Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Family Date Night - Chuck-E-Cheese

OK. I admit it. It makes absolutely no sense that I would choose to take my kids to Chuck-E-Cheese. But the kids were psyched for Family Date Night, and they knew that Ed and I were prepared to do something on the big side. Ed started sweating when the kids made their usual pitch for Build-A-Bear. Since Valentine's Day, they've had gift certificates from Grandpa Dick and Grandma Lynn burning holes in their pockets, and it's been getting progressively more difficult to deny them the adventure. After all, the Love. It. But Grandpa Dick is visiting soon, and it seemed that perhaps he ought to have the pleasure of seeing their faces light up at Build-A-Bear, so in a panic, Ed offered up Chuck-E-Cheese. He explained to them that it was like when we were at Circus Circus in Reno. Both Helen and Connor were sold.

Not surprisingly, the kids had a ball. Helen was busy riding the rides, and Connor set immediately to figuring out which games gave him the most tickets, because he wanted to get a "big prize". Does a coloring page for 20 tickets count? Because that's the biggest item he got.

We actually followed up the adventure the next week with another trip to Chuck-E-Cheese, because Connor was begging, and Helen was the only one in the family excited about the possibility of skate night. (We went to a local skate night at a community center a few months back for family date night, and I assure you, it was cool. Unfortunately, I have no photos as I was worried about managing a camera and two children who can't actually skate very well.)

The good thing about Chuck-E-Cheese is that it's possible to make a very cheap night of it. For $10, you get a whole bunch of tokens - and since the first time we went it was Saturday night after dinner, it was super crowded so spending tokens actually took quite a bit of time. We walked out of there with tokens left over. The second time we went, it was a lot less crowded, so the kids were able to burn through tokens a little faster. But still, it wasn't bad. The food? Now that was bad. But not worse than we expected.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Striking Out On an Adventure

A little over six years ago, Ed and I set out on an adventure that we knew would change our lives. And we were not wrong on this point. How much would it change our lives? Like all new parents, I suspect we underestimated this. For starters, I was sure breastfeeding would be a super breeze and I would be an awesome rock star at it. How hard could it be, right? As it turns out, it was almost as hard as finding parsnips in Paris (an allegedly impossible task), about as hard as getting a waiter to serve a cheese or wine that simply do not "go" with a meal (very difficult), and almost as hard as finding a vegetarian recipe that's not a dessert amongst a bunch of what look like super French recipes. After a while the breastfeeding got a lot easier, and by the time Helen came around I finally *got* it. And wow, what a relief that was!

Ed and I also underestimated the disruption a child can cause. We were certain we would be the couple that just brought their baby along everywhere they went, he would sleep whenever and wherever we wanted him to, and our life would continue largely unchanged. Only we got a non-sleeper the first time around, and getting him to sleep in his own room was hard enough, let alone in a house full of strangers and strange noises.

And while we didn't think our first vacation after having a child would be biking across the Loire Valley as we had done prior to my getting pregnant, I'm pretty sure we figured that we'd be back to traveling to more exotic places than the beach, ski mountains, or a lake at this point. But instead, we've received several very enticing home exchange offers, and we've yet to pull the trigger on any of them. Why? Because plane rides can be very long with children.

But I'm feeling like we've turned the corner recently. In the two not very easy flights it took to get from here to California a couple of months ago for our annual ski vacation, Connor and Helen held up find. Of course, they slept most of the second plane ride, but still - they made it, and so did Ed and I.

I don't know where we'll be going with the family this year, but I've already started bugging my sister about hitting an island for Thanksgiving this year. I'll be working on my parents in a couple of weeks when they stop in for a visit.

And just like all the annoyances about Paris that might be present, the adventure has been totally worth it!

Disclosure: This post was inspired by the From Left to Write book club reading selection  - Lunch in Paris, by Elizabeth Bard. It's a fantastic story that made me want to fall in love and see the world all over again - even with the inevitable bumps in the road. I received a free copy of the book as a member of the book club. I'll happily pass it along to anyone else who'd like it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Homemade Friday: Winter Wreath

Last weekend, with the weather warm enough for shorts (according to Helen), and some very long playdates at the park, I believed Winter had been put to rest for another year. So I set about removing the snowflakes that adorn our seasonal wreath, and preparing to add Springtime decorations in their place. I cut out a few leaves from felt, and planned how I was going to make a few felt flowers to go with them.

I guess I didn't work fast enough, becaue King Winter is most definitely rearing its ugly head. I guess I needed to make a bigger push to announce Spring's arrival.

Snow is predicted for tomorrow.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Diving Lessons

For the past couple of months, Connor has been attending diving lessons at the local pool, with his coach from last summer. After observing him for most sessions, I have confirmed two things.

1. Being skinny has its benefits

2. Despite previous opinions to the contrary, Connor has no brains.

On the first point. Because Connor has no body fat, he chills easily in the pool. In order to extend his time in the pool so that we don't just run in, get wet, and run back out to the warm shower, Ed and I have always opted to dress Connor in a wetsuit. Because of this, when Connor does a belly flop, back flop, or any other kind of flop, it doesn't actually hurt that much. This is not true of the divers wearing regular swim suits. Diving involves tears, people. Real. Tears. (And moms who say "try again!" and "it doesn't hurt that badly" - which is assinine, given that the kids' skin is BRIGHT RED.)

Connor has been spared this fate, and always looks forward to his next turn - though he is a complete space cadet and the coach or I often have to shout "CONNOR!" in order to bring him from his fog up the steps of the diving board for his turn.

On the second point. Connor can now do a flip off of the diving board. I think that's all the supporting evidence you need.

First, the dive:

 Now, the flip:

For that first flip, the coach actually flipped Connor. The next two were performed unassisted.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Months 65, 66, and 67!

Dear Connor,

Over the past three months you have evolved in so many ways. For starters, you have become a 2-D artist. Ironic, to say the least, since you attend an arts-based school. You have always enjoyed taping, gluing, and cutting - crafting all sorts of items. But you have never been much for pencil and paper. You spent most of your first year in the Oak Tree Kindergarten covering much of your coloring paper with all sorts of colors - but with little form.
Two days ago, you were at your friend's house and she had sidewalk chalk. You set to work immediately drawing an enormous train - complete with train cars, couplings, and wheels. You repeated the feat on our own driveway on Monday afternoon. It was a true sight to behold.

You're very interested in letters - and have become quite good at looking at them and then drawing the ones you don't already know how to draw. I try and point out that there are two types of lines - curves and straights - which is the way writing is typically taught in a Waldorf school. This seems to make sense to you, and it won't be long before you can write all of your letters without looking at a sample.

Numbers. Numbers. Numbers. You continue to be my little math nerd. As I'm sure I've said before, you come by it honestly. At just about the point you stopped asking about all sorts of math concepts, Helen started. Did I mention that I am going to lose my mind soon? A very important math skill is the concept of fractions. It used to be taught in 4th grade, and it was considered by many to be a make or break skill. Those that intuitively understood fractions, tended to have an easy path with math. Those that had difficulty with the concept would likely continue to struggle and not be very math oriented. The concept is so important, that public schools largely decided it needed to be taught even earlier. That thinking, in my mind, is somewhat backwards. The reasoning goes, teach a skill earlier and kids will have more time to learn it and know it better. My thinking is more along the lines of  - wait until someone is really ready to absorb a concept, and they'll likely struggle with it less, leading to a more satisfying result.

This is not the case with you. At age 5 you have a more than strong grasp of fractions. You can divide your pizza in quarters, request half a quarter and know it is an eighth, request two quarters and know it is half, etc. It's just your thing. It makes me breathe easier. You impressed even me when on vacation and we were playing a game. I asked you various questions about a dinner party and the number of people attending in various iterations. At one point, there were seven people left at the table and I told you half of them had to leave the room immediately. You told me that meant there were either 3 or 4 left. Nice work.

You have finally discovered the freedom of a bike. You love to ride yours to the park (accompanied by an adult) and you also love hopping on the back of Dad's trailer bike and pedaling behind him. It's possible to go pretty far this way.

You also proved to be a pretty awesome skier while on vacation. You were so confident and impressed with yourself, that you decided to cut through some trees as I followed behing worrying that soon your head would be part of those trees. After that trip, I had to make a new rule "mommy doesn't not ski in trees".

My friend Susan remarked to me recently that in many ways, parenting is about letting go. It's about allowing your children to do something without the presence of a parent, and trust that it will work out. Her view, which I share, is that today's parents (in general) spend too much time micro-managing their children's lives, and the end result is not positive for children. She mentioned this in the context of public school. The gist of her argument was that public school is a place for parents to let go. Two things have happened since then to cause me pause regarding my laissez faire attitude.
  1. You and Helen often play in our backyard and next door, without direct supervision. I'm inside preparing dinner, cleaning up, or trying to accomplish something else. A couple of weeks ago, I glanced outside the window to see that you and Helen were ON TOP OF THE SHED. This was not good. While you can probably balance up there (although it is still incredibly stupid!), Helen is doomed to tumble down. It turns out, Helen had a lot of assistance to get up there (which is annoying, because I'm a big believer in my sister's rule of "if you can do it - you can do it" - and Helen never could have gotten up there by herself, putting her in a dangerous position). It also turns out that you scraped your hand, ended up with a painful infection that resulted in a course of antibiotics, and I suspect I won't have to worry about this for a while. I'm quite glad I did not have to be the parent to accompany you to the pediatrician's office and explain that you injured your hand while climbing unsupervised on a roof.
  2. You were similarly outside a couple of days ago. You and Helen decided to go into a little space beneath our porch and and lock the door to it behind you. I then heard two children shouting "Mommy!" and when I came to see what the fuss was about, I discovered you trapped beneath our porch. You explained that you were pretty sure you could unlock it from the inside, but that turned out to not be true.
It's been non-stop adventure, my friend.

My mind has been weighted down heavily with another parenting thing related to "letting go". Parts of the world terrify me. Katie Granju, a well-known attachment parenting advocate, has been documenting her son's drug addiction that ultimately resulted in his death. In painful detail, she has uncovered much of what happened in the 48 hours leading to the hospitalization that would end in Henry Granju's death, and every point in the story is devastatingly awful. And all I can keep thinking is that if it happened to Katie Granju's beloved child, it can happen to anyone's child. So while I want to let go and allow you to immerse yourself in your next school, it's scary. Rationally or not, it feels like a gateway to a very unprotected world. I hope I'm wrong about this one entirely, and that school continues to hold you safely for many years to come.

I could not possibly count the number of times your dad or I have said that these past few months have been easy. You're just in a very agreeable stage, and that makes being your parent quite easy.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cupcake Wars: Curbside Cupcakes - a Good Reason to Get Out of the Office on a Nice Day

Sadly, I have no photos of "Pinky 1" or "Pinky 2". I also have no photos of Connor or Helen giving them the thumbs up or down. Why? Because a cupcake from Curbside Cupcakes has never made it home. The cupcake truck comes near my downtown office regularly, and if it's a nice day and one of my favorites is on the menu, I sometimes grab me one (favorites = lemon, the black cupcake, and key lime).

At this point, I have eaten enough cupcakes from this truck that my frequent shopper card is full, and my next one is free.

I know some people have the theory that you start with the basics (chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet) and if those are good, you move to the more exotic flavors. That theory won't serve you well with this outfit. I found their basic flavors to be fairly mundane, but I like their more exotic flavors - especially the black cupcake (dark chocolate cake, dark chocolate icing) quite a bit.

They just started serving in Virginia, and often their here on Friday. A big goal of mine is to track the van down when Connor and Helen get out of school at noon. Helen will fall in love instantly (pink truck!) and Connor will think it's a hoot to have a roving cupcake van.

I love the idea of this place. However, I recently became very depressed about this whole cupcake project. I thought it would be possible to eventually hit every cupcake store in the DC metro area. As it turns out, I'm on the verge of admitting it's just not possible. Most recently, I discovered there were actually THREE DIFFERENT cupcake trucks roaming around DC. Seriously?!? My task now seems impossible. I'm not even sure I'll hit all the trucks! I've never even seen a Sweetbites or Sidewalk Sweetsations truck, and I'm almost afraid to google if there are even more.

Help me! I need to get over this obsession with all the DC Cupcakes and find a new hobby (or maybe I just need to pick an end date, and whatever hasn't been tasted by then just won't get tasted). Any ideas (besides the sock knitting)?

Curbside Cupcakes - high middle of the pack, particularly if you go beyond the basics.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Month 39, 40, and 41, Helen!

Dear Helen,

Wow. I knew before I sat down to write this that it had been a long time since I'd written a monthly letter to you, but I didn't realize it had been since December. How time flies when you're having fun, I suppose. We continue cruising through our easiest days to date, which make me grateful. Often, after a day spent with you, I am exhausted. But after tucking you in at night, both your dad and I always smile and note that we have incredible kids. Lucky parents, we are.

As it turns out, you may have been right when you announced you didn't need my help in the pool. The following Saturday, you figured out how to back float the length of the kids' pool. Your Grandpa Rodney wondered how it was possible that you could float, given your lack of fat on your body. I have a suspicion it's because you're largely full of hot air.

You can balance on your skis quite well, and try very hard to put them in a strong "v" shape as you go down the mountain. I predict next year will be a good ski year for you. Although you might well prefer to keep Grandma Carlene and Grandpa Rodney company back at the condo.

Your vocabulary grows richer each day. I sometimes forget how extraordinary it is, and then someone will mention it to me. You and Connor took a joint swim lesson, and your teacher must have come over to me on four separate occasions to remark how incredible your vocabulary was. Of course, I don't like to mention this in front of you, so I kept nodding in a somewhat non-committal way and finally she said "look - really - I'm with a lot of kids. She is incredible. I almost can't believe she's only three!"

Friday is quite definitely the highlight of your week. It's the day we go to class together at Potomac Crescent. You have a friend in class that you often hang out with on Thursdays. You think he's just the best - and he is the nicest person in class. You are the only girl in your class at this point, but as one parent remarked to me - if anyone can handle being in a group of only boys, it's Helen. And indeed, you make your way although you do tend to play differently than the boys.

You've been performing puppet shows up a storm. You have an abridged version of "The Hungry Cat" which makes me almost laugh every time. In Waldorf schools, teachers often talk about the 3 Rs "Reverence, Rhythm, and Repetition". You completely groove on the fact that the weekly puppet show is performed three consecutive weeks. On the second week of any particular show, you will recognize it and turn around with delight to announce it to the row of parents watching the show. Of course, you're a little bit thrown when the show changes, but you sit absolutely soaking up every word.

Just like your dad, you enjoy grilling - even if there's snow on the ground. You also still love cats, babies, and anything that's pink. Having your nails done is a favorite pasttime, and you're happy to paint anyone's nails who allows it.

Clearly, you were put on earth to make me completely insane. The thing driving me most nuts these days is all the "what ifs". For example, if I announce something is going to take place, you instantly start asking "but what if" and make up somewhat reasonable scenarios that would result in the intended action not happening. Most of the time, I just want to shout "I'm not going to discuss it with you, Helen, it's just going to happen!" I realize that you're developing critical thinking skills that will serve you well later, but seriously, it makes me want to never tell you anything and as soon as anything escapes my lips, I want to bang my head against the wall. It's OK. I deserve it. I did the same to my mother. I can hang, if only because you still tell me (and many other people) often "you're my best friend".

I love you, Helen. You're a dream come true.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Homemade Friday: Handknit Socks

I have fire balled into a sock obsession. It started out when I was standing in the knitting store as a friend selected yarn for a scarf. I casually picked up a book that spent the entire introduction explaining why nobody should settle for anything less than a perfectly fitted, knit just for your foot, sock.

I was hooked. And I have three gorgeous skeins of yarn to prove it.

But I had just purchased yarn for this project and I did not want to distract myself. (Embarrassingly, I still have two nearly knit hats from this winter's hat phase. Total hats knit this winter = 5, I believe, with numbers 6 and 7 due any day. As soon as I finish a few more socks!!)

I can't say my latest obsession has resulted in much product, but I completed my first sock and have rounded the heel on the second one. Connor loves it. He selected the yarn himself.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Swinging Into Summer

Could there be anything better in life than a big swing set? I somehow doubt it.

Connor and Helen have been having a ball playing with their friends H. and A. on some recent Friday afternoons. The first time I took all four kids to the park, I was a little nervous about losing one - even though it's a fully fenced in park. I decided the best strategy to make sure I returned with them all was to secure them in one place. The swing set turned out to be perfect for this task. It kept the kids busy for a good 10 minutes and I was actually sweating after keeping all of the swings going for that long. I think I felt the same as one of those people that spin plates on swords, and they have to keep running back and forth, guessing which plate is about to fall, and give it a spin while keeping an eye on all the others.

Connor and Helen had so much fun they requested that we go to H. and A.'s house and take them to the park for EIGHT HOURS STRAIGHT! And you know what? Come summer, we just might do that.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Arming Myself With a Public School Instruction Manual

With Spring around the corner, and the first marigold seeds started in the greenhouse, it's impossible for me not to think about the end of the school year. After much thought, a few tears, and more than a few headaches, we have decided to send Connor to our lovely public school up the street.

I am completely comfortable with the decision. But that doesn't mean that it's not hard. After all, Connor has been at the same Waldorf school since he turned two, when he and I desperately needed a touchstone in the midst of Helen's arrival. Every week (except the day Helen was born), Connor and I spent our Friday morning together at parent-child class. Before class, I would nurse Helen, hand her over to whomever was caring for her, race to school, and then take a deep breath. Connor and I made snack, knit a small blanket (me) or played with inside toys (Connor), played hand games, ate snack (me) or watched other people eat snack (Connor), played outside, and then watched a puppet play. And then I would race home as fast as I could, and feed Helen again. It was a weekly ritual that set us straight more than once over the next year and a half.

Connor would go on to attend a semester of 3-day Kindergarten, and then two years of 5-day Kindergarten. I consider keeping him in that Kindergarten class the second year, rather than sending him to public school, among the best parenting decisions Ed and I have ever made, for a variety of reasons. Looking back, I'm even more sure of it than I was when Ed and I made the decision. Connor has spent the past year doing everything I think is important. He's focused on manual work (maintaining the classroom, sawing logs for the annual bonfire), imaginative and creative play (you should've seen his rendition of Rumpelstiltskin a few days ago when he went to visit his friend H. - I will forever be sad I didn't capture it on video), and substantive work (forming a cohesive class unit). At Connor's conference a few days ago, Mr. K. noted that Connor had a very strong friendship with one boy, often would join the girls in their kitchen play, but melted easily into anything else that interested him. In short, it's been a fantastic year. Connor runs to the playground each day, with barely a glance back at whomever drops him off for the day. That's a big change from those first days of parent-child, when he would not leave my side for very long at all.

And just as Connor has learned the rhythms of the school, so have I. I've changed from being a hurried parent in the parent-child class - who barely knew what was going on in the school, to being the Treasurer of the board, with stints as newsletter editor, volunteer coordinator for the Fall Festival, and Silent Auction assistant along the way. Finally, I know the ins and out of the school. Rather than seeing a few familiar faces at community gatherings, I see almost all familiar faces. Rather than stressing about certain discipline issues, I know exactly how to handle them. What once seemed completely foreign to me is now second nature. I'm happy to go toe to toe with anyone on why Waldorf education works. As the principal at our public school told me when I fretted about some things Connor will not have been taught when he enters public school "my experience is that Waldorf children come ready to learn". And he is. He is perfectly prepared.

But now the work starts again. We'll both be learning new ropes, for a new system, and I'll be asking for advice from all my neighbors. But especially the one who sent her children to the same Waldorf school Connor went to. She's been heaven sent, so far.


This post was inspired by the book "Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English" by Natasha Solomons. When Mr. Rosenblum first moves to England, he is handed a manual detailing all the important customs of a proper Englishman. He sets about adding to it. I only hope our journey through public education ends as nicely as Mr. Rosenblum's. It was a fantastic book that I cannot wait to pass onto a friend. As a member of the From Left to Write book club, I received a free copy of the book. This post was inspired by it.

Misplaced Belief

When Connor was just under 3 years old, he fell in love with the idea of the diving board. When he learned he needed to be able to swim to go off the diving board, he promptly began teaching himself to swim. It was a ludicrous goal, for sure, but he went on to take actual swimming lessons for a few weeks, and got himself cleared for the diving board. It would be almost a full year before he would actually take the plunge.

Following in her brother's footsteps, Helen has now decided that she would like to swim. Only, always a bit more confident than she should be, Helen has decided that she can swim. In her mind, the only thing holding her back are my and Ed's arms, which seem to always be in the way.

A week ago, we went swimming at the local high school. Connor spent his time paddling around, lamenting the fact that the diving board wasn't open, and generally having a ball. (Note to everyone - FIVE ROCKS!) Helen spent her time pushing off the wall and "swimming" as far as she could. At one point, she clung to the side of the pool and commanded "back up, no, farther, GO FARTHER!" and I would timidly step back a few more inches, praying that she would decide I had moved far enough. Of course, I knew I was too far.

Helen pushed off the side, wiggled her arms, gyrated her body like some sort of half paralyzed sea creature, until eventually I scooped her out of the water after what I thought was about how long she could hold her breath. Rather than thanking me for saving her life, Helen scolded:

"I do not need your help! Do not help me. I believe I can do it myself. DO NOT TOUCH ME!"

So...next week, when I fail to pluck her out of the water, and the coroner declares her dead by drowning, and wonders why I was just a few feet away, I'm wondering if the excuse "well, I guess she just had a little too much faith in herself" will keep me out of the big house.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Cupcake Wars: Fluffy Thoughts Cakes

Why is a cupcake my favorite dessert to share with my kids.

1. We can all get different flavors. If I get a box of cookies, or I bake a dessert, we're all eating the same thing, and that means we head to the lowest common denominator, which is not always that tasty for me. Plus, since Helen prefers things with chocolate, and Connor prefers things with vanilla - someone ends up disappointed.

2. I realize that I almost never bake cupcakes, making having them a real treat for me. I have baked probably hundreds of dozens of cookies in my life. I spent a year making cheesecakes of all sorts (that was a New Year's resolution one year, inspired by a cheesecake edition of Martha Stewart magazine), and the year leading up to my wedding, I must have baked 50 cakes. You see, when I learned how expensive cakes were, I decided to attend Arlington County Community classes and learn to bake one myself. I've since baked a few wedding cakes for friends, including this one. I do not regret that decision. I also have made more truffles than I care to count, but have given up that hobby since it's a 3 night process that requires little hands to keep out. It's a shame, since I finally have a kitchen large enough to perform the task relatively efficiently, unlike when I was actually making truffles regularly.

3. There's a clear end point. With larger desserts, or smaller desserts, it's never clear what a "serving" ought to be. First slice of cake was slim? Have another. Your handful of M&M's was too big? Eat 'em anyway. A cupcake comes perfectly proportioned - unless it's a jumbo sized cupcake, and then it's really too big.

4. Endless possibilities. I love that every story we've visited has the standards - vanilla, chocolate, red velvet - but also something fun. I'm particularly partial to citrus flavored cupcakes and dark chocolate.

Simply put, I love them.

A couple of Fridays ago, I visited Fluffy Thoughts Cakes. I liked this store for several reasons. For starters, they have mini cupcakes. When feeding kids, this is a huge plus. Also, they have some fun flavors, which I knew from checking out their flavor map, though I had no idea what would actually be available the day I went because at the time, their website was incomprehensible. It's gotten better in the past couple of weeks, but it's still confusing. What I did not anticipate is that they have cheesecake cupcakes. Perfect cheesecake cupcakes. They also have cupcake pops. In case you're not familiar, this is a marshmallow sized piece of cake, frosted, and then dipped in chocolate. The kids loved them. I was hoping they wouldn't so that I would get to try them.

The regular cupcakes had a bit too much of a powdered sugar taste to me in the frosting, but the cheesecakes were nothing short of heavenly. I'll go back for these, and the kids will be happy to devour any cake pop that comes near them.

High middle of the pack for this shop - unless you stick with the cheesecake, and then it's top of the pack all the way.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Circus-Circus, Reno

When we were in Tahoe a few weeks ago (you know, before the 6 feet of snow that fell in one week that I am still quite sad about missing), we took a suggestion from a friend mine to ride the train into Reno and then hit Circus-Circus. As anyone who has spent time with my family knows, this represents a true departure from how we normally spend our days.

We learned the train does not go round-trip (without an intervening night in Reno) so my mom, Connor, Helen, and I piled onto the train, while the older men in the group drove cars to Reno. That's because they can actually follow directions and not get lost, unlike me and my mom.

The train trip was fantastic, and one I highly recommend. The views are beautiful, I was able to do quite a bit of knitting, and not being strapped down in car seats makes my children much happier people. Unfortunately, I have no photos  because the train conductor was not keen on me delaying the train to grab my camera from Ed. Sheesh. Did he think Mussolini was his boss?
The kids were thrilled to be at Circus-Circus. We went to the area upstairs that had activities for kids, and they both started accumulating tickets to turn in for disappointing prizes.

Helen tried to throw a dart at a balloon, failed, and won a pink bear anyway ("everyone under 12 a winner!"). She was thrilled.

Connor, however, didn't want a pink bear, so we wandered around for a while playing a few games. Of course, the games are set up to make you lose, which Connor did, and he was starting to get a little sad about this. So we decided to find him an "everyone a winner" game to end his bad streak (and the draining of dollars from my wallet!). He even asked "do you think we could find a game that young children could win?".

Finally, we found a fishing game. The object was to fish a metal object out of a little stream circulating these metal objects quickly around, with a magnet attached to a pole. As the adults stood around explaining to Connor how he wanted to get a red one to get a bigger prize, he cast his rod in expertly and bam - he fished out a red object. Clearly, the adults' advice was completely useless. (I hope he doesn't generalize this finding too broadly).

He won a horse. A horse that I have fixed several times at this point, because naturally, it is of poor quality. Connor sleeps with that horse nightly. Last night, after walking into a doorknob and getting quite a bump on his head,he slept with me. At 3:30 he woke up and asked me where his horse was and when I told him it was up in his bed, he asked me to go get it. I told him it was the middle of the night, he could get it himself. Turns out, he didn't want it that badly.

Now that the kids had proven their worth at the games of skill, we excitedly waited for the circus act. And can I just say, when I went to Circus-Circus in Vegas as a kid, I remember some really fantastic acts. On our day in Reno? We saw two or three acts that took place about once an hour, and that lasted maybe five minutes. I'm left wondering if the passage of time has made my memories exaggerate the circumstances, or if Circus-Circus is just not the happening place it once was.

Regardless, for those three or five minutes, all eyes in our party were transfixed.

Clearly, we are a very easy crowd to please because we were entranced by this jaw-dropping entertainment.

There's a dog in that photo, in case you missed it.

We wrapped our day up with a trip to the buffet and let's just say, the hotel might wish to reconsider its kids eat free policy. As the waiter told me about the pizza, Helen and Connor eyed up the crab legs and clams. They had their fill.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cupcake Wars: Next stop - New DC Cupcake Shop: Sprinkles!

Sprinkles Cupcakes is coming to town. In fact, they're already here. They've been driving around town handing out hundreds of cupcakes from their traveling cupcake van, and tonight, they hosted a champagne and cupcake event that was fantastic not only because they've combined two of my favorite things - but because I got to meet local blogger Jodifur.

I also got to meet the owner, Candace Nelson, who is an actual celebrity from the actual show Cupcake Wars. True story, I had no idea there was a television show named Cupcake Wars until after I had titled several blog posts with that title. Yes, I live under a rock. Anyway, Candace and I have a lot in common, I'm sure. Like, we both like champagne and cupcakes. See...

And just so Candace and The Food Network know, if there is ever the need for a stand-in on Cupcake Wars, I am available. Really...it's no trouble at all.

The cupcakes are gorgeous and there's a great selection available daily.

But of course, looks don't impress the crowd here at Connor and Helen. Nope. They've got to taste good.

Connor may have found his absolute dream cupcake - Cinnamon Sugar. It's topped with cinnamon and sugar, instead of frosting, and Connor is right - it is delicious. And that's saying something - given that the frosting of a cupcake is usually the big draw in this house. I love that it's on the schedule daily, so that whenever we next wander in, we'll be able to get it. It gets a solid two thumbs up.

It's true, Connor gives two thumbs up nearly every time he rates a cupcake. He's easy to impress (although I will hazard a guess now, that if I give him a choice of cupcake stores, he'll choose Sprinkles just so he can get that cinnamon cupcake again). Helen, however, is my more discerning cupcake taster. It took several weeks, until we found Cakelove, that she actually gave the two thumbs up rating.

She had no trouble dishing that rating out to Sprinkles as well. She had the milk chocolate cupcake.

I'm not going to answer the debate of which cupcake shop on M Street is best (Georgetown Cupcake or Sprinkles) but it's easy to add Sprinkles Cupcakes to the top of the pack!

Disclosure - I was given a half dozen cupcakes, a very fancy bottle of vanilla, some delicious very high quality chocolate, and the Sprinkles recipe for chocolate frosting. I was not asked to write about the party this evening. Thank you! The cupcakes were delicious!! I will be making the frosting very soon!