Halloween Fun (Was Had)

Posted in family fun, holidays on November 10th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s officially mid-November already, and Halloween is over.  Because Halloween is one of our family’s favorite holidays, we try to take advantage of doing every Halloween-related activity we can, which often stretches the season.  We began on the Tuesday before Halloween at the mall.  They held a weather-proof (good thing too, the weather on Tuesday was so awful our tornado sirens were activated) trick-or-treat event in the mall, with costumed kids going from store to store receiving candy.  Our kids had a blast, and our little guy got the hang of trick-or-treating REALLY quickly!  He would receive his candy, and his way of saying ‘thank you’ was to give a little wave – it was adorable – see for yourself!  He’s the one in the Blue’s Clues costume:

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At first he was afraid of some of the scary masks, but he was quickly over that too.  The rest of the week stayed relatively Halloween-free, until Friday, when we had planned a Halloween-themed game night.  We requested guests to wear costumes (any excuse to dress up in a costume for Halloween – I really like to participate as much as I can!!), and we had quite a variety: from an escaped inmate (Hubby) to Flo the Progressive Insurance nurse, a nerd, a couple of hippies, a professor, a zookeeper on safari (me) – even a few members of the “real” Mafia made an appearance (we frequently play a game called ‘Mafia’ at game night and it’s tons of fun!  A few of the regular game nighters decided to dress up as Mafia as a shout-out to the game).  Fun was had, and we were able to rest up for Saturday, which was the annual community Halloween party.  My kids loved the hayride, complete with monsters that jump out of the brush and chase the wagon, and we rode 3 times.  There are all kinds of things to do at the community party, and it’s all free: from gourmet slushes (best wild berry slush ever!), cotton candy, hot dogs, and popcorn to carnival games, bouncy castles, and a maze for the kids, it’s all so much fun!

After that was time for Trick or Treating, and we had fun even if Hubby wasn’t feeling so well (he is better now – thanks for your thoughts and prayers!).  Let’s see…  don’t think I mentioned the kids’ costumes: my oldest (almost 11 already!) was a cowgirl, 6-year-old Sammie was a princess, 4-year-old Disney was a witch at the mall who switched to Dora for Saturdays’ events, and 2-year-old Christopher was Blue from Blue’s Clues.  We had fun Trick or Treating, and Hubby and I chose an old favorite movie of ours to watch afterward: The Uninvited – not totally scary (we usually try to watch a scary movie together on Halloween), but we both felt like a great thriller more than a horror movie this year.  Here is my little boy dressed as Blue:

Sunday saw church, and we had a blast in Sunday school as usual – except that poor Hubby had to stay home.  Also, we were very tired on Saturday after trick or treating, so we didn’t get a chance to get our annual picture of the kids in their costumes sitting on the couch.  But we got one of all 4 of them in the mall, so here it is:

Overall, a very fun 2010 Halloween, one that I can’t believe came and went so quickly – SO quickly in fact, that it’s already been over for weeks!  Unbelievable!!  Hope your Halloween was safe, fun, and happy, and that your Thanksgiving will be the same!!

Night Of Nightmares

Posted in Everyday Life on March 18th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Last night, I had the worst dream I’ve ever had in my life.  I didn’t realize it was a dream while I was having it, but I remember waking myself up on purpose anyway – it’s difficult to explain, as many aspects of vivid dreams usually are.

The gist of it was –  a member of my family (who in real life has been estranged from the family for 25+ years) was buckling my kids into her car for a sleepover.  She began doing so at a frantic pace, which alarmed me, so I called it off.  But before I could do anything, she was pulling out of my driveway with the kids, and I was screaming at her that this amounting to kidnapping and I was calling the police.  She didn’t stop.  My two older girls found their way home, but she still had my younger two – they’re 3 years and 20 months.  Meanwhile, the pre-planned game night at our house (but it didn’t look like our house) was beginning to take shape as guests were arriving.  A friend from college (who I haven’t seen since) shows up with my cousin (the kidnapper’s daughter) as his date, and she is sullen and seems really angry.  We manage to get out of her that her mother hasn’t been herself lately and somehow come to the conclusion that she is intending to commit a murder / suicide.  Where the police were at this point, I don’t know, but for some reason, I couldn’t go out and look for them myself, and I was inconsolable.  It was the most helpless, panicky, horrible feeling I could imagine, and I had to watch my parents watch their daughter go through this as well – the whole thing was just awful.  Even though I didn’t know it was a dream, I squinched my eyes shut and woke up – thank goodness.  It was one of those where I woke up out of breath, my eyes darting around my bedroom.  I realized it had all been a dream, and I suppressed the urge to get up and have a reassuring look at my kids – what good would it do to interrupt their sleep?  Besides they’d be getting up soon enough – I could see the light starting to come in through the window.  But when I looked at the clock, it was only 1:45 am!  What the heck?  I had felt like I had a full night’s sleep!  For once (and I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt like this) I felt well-rested and actually wanted to get out of bed – and I didn’t want to put myself in the position to have another horrible nightmare.  So I laid there and mentally composed my blog post depicting my terrible dream, and I was able to fall back asleep.  The dream I had next was actually quite a comical episode involving a (non-threatening) alligator in a restaurant.  When my alarm went off hours later, I was back to normal – tired as can be, not ready to get up…

There must have been something going on last night because my 5-year-old told me about a nightmare she had had involving a circle of chicken pox.

So was that light coming into my room at 2 in the morning the light of a full moon?  Do full moons cause nightmares or vivid dreams?  I know my family and friends in law enforcement tell me that they are extra busy and have some of their most interesting calls on full moon nights, but now I remember driving home last night and seeing the moon – and it wasn’t full.  So why was it so bright in my room last night?  Most nights I can’t see without my flashlight, but last night I could see easily – I had just assumed it was the sun rising until I looked at the clock…  that one’s a mystery that remains unsolved.

I have some guesses as to where certain parts of the dream came from – I had been reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban before I went to bed.  Could my dream have been my own version of a boggart (a magical creature from the series which is a shape-shifter that takes the form of its intended victim’s worst fear – ie, something bad happening to my kids)?  And I was listening to an old Don Williams song in the car yesterday (If You Could Read My Mind), which reminded me of a time when I was a little kid and Don Williams was playing as we were heading to my aunt’s house (the kidnapper in my dream).  I don’t know why my college friend suddenly appeared or why he was dating my cousin, but the game night significance could come from the game night we have scheduled for tomorrow…  just a few theories; I think the bottom line is obvious – dreams are WEIRD!!!

(and this is unrelated – but as I was looking for the Don Williams song, I came across this wonderful version of In The Ghetto by both Elvis and his daughter Lisa Marie Presley – a posthumous duet.  I’ve made my youtube references as links in this post rather than videos so as not to force anyone to watch/listen to anything if they don’t want to)

Easy Money

Posted in games on January 14th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , ,

How I wish I were talking about real life, but ‘Easy Money’ is the title of a board game we’ve recently discovered.  As you may have read in the past, my husband and I collect board games.  We used to go to thrift stores and pick up any games we saw that were missing from our collection.  We fashioned ourselves a large game closet where we keep them all, and there are some games in there that we haven’t yet had the chance to try.  A few weeks ago, we pulled out the board game Easy Money and gave it a whirl – we all loved it!

According to the instructions, the first thing you do to prepare the game is to count out millions of dollars (fake of course, but still too bad) and bundle them into various amounts.  This does actually add a fun element to the game; for some reason, it’s much more fun to bet a million dollar bundle than it is to wager a million dollar bill – go figure.  Had we purchased this game new, we would have had to do all the money-bundling ourselves, and knowing our general lack of patience, we might have quit right there.  But we’re glad we purchased this game used since all of the money had been pre-bundled for us.  What I don’t understand, however, is why the people who bundled all the money then got rid of the game, especially without seeming to play it much given the game’s relatively good condition.  Once the bundles of money are made, each player takes his or her turn, all moving the same pawn around the board until  the bank runs out of money.  Each player follows the instructions on the space they land upon, and usually some sort of gambling or betting is involved.  I really like the game’s Lottery concept, but the Wall Street spaces are not my favorite.  I’ve played 3 games of Easy Money, and the Lottery was responsible for letting me win 2 of those games at the very last minute.  When someone lands on the Wall Street space, every player has to predict whether the market will go up or down  and bet accordingly.  Since the chances of winning the Wall Street bets are 50-50, you’d think I would have made some money.  But I have some sort of terrible Wall Street luck, and I’d bet (pun intended, hehe) that I’ve only won the Wall Street gamble under 5 times throughout all 3 games I’ve played.  I take it in stride though, the rest of the game is so fun and great for the whole family.  Its only negative is the fact that it only accommodates up to 4 players, therefore it is not a contender for the crowded game nights we have with friends.

Random Night Of The King

Posted in Everyday Life, games, music on August 27th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

On a random note, I decided at the last minute to kind of theme-up game night a little bit last week.  I went to the library to find some background music to put in the kitchen CD player during game night, and the first thing I found was a Garth Brooks Greatest Hits collection – and not one of the two that I owned back when I was a huge fan – one of the reasons why Garth Brooks became intolerable, what a sell-out.  But he has some really good songs, and I thought it’d be great to hear some of them again.  Realizing I’ve tortured enough unwitting souls with my love of country music, I looked through the regular music.  But it was the adult section of the library, and I had two of the kids with me, so I was in a big hurry and all I could find was an Elvis greatest hits collection.  Thinking about it on the way home, I remembered a recipe I had come across months ago and put aside – Elvis’ favorite sandwich in a cookie.  What was Elvis’ favorite sandwich?  Peanut butter, banana, and bacon.  So I made the peanut butter, banana, and bacon cookies, we rocked to Elvis, even though he ruined more than a few people’s careers in the Mafia, I think.  I didn’t come across anyone all night who was ecstatic about my Elvis cookies, but they were more for the experience of emulating Elvis (this would have made a fun dress-up version of game night, haha) than they were for people to find delectable.  I, for one, found them tasty, but not great.  I’m not a big cookie person anyway, and I found the combination of bacon and banana quite interesting, though in a good way.  Coincidentally, I found out that 3 days before our game night was the 32nd anniversary of Elvis’ death, so it ended up being a tribute of sorts, I guess.  I like the idea of themed game nights once in a while, especially if it doesn’t require much extra dough (pun intended) or work.  How about we light up the comment board with suggestions for possible future game night themes?

*** – Here is some bonus footage – the Elvis cookie recipe.  Enjoy and let me know any alterations and feedback you have!
From the article where I read about it:
“Go with your gut – not your head – on this one; the combination of peanut butter, bacon, and bananas really is delicious.
ELVIS COOKIES
Makes 30 cookies
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup crumbled cooked (very crisp) bacon (about 6 strips)
1/2 cup diced firm banana

Heat the oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. (I did some research because I didn’t want to buy many extras like parchment paper, so I just greased a cookie sheet with margarine and it worked fine. So in place of the parchment paper, lightly grease a cookie sheet.) In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Use an electric mixer on medium to beat until well combined. Beat in the egg until just combined and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and the baking soda. With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Gently mix in the bacon and the bananas, trying not to mash the bananas. Using slightly wet hands, roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them. Dip the tines of a fork into water, then use it to flatten the cookies until they are about 1.5 inches around. Bake on the middle rack for 11 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then remove with a metal spatula to racks to cool completely.

NOTE – a guest commented that he wished there was more bacon!

As If We Needed ANOTHER Reason To Stay Up Late…

Posted in Everyday Life on August 8th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday was gong to be a huge catch-up-around-the-house day for me; I had big plans – unpack the suitcase from our unwillingly shortened venture earlier in the week (my son has decided to be the first one of our kids who doesn’t travel well.  He won’t sleep away from home, and he cries in the car – not cool for a family fond of road tripping), catch up on my email, and read and write some blog posts, among other things.  I got through the email and caught up on my fellow tangents bloggers posts (this task was made especially easy since one of us has seemingly disappeared), but I never got around to writing any posts of my own.  Time just slipped away from me yesterday; everything seemed to take forever.  I had a huge shopping to do at my favorite place (bold represents sarcasm) Walmart.  I was so tired that I got to the store and was waiting in the customer service line before I realized that I had forgotten the credit card at home – ugh.  At least I only had one kid with me to reload into  the car, otherwise it would have taken even longer.

Aside from the busyness and the fact that I should go to bed earlier but never will, I’ve been sleeping much better lately – that Claritin is a life-saver!  Still can’t get a cat though – we took the kids to the Humane Society the other day (just looking – we actually left without a new pet, hmmm, don’t think that’s ever happened before!), and I just gazed at a cat and sneezed; I didn’t even touch it!  What a shame because our friends have 2 litters of teeny tiny adorable farm kittens right now!  But back to why I was so tired that everything took forever yesterday.  My husband was asked to review the local community theater’s youth production for the newspaper, so we took the kids (minus Sir Climbs A Lot) to see the show.  Well, shows, actually, the turnout was so great for the youth theater this year that there were actually two plays.  And a few of our game night friends were involved, so it was fun to see them on stage.  But by the time we got home and got the kids settled down to start writing the review, it was past 11:00!  And because the turnout for youth theater was so great (which is an awesome thing), we had 37 kids to mention in the review.  And here’s the doozy – 37 kids to mention and no program!  There was an error at the printing company, and the programs were not ready for our special dress rehearsal pre-screening on Thursday night.  The director made us a partial cast list, but it still took awhile to figure out who was who enough to write a review.  Luckily, the kids had done a nice job and the shows were adorable, so some of it was easy writing, so we were chugging along (well, I was playing a video game since Hubby was chosen to write the review and needed my computer, but I was helping) when all of a sudden, something comes FLYING into our living room.  And no, it wasn’t the usual parade of kids – I mean flying literally.  It was a displaced wild bat (we have pet rats, not a pet bat – yet), and it was flying panicked around our living room.  I’m not afraid of bats, but it was a sudden thing to happen at 1ish in the morning, so I cowered next to my husband until it left the room.  I was really afraid it would fly into the halogen lamp – I’ve smelled the roasting bugs that became victims of the halogen; a bat in there would leave quite a mess, poor thing.  So anyway, now we had to locate the bat and show him the door.  In case you’re reading this and you’re horrified and re-thinking any future visits to our house, be assured that like fellow rural NW Ohio older homeowners (wait, I said that wrong – I’m not old, the house is!) we’ve had a bat in the house before.  And like the previous occurrence, this one was captured without incident and returned to the wilderness.  But first, we had to build a bat relocation contraption and stumble around on chairs at 1:30 in the morning trying to catch the thing.  But we managed, and he happily flew away when released outdoors, and it was still before 2 in the morning.  But my poor tired husband still had to finish that review – which is where I got my post title; I can’t believe that bat interfered with my sleep cycle!  All was said and done and we were both asleep just before 3, followed by a busy (and forgetful) Friday with a game night which led to another late night.  Yawn.  So why am I sitting here blogging instead of napping?  Oh yeah – 4 kids = no napping.

Tri-State Weekend

Posted in Travel on May 20th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We were all over the place this past weekend.  I guess it was the nice weather…  wait, it rained Saturday!

It started with game night on Friday night – my intentions were to take it easy and end somewhat early so we could rest up for a big day with the kids on Saturday.  It didn’t end up that way – we began the weekend by staying up too late!  But it was a fun game night, kind of a different crowd, so it was interesting to mix it up a little.  Our new friend brought presents for the kids to game night, and I can’t express enough gratitude – she basically saved game night!  Our will-be-5-yr-old-tomorrow Sammie was in a mood, and seeing the new friend (the presents didn’t hurt either!) actually got her out of the mood she would have otherwise stayed in all night probably – thanks Mary!

Saturday we were going to take the kids to the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Michigan.  My husband and I (and Taylor in her fetal days) went there in ’99, and we loved the zoo.  We found out it was only about an hour and a half drive from here, so we decided to check it out.  An hour and a half drive doesn’t seem like a long time if there’s no traffic and the kids are good!  Besides, an hour and half drive home after a busy day can sometimes (if we’re lucky) cinch the deal and put all 4 of them asleep for the night.  Well, anyway, it was raining on Saturday.  And we didn’t want to take 4 kids through an unfamiliar zoo in the rain.  So we ended up at Crazy Pinz in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  It’s a place where they have arcade games, bowling, mini-bowling, mini-golf and the kids’ favorite, Ball-O-City – a giant play area with levels and tunnels and balls to shoot at each other.  I was really happy when my husband pointed out the Chicago Cubs game playing on the huge tv in the bar.  So I stood over there and watched the Cubs wriggle out of a dicey situation – they had been winning 4-0 when all of a sudden, Houston scores 4 in the 9th and ties it up!  They also had bases loaded, but the Cubs got out of it somehow and came back with a win in the bottom of a 9th!  The bar at Crazy Pinz erupted in a cheer – Cubs fans everywhere!  So we stayed there for awhile and then got home late but not too late for us to catch up on watching the season finales of our two favorite tv shows – Lost and The Office.

I guess I should save it for another post, so let’s just say we were really happy with the finales of BOTH shows.  Lost actually answered a lot of questions that were outstanding, and it can finally be seen how events are starting to come full circle for the characters.  Something awesome occurred on the Office, well, it was alluded to anyway, but I think it was obvious what the next development is for the Pam and Jim characters.  Ahem.

Sunday after church we decided to reclaim our Saturday plans and head up to Battle Creek to Binder Park Zoo.  Sunday was a gorgeous, picture-perfect day weather-wise, and it ended up being a great decision – it would not be fun to tour this zoo in the rain with 4 little kids.  The zoo is mostly outdoor, and there is a bit of walking if you want to see the majority of the zoo.  You climb aboard a (free) zoo tram that takes you 5 minutes into the wilderness, err Wild Africa as the zoo calls it.  But whether it’s the wilds of Michigan or the savannas of Africa, the view that awaits you when you arrive in Binder Park’s Africa is breathtaking.  Beyond the authentic-seeming African village is a wall, and beyond the wall:

5-16-and-17-09-crazy-pinz-and-binder-park-zoo-017

Click the picture to see a larger version – those are zebras and Thomson’s Gazelles grazing in the huge pasture.  And a clutch of ostrich eggs (real?) on the edge of the exhibit (lower right middle of picture).  The giraffes can go out there too, but they are usually over here:

5-16-and-17-09-crazy-pinz-and-binder-park-zoo-022where you can FEED them!  It was a great day at a great zoo, and we even saw an animal I had never heard of – the Patagonian Mara.  Fully grown they are about 35-40 lbs. (the one here at Binder Park is 9 mos. old and about half that), and they are rodents most closely related guinea pigs.  At Binder Park, the keeper was in the cage with the mara, and she was jumping onto his leg and doing tricks for food – very cool.  I didn’t get the best picture; there was a tree in the way – again click for a larger pic, maybe you can actually see the mara:

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The Binder Park Zoo also has a cute rabbit exhibit where the kids can crawl through a tunnel and end up “in” with the rabbits, a cool children’s zoo (housing the happiest Guinea pigs I’ve ever seen – the first time I’ve seen Guinea pigs that weren’t squealing with fright or freaking out), and a carousel, among other fun things.  Here is my son on his first carousel ride:

5-16-and-17-09-crazy-pinz-and-binder-park-zoo-024

And two of my 4 happy kids at the zoo:

5-16-and-17-09-crazy-pinz-and-binder-park-zoo-023And my other two riding a giant ant:

5-16-and-17-09-crazy-pinz-and-binder-park-zoo-005

So…  a great weekend, even if we were never home sweet home.  I was going to share my pastor’s story he told on Sunday, but this post is long enough, that will have to wait for another post!  Until then…

Diving For Victory

Posted in games on January 10th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

For those habitual readers of my blog who couldn’t make it to our regular game night last night due to the blizzard, you missed an ‘event’ – one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.  I’ve been chuckling about it all day!  But before I get to that, I will start at the beginning of the evening.

One of our guests showed up with a dog.  Not just any dog; our dog Beesly.  If you’ve read my blog post called Pet Roll Call, then you know that Beesly is an escape artist.  But imagine our friend’s surprise when he came across Beesly a few blocks away from our house as he was walking over for game night.  He was glad he remembered her name, and he brought her back to her grateful family who didn’t even realize she was missing.  Maybe we should have named her Houdini…

So then we played some games, including a new one a friend brought called Left, Right, Center.  I really liked it; especially because it was very simple and easy to learn.  And then we brought out Pit.  We don’t play Pit very often because it’s not really appreciated by some members of the game night crew.  It’s a very loud game that is played at a frenzied pace.  I really like to play it, but I don’t think I’ve ever won a hand of Pit.  My friend had the same issue, but last night while we were playing, she finally got a winning hand.  In Pit, when you have a winning hand, you are supposed to ring a little bell, much like a bell you’d ring for service at a front desk of a hotel or at a store.  My friend (who shall remain nameless; I don’t want to embarrass her, but I’ll give you a hint – her name rhymes with “feral”) was extremely excited to have a winning hand, but there was one problem – she couldn’t reach the bell from her seat.  So what does she do?  This sweet, very quiet, normally passive person lunges…  no wait, let’s be honest.  She dives across the table for the bell.  I mean, it was a feet-off-the-ground, laying-on-the-table, horizontal, head-first dive across our dining room table, and she landed on my arm in the process.  She was immediately embarrassed and apologized profusely, maybe because I was crying.  But mine were tears of laughter because her behavior was so shocking – my arm was fine.  I guess Pit is such a crazy game that it can bring out the insanity in anyone.  And by the way, she did win the round 🙂  So congrats, _____, on winning your first round of Pit.  Please forgive me for publishing this story on the internet, but I thank you for giving us such a fun memory.

I’m sorry it snowed, but I’m glad our absent friends stayed safe.  We missed you a lot, and we really hope to see you next time!