. I don't mind the storms too much as long as it doesn't get cold again!

[Insert pictures here of all the above-described loveliness, which are on my camera but not downloaded (or uploaded?) to the computer yet.]

5. I've noticed that the blogosphere has been slow this month. A lot of blogs that I read aren't updating as much or at all. May is a crazy-busy month so I can understand why. I was planning on taking the whole summer off from blogging starting at the end of May but I want to finish up my cruise posts and some other things so I'll be blogging into June and then I'll take July and August off.

In my efforts to simplify my life, I often ask myself, why am I still blogging? I started my blog over five years ago at my friend Alyson's encouragement and it's been fun to do. It's interesting to see how blogging has evolved over the years. It used to be a very popular thing to do, but the majority of the "blog friends" who I made no longer blog or have made their blogs completely private, and I don't really have the desire to go find new bloggers like I used to do. I don't really care anymore how many people read or comment on my blog (although it's gratifying when people do!). A lot of my in-real-life friends who have a blog hardly ever go on their blog anymore, much less read the blogs of others.

I still find enough value and enjoyment in blogging to keep on doing it. I'm mainly blogging for myself now and for my family and friends, and sometimes to share things with the wider world if they stumble upon my blog after doing a Google search for something like Prince Edward Island or the Disney Fantasy cruise ship or summer skirts or Callista Gingrich's scary facial expressions, which has brought a lot of traffic to those posts. I find that I still like to write for an audience because it's motivating and I think it makes my writing better. Blogging also helps to keep my editing skills up, and it's a fun way to journal my life and my family's life, from the big things like our vacations to the little things, like a sticker that Sam wore home from preschool that I thought was cute.

The biggest downside of blogging for me is that it takes time that I don't always have or want to use on putting together blog posts. Other things, like spending time with my children, are more important. And sometimes I'd rather just go and read my book or do something else. That's why I take the summers off from blogging--I reserve them for reading and spending more quality-time with my kids and I don't go on the computer much at all, not even for Pinterest (which sadly, I've been neglecting lately--there's just not enough time in the day! I miss it though.).

I didn't mean to write an essay about blogging: this is supposed to be a "fragment," after all. It's just been on my mind. That's another good thing about blogs--you can write out what you're feeling and maybe get some feedback from others about it. If anyone's even reading, that is. ;-)

I hope you have a great weekend! We're planning on going to the circus tomorrow. Yay!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Definition of Delight

Here are some pictures that I think illustrate the definition of delight quite well. Thanks to the Iowa Children's Museum for the fun location and to my son Sam for being so delighted and so delightful!

Monday, May 13, 2013

In Honor of the Princesses

When I was a little girl I loved princesses. I vividly remember daydreaming about being Princess Aurora and living in that adorable little cottage in the woods and meeting my Prince Charming on a walk one day, all while getting to wear beautiful dresses (even her cottage dress was beautiful to me) and being able to sing like an angel. I know I would have loved meeting her and other princesses like her in real life. Fast-forward about 25 years and I had the opportunity of doing just that on our Disney cruise in March. Precisely because of the 25 years older thing, I didn't feel compelled to wait in line and actually meet them, but I did enjoy seeing them. If I ever have a daughter and she is into princesses, we will definitely do that! 

This was a princess meet-and-greet line-up with Cinderella, Princess Aurora/Sleeping Beauty, Tiana, Ariel (I wish her name were spelled "Arielle" because I think it's prettier and more feminine!), Belle, and Snow White.

How fun to be a little girl (or boy, if that's his thing) and to get to meet the pretty princesses! As you can see they kneel down on the kids' level, give hugs, talk with them, and seem genuinely happy to meet them. What a special treat for a child!

{Get ready for an abrupt transition from all this innocent loveliness to its opposite!}

My 8-year-old son John is most definitely NOT into princesses and girly things. His aversion to them makes me laugh. He does this when a commercial for girl toys comes on TV:

So not surprisingly he had no interest in meeting the princesses on the cruise. But that suddenly changed on the last night when he must have been feeling a little sentimental. He and Peter went to a farewell show in the lobby and John decided that he wanted to meet the princesses who came out afterwards. He claimed that he didn't want to hurt their feelings by ignoring them. I think know he really did want to meet them once he saw them, but I'll just keep that to myself!

I love these pictures and will whip them out whenever John complains about princessy/girly things in the future!

I had my some of my own princess moments while sitting in a regal chair by these lovely tile mosaics from Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. 

My favorite restaurant on the ship happened to be devoted to princesses in the most elegant way. It was The Royal Court, which is beautifully designed and decorated to look like its namesake, a royal court. We ate breakfast there one morning and it wasn't crowded so I walked around and took pictures of the beautiful mosaics and paintings on the walls that depict the lovely Disney princesses. I can't believe these mosaics are made from individual tile chips! They're amazing! They were among my favorite things on the entire ship.

Beauty and the Beast is a particular favorite of mine, so I'm giving it three pictures.

This scene from Sleeping Beauty is pure magic for me, and has been ever since I first saw it as a child. If this had been for sale I would have wanted to buy it! 

Another wonderful scene from Sleeping Beauty.


The Little Mermaid


Aren't they beautiful?
My inner princess was definitely indulged on this cruise and I often felt like quite the princess myself amidst such beautiful surroundings!