Skyward Bound

Yes, it’s true. I’m on a flight, heading back to Minnesota, updating this blog from 30,000 feet. Technology, you sexy vixen, you.

Yes, it’s also true (for those of you who have been keeping track), that Ella, Annie, and I returned from Minnesota a mere 48 hours ago. Nick is the frequent flier in the family, not me, and my immediate return to the land of 10,000 lakes is not for pleasure, nor for business, but borne out of necessity and love. Without being ridiculously vague, I will simply say that our family is going through a very difficult, private matter, and we have been traveling a lot lately. I have been asked to discuss this in future posts, but for now, it is enough to say that I need to be on this plane, to travel across the country once more over these cotton candy clouds, to be by my husband’s side.


I also decided, given that the cost of an emergency cross-country ticket is already larger than a mortgage payment, a tiny splurge would be appropriate, and I needed – for the first time ever – to purchase a first class seat. Yes, needed. I felt it in my bones, just how I knew our current house was the right one for us (despite having never set foot inside before purchasing it) or how I knew that Milli Vanilli was too good to be true. When you know, you know. I needed first class.

Thing is, despite flying at least a half-dozen times a year myself, first class and I are not exactly familiar with one another. Have you ever seen Big Business, the 80s comedy with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin where they play twins (each named Rose and Sadie) switched at birth, with one set growing up in the country and the other in the city, and then the country twins show up in the city and act like the bumpkins they are, ogling the sky scrapers and taking about “Goin’ to the meetin’”? No? Well, you’re not missing much, but the point is that right now I am country Rose and Sadie, and first class is my meetin’, it could not be more obvious that I am not in my element if I taped my Disney World “First Visit!” button to my forehead.

As is absolutely typical of me, I arrived at the airport later than I’d planned, which made me more disheveled than usual (although, considering it’s Rochester and the airport is totally small and manageable and I had first class priority – can I get a what what! – it took me a mere twelve minutes from the time I stepped foot in the airport to go through security and arrive at my gate). Still, I even found time to purchase my travel standby – a bottle of water – and sauntered onto the plane feeling quite smug… until I saw the lovely mini water bottle waiting for me at my seat.

You get water bottles in first class. Who knew?!

I was aware, of course, that you get free drinks in first class, and I decided to take advantage of that immediately. I asked what white wines were available, and the lovely flight attendant immediately brought me two bottles for my perusal, including my favorite, Pinot Grigio.

I know it’s not actually possible to drink your troubles away, but hey, this isn’t a bad start…

What I did not realize is that the lovely flight attendant would serve me the wine in the plastic cup rather than in the mini wine bottle, which meant that I reached out and tried to take the bottle from her, resulting in a very awkward tug of war across my seat mate. Keepin’ it classy.

After receiving my wine, I made myself comfortable, doing the crossword in the Delta Sky magazine (yes, I’m that geek) and adding items to my never-ending To Do book. I vaguely registered that someone was standing in the aisle, talking, and paid her no attention – because who would be talking to me – until my seat mate gently tapped me on the arm and I realized that the “someone” was the lovely flight attendant, and the “talking” was actually her saying, “Ms. H? Ms. H? Can I get you a beverage for after we take off?”, which totally weirded me out, because since when do flight attendants refer to you by name? Considering that I had downed the Pinot before the plane even left the ground (truly so unlike me, but hey, desperate times, right?), I decided that perhaps a Diet Coke would be more appropriate for my second drink.

Although I have flown first class once or twice before, I have never done so alone, meaning that Nick has always helped me navigate the ins and outs of the seats. This may sound unnecessary – they’re airplane seats, after all, how complicated can they be? – except that the tray tables don’t fold down from the seats in front of you like they do in coach; they magically rise up from the armrests and fold across your lap. When the flight attendant brought me my Diet Coke, I nonchalantly attempted to pull the tray table up and out of the armrest, because I have so done this before, especially one-handed while holding a drink that’s in a cup made out of glass instead of plastic, this is no big deal, I have totally got this… Until my armrest wrangling and Diet Coke sloshing became so disruptive, the gentleman beside me pulled out this nifty little tray thing and said, “Why don’t you just put your drink here?”

Mini drink holders! How cute is that! First class, you are so clever!

You totally know this guy is thrilled to be sitting next to me.
Especially because I thought it was so awesome that the lovely flight attendant offered us snacks, including a banana, I decided to take a photo of it. A photo. Of my banana.

They really let anyone into first class these days, don’t they?

I also chose a little bag of peanuts, which I decided not to photograph because, hello, boring… But that’s kind of a shame because, as I opened them, they flew across my keyboard and skittered onto the floor below, so now I can never document my bag of first class peanuts. If only they had popcorn, I could really make a good showing. The cleaning crew will really appreciate the work I’ve done here.

When the lovely flight attendant came around again asking me – by name –  if I’d like anything else to drink (good grief, they are so attentive up here!), I decided to get my mortgage payment’s worth, and ordered a margarita. This may ultimately wind up being a bad idea, but I have  both a) successfully used the little drink tray and b) finished the drink without spilling, so that’s something, anyway.

Surprisingly delicious!

We still have an hour to go in this flight, so only time will tell what other disasters adventures I will encounter, but so far, first class has certainly proved to be an enlightening experience.

In a few days, I’ll be flying coach again, but for now, I will sit back, enjoy the Great Lakes out my window, and try to not act too much like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she first encountered the opulence of Richard Gere’s life.


On second thought, feeling like Julia Roberts, even for a moment, isn’t such a bad thing. Just this once, I want to forget it all, and feel like Cinderfuckin’rella.

p.s. Did you know that the seat pockets in first class are held on by velcro? And that, if you root through your enormous backpack mid-flight and then attempt to put said bag back under the seat too vigorously, you can peel the velcro entirely away from the seat, resulting in all of the contents — including the in-flight magazine, barf bag, Sky Mall magazine, safety card, two water bottles, a camera, and an iPad — to fall out onto the floor? Well, consider yourself warned. You’re welcome.


Last week, the girls and I flew to Minnesota to visit Nick’s family (and to go to the state fair – yeah!). It was the first time in quite a while (maybe ever?) that I’d flown solo with both children, and although Ella and Annie are seasoned fliers, I was a bit nervous about how things would go.

Based on outward appearances, I certainly can understand why other, (usually) childless fliers look warily at my children – or any children – when we travel. I have been both the parent of a sobbing, thrashing little beast and a bystander, watching a toddler melt down and fling Goldfish at the passengers in row 24. Kids and flying can be a disaster, especially when their parents blatantly ignore them or don’t seem to be aware the Little Junior is speaking at a volume generally reserved for sports stadiums. I get it.

(Ranty tangent: That said, flying with disastrous children is no worse than – and often vastly preferable to – hordes of middle schoolers on a band trip, anyone attending a bachelor or bachelorette party [hi, Bridesmaids], the business traveler who has 100 decibel “work” conversations on her cell phone every second that we’re on the ground, the giant in the seat ahead of me who reclines his head into my lap, the passenger next to me who thinks that not one of our 94 minutes together can be filled with silence, the passengers who raise the volume of their conversation so that they can be heard above the safety instructions, the guy whose music is so loud I can hear it through my own headphones, the person who hasn’t bathed in at least a week, the man who did bathe – but in cologne, the person who brought the vat of Chow Mein, the poor lady with the cold who sniffles and clears her throat every 46 seconds, the arm rest hog, and anyone who finds the tiny bottles of liquor “cute” and decides that it’s a good idea to drink four or five or ten. At least crying babies aren’t deliberately being rude. Plus… Benadryl, people.)

Anyhoo, I get that the mere sight of kids can cause other passengers anxiety, perhaps none more so than the frequent fliers who are Important and have Somewhere To Be and don’t want to be held up by anyone who is not an Expert Flier like themselves. Nick, actually, is a frequent flier (although he has empathy for families with kids… okay, probably mixed with some dread…), and so we are usually fortunate enough to use the priority security lane. The look of annoyance and disgust when we join the other “important” travelers in the faster lane – and then proceed to dump our shoes and sweatshirts and computers and Seat Pets and liquids into six plastic bins, ultimately placing a minimum of fourteen items on the conveyor belt – is priceless… But not as priceless as the look of bewilderment and shock as we snag our scanned items back off of the rollers, put them back on our bodies, and load them back into our carry-ons before the guy ahead of us has had time to put his belt back on. We are security line ninjas, people.

One of our flights had seats three abreast, meaning we could all sit together, but the other had only double seats. Despite being ninjas and generally very well behaved on flights, Ella and Annie are hardly perfect, and I was wary of them sitting beside one another rather than beside Nick or me. They, however, were not only not wary; they were psyched.

If we give you thumbs up will you leave us alone?

After we all got settled in, I tried to relax and just let them be, and my attention turned to the conversation being held by the passengers in front of me. The woman in the window seat was maybe in her mid-sixties, petite, and white. The gentleman sitting beside her was younger, quite tall, wearing an awesome straw hat, and black. It struck me immediately what – in our current American society – an oddly matched pair they were. Not that it should be odd, or unusual, or uncomfortable – or anything at all – for a middle-aged white lady to be conversing with a younger black man… But, let’s be honest, it often is.

As I eavesdropped on their conversation (truthfully, it was more just listening, ’cause they were chatting quite loudly), I learned that she was returning home to Minnesota for a high school reunion with dear friends. He was from Alabama, headed to Minnesota on business. From what I could hear, they had nothing in common – no obvious shared interests, no shared hometown, no children of the same age, no professed mutual love of baseball or movies or rescuing kittens – but, man, were they enjoying talking with one another! One of them would say something and the other would physically rear back to have enough room for a full-bodied laugh, their joyous sounds rushing into the space above, settling playfully over all of us around them.

Our flight had already been delayed for over two hours due to mechanical delays (asked the girls, “Does anyone ever leave O’Hare on time?”). Now, sitting still longer on the runway, the collective passenger anxious-seat-shifting began. As I admonished Annie for the second time to stop opening and closing her window shade (“But Mommy, at least I’m not kicking the seat!” True, baby. But you’re going to make everyone around us have a seizure), the man in front of me raised his hands to the ceiling, verbally pleading, “Come on already! I just want to get up in the air!”

His newfound buddy laughed, chiming in, “Me, too! Let’s get going already!”

They both paused for a moment; then she added, more quietly, “I like going up, but I hate coming down. Landings scare the daylights out of me. I always pray that it’ll be all right.”

Without missing a beat, her seat mate reached over and put his large black hand gently on top of her small white one. “You go on ahead and pray, but I promise everything will be all right.

It’s okay. I’m here. I got’chu.”

Minutes later, we began to taxi, and the rest of the flight passed uneventfully, just as he’d said.

Would that we all could have that experience, no matter where, no matter why.
Would that we could have someone, anyone, who says – and genuinely means – It’s okay. I’m here. I got’chu.

Throwback Thursday: State Fair! Yeah!

Every August, we make a point to visit the Twin Cities and Nick’s family when the Minnesota State Fair is taking place.

Sometimes, we visit the animals (especially the birthing barn).MN state fair63
Hello, baby goats! I mean kids. Hello, kids!

The girls almost always get Fair Dos.

MN state fair73

Yes, it takes at least five washings and almost an entire bottle of conditioner to remove the spray and color, but it’s totally worth it.

We explore the finer arts of butter sculptures and traveling information trailers.
I am home!

We devote a good deal of time to both the Kidway and the Midway rides.
Ella in 2007 (age 2.5), becoming one with the motorcycle.

MN state fair33

Click on it to see it larger…

But mostly… we go for the food.
We eat…
Click on these, too. Unless you’re completely grossed out. I’d understand.

And eat…


And eat…

MN state fair food collage

All. Day. Long.

To be fair (hooo boy, I am hilarious), we don’t each consume all of the above in their entirety; rather we get, say, one order of cheese curds and split it amongst six of us — so although we do purchase an obscene number of foods, we aren’t actually rolling out of the fairgrounds each year.

Besides, we’re usually too bone-tired to roll, anyway.

State Fair day is also the girls’ annual “Yes Day,” inspired by the book of the same name, where we say “yes” to pretty much everything they request. Cotton candy for breakfast? Yes!!! Soda, maybe even twice in a day? Yes!! Purchase that bracelet, even though it looks super-cheap and is likely to break as soon as it’s put on? Yes! Yet another ride, even after we’re ready to fall over from exhaustion and being surrounded by the masses of other exhausted, sweaty, sugar-highed Minnesotans? Yes. (The yeses lose their exclation points after a while…)

It is one of the most highly-anticipated days of the year, and although I have to practically cross-train and visit a priest to make it through the day, And no matter what else is going on in our lives, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Today, we head to the fair again. I am planning to start my day off the same way I did last year: with bacon ice cream. BECAUSE, YES.

(Not so) Easy Rider

One of the hardest parts of summer is the lack of opportunities to actually accomplish anything. While I enjoy the myriad chances for fun that only summer seems to bring (boat rides at the lake, fresh veggies and fruits picked straight from our yard, water parks, consuming ungodly amounts of ice cream, drinking wine on the dock because wine and dock), I struggle balancing those experiences with the usual, run-of-the-mill chores (and even maybe occasional moments to myself that don’t involve hiding in the bathroom with my iPhone).

It’s not so much that we’re having such a blast every minute, I don’t get around to the laundry… but more that Ella and Annie can reliably play well together for approximately twenty-three minutes. After that, one of them is a) bleeding b) trying to wrestle the stuffed Chihuahua she won at the amusement park out of the dog’s mouth c) on the floor complaining that she’s absolutely starving, despite having eaten just an hour ago, or d) all of the above. Everyday life stuff is just really hard to accomplish in twenty-three minute bursts.

This includes exercise. During the school year, I have a pretty predictable exercise routine that fits in nicely between school and piano. In the summer, I have to cobble together whatever I can – which, recently, has meant sometimes getting up before Nick heads to work and going for a short run or a bike ride.

Absurd. I know.

This is absolutely not how I pictured myself, and not something that I ever wanted – but sometimes life doesn’t go just the way you planned to, no? About a year ago, I accidentally became one of those people who actually crave exercise. No one is more horrified by this than I am. Although, for years, I’ve worked out enough to be healthy, it was never something I wanted to do – it was something I needed to do if I wanted to continue regularly consuming Caramel Macchiatos and eating two desserts nightly.

Unexpectedly, I found an exercise class that I loved and somehow got hooked and something changed and insert some kind of scientific blah blah blah about metabolism and whatever and now, when I don’t exercise for a few days in a row, I start to feel all weird and skin-crawly (no, I don’t have lice. I checked). Whereas before I’d blow off working out at the slightest provocation (there’s a 5% chance of rain plus also it’s time to test the smoke alarms… Guess I can’t run today – bummer!), I now feel compelled to get out and do something, which is so annoying.

Let this be a warning to those of you who are considering starting to exercise.

That I have not only continued biking but come to actually enjoy it totally shocks me. I think a large part of this is due to my being able to carry on full monologues as I bike, something that’s difficult to do while running, awkward while doing Zumba, and impossible while swimming… but that’s neither here nor there.

When I set off on the bike last week, it was misting ever-so-slightly outside. The forecast called for rain later in the day, but the radar was clear, so I decided to go for the ride anyway, figuring I’d enjoy the cooling effects of the mist. About ten minutes into the route, I discovered a dirt trail leading off of road, and I opted to take it, hoping to find a new path that I could travel regularly. Shortly after turning onto the trail, I rode past some deer who didn’t even move as I whizzed coasted by.

bike ride
No, I didn’t process this photo to make it blurry; I just took it, you know, from a moving bike.
Also, passing fawns on my morning ride? Awesome.

I was still in my communing-with-nature fog when I noticed that the mist wasn’t really mist anymore, but actual drops of water. As in, rain. Within a few minutes, the rain changed from a drizzle to an outright downpour.

And it so happens that biking in the rain isn’t as romantic – or as easy – as it sounded in my head.

bike ride2
Taken from the driveway, where you can’t see my shrivel-y fingers, but trust me, they were.

Despite – nay, because of – my helmet, the water on my head would pool together into enormous blobs, eventually becoming so heavy that they’d plop right into my eyes. I’ve never been great at administering eye drops, so this constant assault caused me to frantically blink, which kinda makes it hard to see. I’d attempted to wipe the water with my hands, but a) they were also covered with water, so the point was moot, and b) the road was suddenly slippery, and I’m not exactly what you’d call a “steady” biker under ideal conditions, so letting go of the handle bars wasn’t exactly helpful.

By the time I arrived home, barely squeaking in before Nick absolutely had to leave to get to work on time, I was completely soaked through and my fingers were prune-y. I spent at least five minutes – and burned more calories than I had on the ride – trying peel myself out of my workout clothes (which aren’t exactly known for being, um, forgiving).

bike ride3

Sooo… perhaps I’m not cut out for this nature-communing bike ride stuff.

Yeah, the deer-spotting was really cool.
But maybe next time, I’ll change the smoke alarm batteries instead.

Roger That

A few weeks ago, on a whim, I told the girls about the FAO Schwarz piano scene from the movie Big. They were intrigued, so we watched the clip on YouTube, after which I began describing to them other favorite scenes — Tom Hanks chewing the baby corn, spitting out the caviar at the office party, hitting his head on the bunk bed when he first discovers that he’s an adult — and was extremely disappointed that no one has taken the time to illegally upload those clips to YouTube. After rummaging through our old movie collection, I finally emerged victorious with Bigon VHS. Awwww, yeah.

I decided to show them the entire movie (minus the love story part, which kind of accounts for half the movie, but whatever), and they watched with rapt attention, finding it as funny as I hoped they would. It didn’t dawn on me that Big would impact our lives in any significant fashion, until – about 0.84 seconds after the movie finished – Ella rushed over to the piano and attempted to play “Heart and Soul.”

When I was a teenager, I attended a camp (an amazing all-girls camp up in Algonquin Park, Canada, called Tanamakoon) where music was highly prized. There was a weekly music night, which was as enthusiastically attended as a homecoming game, and for which you had to sign up as a performer many days in advance to ensure that you had a spot. We sang songs every morning before breakfast, each day waiting for Assembly to begin, after dinner each night, and throughout the day as campers completed various activities… and we sang them in spontaneous harmony.The camp musical was put on in an awesomely-outfitted open-air theater. Boom boxes and mix tapes were as essential as life jackets and bug spray. Tanamakoon breathed music.

In the lodge was a beautiful, weathered grand piano. Save for music night, it wasn’t played too often, but campers and staff alike would regularly plink out ditties as they passed by. Despite Tanamakaoon’s love affair with music, “Heart and Soul” was forbidden on the grand piano – in part because the propensity to play it with gusto might harm the instrument, and in (larger) part because hearing it 293 times each day would drive everyone insane.

Now I understand why.

I thought that “Heart and Soul” might be Big‘s only lasting impact (save for the girls gnawing away at baby corn like frantic mice)… but then, as their birthday party approached, Ella requested a pair of walkie talkies. Inspired by Josh and Billy, Ella thought that perhaps she could communicate with our next-door neighbor, who happens to be one of her best friends. It seemed innocuous enough, so after reading reviews on Amazon, I bought a pair and wrapped them up for the birthday celebration.

Ella responded with great enthusiasm, even agreeing to share them with Annie (I’d written on the package that this was to be a joint gift). I was pleased with her reaction, but was not anticipating that Nick might respond with just as much, if not more, excitement. (That said, given that he practically ripped the girls’ first Lego set out of their hands a couple of Christmases ago, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.)

Nick immediately got to work teaching the girls the finer points of walkie-talkie use: how to turn them on, how to turn them off (even more important, lest the batteries die), how to actually speak into them, how to actually listen to the other person speaking rather than immediately jumping in and talking simultaneously, and a few other walkie talkie particulars (“handles” were discussed, although none was decided upon. When they are, I am formally claiming “Lady Mama-Lade”).

They then began trying out the walkie talkies, testing their range, hiding in one room of the house while trying to sneak up on the other. It soon became clear that the girls were having some difficulty ending their communications with the word “over,” and Nick took it upon himself to fix that situation.

“Whenever you finish speaking, you need to say ‘over.'”


“So the other person knows you’re done.”

“Won’t they know I’m done because I stop talking?”

“No. You need to say ‘over.'”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Here, let’s test it out. You go downstairs, and I’ll talk to you.”

“I still don’t see why…”

“Just go! We can’t stand next to each other and talk!”

“Okay, okay………”

“Are you there? Do you read me? Over.”

“I’m not reading anything. I’m just in the dining room.”



“You didn’t say ‘over’ when you were done. Over.

“I don’t want to say it.”



“Say ‘over’ when you’re finished! Over.”

“I’m not saying ‘over.'”

“You just did!”


The walkie talkies were put away for the duration of the birthday party, but managed to make an appearance right before bedtime. By that time, in their post-party haze, Annie and Ella were practically walking into walls and speaking in tongues, exhibiting the same glassy-eyed stares as college freshmen who’d just pulled their first all-nighters, so I assumed that they’d pass out quickly. As I was tucking them into their beds, I heard Nick casually tell them that they could use their walkie talkies, but “don’t talk too long.”

It so happens that, to punch-drunk six and eight year-olds, “too long” is a relative term.

Forty-five minutes later, and a good ninety minutes past their usual bedtime, I happened to be walking by their doors when I heard a peculiar beeping sound coming from Annie’s room. Thinking that perhaps her clock-radio alarm was going off, I crept into the room, hoping to silence it before it woke her… and caught her guiltily slipping the still-warm walkie talkie under her pillow.

I didn’t even have to say anything; apparently, my own glassy-eyed death glare spoke volumes. After giving Ella the same stare-down, the walkie talkies were remarkably silent for the rest of the night.

I wonder how Nick will react if I get them model airplanes.


Wherein I Rectify A Terrible Internet Omission

I hadn’t planned to post much about the girls’ birthday party here, thinking I’d just tell friends and family about it on Facebook, but I’ve since reconsidered because of Pinterest. Yes, this post has been created for Pinterest. For the greater good. Because I’m a giver. (And for everyone else, I apologize for the obscene number of photos.)

This past weekend, the girls had their birthday party. Their actual birthdays are six days apart in December (no, this was not planned; I’ve always been terrible with The Math), but for the past four years we’ve celebrated in the summer. This is:

  • so I don’t go completely insane (adding two parties to an already-full December is probably more than I can do, even with my awesomeness)
  • so that I can actually devote time and energy into their parties, which I just love love love. I realize that’s kind of nutty, but it’s truly fun for me. In the summer, I can bake fondant-covered cakes and make themed decorations and generally go all-out. In December, the guests would be lucky to get Hostess cupcakes and a game of Twister.
  • so that the girls don’t receive an obscene amount of gifts over the span of twelve days (which, despite how much they love presents, is actually super-overwhelming)
  • so that the girls don’t have to “share” their special day with Meeting Santa or The Office Christmas Party or any of the other myriad December commitments
  • helpful, financially, for our families, because four gifts in less than two weeks is asking an awful lot
  • fun, because they get to celebrate when there isn’t a foot of snow on the ground.

We could do half birthdays in June, but given that we already have SEVEN family birthdays in June, adding a celebration that’s supposed to make things more convenient would really be pushing it. (And, lest you worry, we still recognize their birthdays on the real dates — they receive small gifts [usually “birthday books”], choose a special breakfast and dinner, and get a cake. There just isn’t the big party hoopla, which is fine because there’s also caroling! and decorating the tree! and the Elf on the Shelf! and advent calendars! and cookie baking! and Rudolph! and The Grinch! and, like, Christmas! )

So, anyway, summer birthdays it is.

For months, Ella and Annie insisted that they wanted a Looney Tunes-themed birthday party. They’ve been watching The Looney Tunes Show on their iPads, and thought it would be a hoot to act out some of their favorite episodes during the party. Considering that Nick and I were unsure that any of their friends had ever glimpsed one of these episodes, and also considering that they usually involve Daffy screaming things like, “Well, hello, Officer Jerkface!”, we told them as gently as we could that it was a terrible idea. We tried very hard to steer them in another direction – an art party? Peace signs? Monster trucks? Anything?? But they held fast to Looney Tunes.

Nick pointed out that perhaps we could do Minute to Win It -style games with a Looney Tunes theme, and we were off to the races. I happily began scouring Pinterest and the internet for ideas because I am lazy and don’t want to reinvent the wheel like being inspired by others, only to discover that there are virtually NO Looney Tunes birthday party ideas out there. No blogs. No Pinterest pages (except for baby showers, which, um, no). No anything. In fact, I couldn’t really even find Looney Tunes decorations or paper plates or even some lousy balloons. I guess, despite the fact that Wile E. Coyote has been trying to blow up the Road Runner for at least half a century (which, you would think, makes for fabulous party games), there isn’t a market for Looney Tunes party items.

So, I had to get creative. And I am blogging about it now and then — how weird is this — I will pin this post on my own Pinterest page. Omg, I’ve become that person. Not because I think y’all want to read about it so desperately, nor because I’m so keen on sharing it, nor because it’s so incredible… but because it took nearly all of my available brain power to create it, and if only one person searches Pinterest for “Looney Tunes Party” and finds some of these ideas helpful so they don’t have use all of their available brain power, I will die a happy woman. Or, at least posting 492 photos will not have been in vain. THIS IS FOR YOU, YOU LAZY, NON-WHEEL-INVENTING INTERNET PEOPLE.

Because I’d waited until the last minute to send the invitations (typical), I used evite, but I personalized it a little.
.looney tunes bday

I thought I was wildly clever and cute, until the girls looked at it and were like, “WTH?” because apparently the Looney Tunes that they are watching is completely different from the one we watched as kids. It’s not just Looney Tunes… it’s the Looney Tunes SHOW. And its logo looks more like this:
looney tunes show
No copyright worries; I downloaded this from the Looney Tunes Show site; very helpful.)

So I guess I’m a bit behind the times. Ah, well.

Because there I couldn’t find any Looney Tunes decorations to purchase, I decided to make some, using – again – photos from the Looney Tunes site.

looney tunes party6

looney tunes party9

Although we had the Minute to Win It games scheduled for later on, I wanted a filler activity to kill time while everyone arrived, plus a crafty activity that would both take a bunch of time (I was afraid of ending everything too soon and having mayhem ensue) and provide the party attendees with something fun to take home. To my surprise, Ella and Annie came up with two great ideas: decorating take-home bags and having each girl paint a wooden (hangable) letter that matched her first initial.

looney tunes party10
Totally Looney Tunes-d it up, see? So clever.

looney tunes party11
The decorating tables, ready to go for when the guests arrived. In the bowls? Looney Tunes stickers that I printed from the computer. BECAUSE NO ONE SELLS LOONEY TUNES STICKERS. (Super easy, btw — just printed the images I’d already downloaded from the Looney Tunes site, squeezing them really tiny onto full-page labels, and then the kids cut out the tiny images. Voila, stickers.)

The backs of the bags also had these – made in the same “sticker” method, only larger.looney tunes bag1

looney tunes party17
Working hard on her letter painting.

looney tunes party18
All done with her E.
No, this wasn’t Ella’s party attire – we’d given all of the girls smock-like shirts so that they wouldn’t get paint on themselves.

looney tunes party41
The gift bags and letters, lined up and ready to go home at the end of the party.

Then, it was time to move onto games. Essentially, we took classic birthday party or Minute to Win It games and Looney Tunes-ified them.

First up, “Pass the Parcel” —  aka “Granny’s Gift.”
looney tunes party15

looney tunes party20
Passing the present as the music played (One Direction, duh)…

looney tunes party21
Then, opening up a layer when the music stopped. Except “Granny” is a bit forgetful, so she wrapped the gift, like, 10 times. They thought this was hysterical.

At long last, they reached the inside: duck-billed whistles. (Daffy-inspired. Again with the cleverness.)

looney tunes party22
looney tunes party23

Each kiddo also took home some Looney Tunes character bandz, which were the one and only “official” Looney Tunes items I was able to find online.

Next up was a Minute To Win It game called “Face the Cookie,” adapted to become “Porky’s Pig Out!”
looney tunes party12

looney tunes party4
Hey… they kind of look like little pig snouts, don’t they? Maybe?

The object of the game is to move the cookie from your forehead into your mouth… by just moving your facial muscles, not using your hands. Not easy… but so very funny.looney tunes party25It seems Ella thought she could will the cookie into her mouth by opening it advance…

looney tunes party24

Yes, of course they got to eat the cookies, whether they succeeded or not. We’re not total schmucks.

After that, it was time for the perennial party favorite, Dressing in Clothes That Are Way Too Large For You and Running A Relay Race Feeling Like An Idiot.
looney tunes party13
 In this case, it was done Speedy Gonzales style.

looney tunes party28

looney tunes party26

looney tunes party27

They couldn’t stop laughing. This was totally my favorite game of the party.

After that, it was time for something slightly lower-key, so we took the Minute to Win It game called “Suck It Up” and called it “Tweet It Up.” SO. CLEVER.
looney tunes party8

looney tunes party30
The game’s object? To move small candies from one bowl to another using a straw.

looney tunes party29
Ella was really, really good at this game. Which kind of makes me uncomfortable.

Then, it was back to the races, this time with another Minute to Win It game called “Defying Gravity,” where you’re supposed to keep three balloons in the air for 60 seconds.
looney tunes party16
Ours was “Daffy’s Defying Gravity,” because of the alliterative nature of the title, and also because Daffy is full of hot air. GET IT?? Ahem.

looney tunes party31
Three balloons was deemed too difficult, so they attempted to keep two in the air (which was still an enormous challenge). 

We started by having only four girls play at a time, thinking it might be fun for everyone else to watch… WRONG. So very wrong. Once you see balloons, it is not fun to watch – you absolutely must touch them. Right now. So we restarted, this time with everyone playing.

looney tunes party32

The final Minute to Win It-inspired game was originally called “A Bit Dicey,” where participants balance dice onto thin popsicle sticks. For ours, the kiddos balanced green wooden cubes (that Ella and Annie had very excitedly spray-painted themselves) onto Bugs’s orange “carrot” sticks. 
looney tunes party14

looney tunes party33

looney tunes party34

We then moved back to old-school games, with Pin the Purse on Lola.

looney tunes party5
Apparently, Lola is a new Looney Tunes Show character, Bugs’s girlfriend or something. I don’t know, but the girls like her, so we went with it.

looney tunes party35

looney tunes party36

At last, we got to the activity I’d been most excited for: the TNT. I guess that the new Looney Tunes characters don’t really blow one another up anymore, which is kind of a shame, but after I’d seen a friend do something similar at her son’s Minecraft party, I knew there was no turning back.

looney tunes party7
Supplies ready to go, including my favorite part, the dynamite box…

looney tunes party37
The box actually was pump-able! Nothing happened when you pushed down, but hey, it looked cool.

looney tunes party38
Dropping the Mentos into Diet Coke…

looney tunes party39

looney tunes party40

The final activity of the day was a pinata. This one was made out of a paper bag and took maybe 20 minutes to put together. It was still nearly impossible to break — so hard, in fact, that despite the girls swinging for it while not wearing a blindfold, it was un-openable, and Nick wound up taking it down and just throwing the candy everywhere.
looney tunes party45

looney tunes party44

looney tunes party47

looney tunes carrot
The loot was taken home in carrot bags (Oriental Trading Company, baby), one last nod to Bugs Bunny.

And, of course, no party would be complete without cake (or cupcakes or a cookie cake or brownies or, well, anything with which to send the guests home on an enormous sugar high). Since, again, Looney Tunes-themed cakes were basically non-existent online (save for baby shower cakes that freaked out the girls), I decided to go the cheat-y way and make a regular cake with Looney Tunes figurines stuck on.
looney tunes party1
I was going to do the original Looney Tunes logo on the top, but the girls begged for the new logo. *sigh* At least I got to use my airbrush.

looney tunes party2
Please ignore the “Looney Tunes” script. I suck at cake writing.
Which is also why their names are written in pen on the bottom, rather than on the cake.

looney tunes party3
Look, it’s Lola again. 

I made the cake the night before (those little zig zags on the bottom were hard, yo!), and kept it hidden from the girls until the party. They got a kick out of the 9 and 7 squished together on top of the cake (“I’m not almost 100, Mommy!”)
looney tunes party42

But, more than that, they loved it and said it was just what they’d wanted.
looney tunes party43
Seeing the cake for the first time…

And that makes all of the insanity worthwhile.
Well, that, and the leftover cake I got to eat for three days.

So, there you have it, internet. My contribution to the world: A Looney Tunes birthday party.

That’s all, folks!


FOILED again

Despite the fact that “Annie” ended weeks ago, not a day has gone by when Ella and Annie haven’t sung one of the songs, acted out scenes from the show, or – when I’ve asked them to clean their rooms or maybe clear a single dish – referred to me as Miss Hannigan. This play-acting has been especially rampant when they have friends over, with their wardrobes being pored over to find the perfect “orphan” dresses and full musical productions being put on in every room of the house.

Last Friday was no different. They’d invited a friend over for a movie day (which had been strategically timed to coincide with the day I’d set aside for near-constant birthday party preparations), but only got about twenty minutes into “Annie” before the pause button was hit and they’d hidden away in Annabelle’s bedroom, rehearsing the opening of the show line by line. By line. By line. By every. Single. Word. For. Word. Line.

After a good two hours’ worth of rehearsals (which was a goldmine as far as birthday preparations were concerned; hooray for uninvolved parenting!), they invited me upstairs for a “performance.”
girls annie presentation3
I’m just now realizing that the tape used to hold these signs is medical tape, which they’d been expressly forbidden to use for anything except, like, medical stuff. Awesome.

The production was fairly elaborate, with multiple roles for each girl, two musical numbers, and carefully choreographed dance scenes. The highlight of the show was the finale of “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” which featured the three of them somersaulting, in time, off of Annie’s bed and onto the “orphan bedding” (aka piles of blankets, sheets, and pillows) below.

girls annie presentation

As they scrambled about, calling simultaneously upon their inner Gabby Douglases and their Little Orphan Annies, I happened to notice, amongst the chaos, a package of birth control pills under Annie’s bedside table.

girls annie presentation2
Perhaps I should clarify: this is not “a” package of birth control pills but my package of birth control pills. And before it gets all weird and TMI-ish, I will tell you that, although we are absolutely done having children, I take them to help control endometriosis, rather than as pregnancy prevention. If I ever become pregnant again, Nick will be seeking a lawyer, if you know what I mean. Okay, now it’s become all weird and TMI.

It might have been prudent for me to, I don’t know, pick up the pills or hide them away or maybe talk to Annie about not playing with medicine, but honestly, the only thought that went through my head was, “Huh. So Annie’s got birth control pills under her bedside table. Keepin’ it classy.” I assumed it was an old, empty package — only the outer blue sleeve, not any actual pills — and chalked it up as just one of the many odd and inappropriate items that Annie’s got squirreled away in her bedroom (this very morning, I found a pair of scissors in her sheets).

The following night, after Nick and I had collapsed following Saturday’s birthday party, I vaguely registered that the girls were playing upstairs, but was so grateful that they were playing nicely and independently, I didn’t care if they were boring holes in the walls or tying sheets together to shimmy out the window (has anyone actually done this?). Perhaps I should have, however, because – several hours after bedtime – just as I’d exited Annie’s room after placing a kiss on her cherubic cheeks, something in the guest room caught my eye. So I stopped in… and found this:

guest room horror2
Why, yes, that is the entire contents of two of Annie’s dresser drawers, piled in a jumbled heap on the floor by the guest bed.

It seems that Friday’s “performance” had inspired them, and they’d decided to create an entire doll orphanage, with – naturally – piles of clothing on the floor to better simulate the orphan experience. After an exceptionally long day filled with birthday party festivities and general exhaustion, I can’t even begin to tell you how delightful it was to discover this little surprise. I actually contemplated pulling a Miss Hannigan right there and then and hauling their butts out of bed – at nearly midnight – to clean that dump until it shone like the top of the Chrysler building, but I decided that doing so might require a visit from CPS. And also, the girls don’t really know what the Chrysler building is.

To my even greater delight, it turns out this wasn’t the only surprise awaiting me. As I reached over to turn off the light on the bedside table, I ran into this little crime scene:

guest room horror3
Guess that birth control package wasn’t so empty after all. Surprise!!

Turns out, somehow, my brand new pack of birth control pills had fallen into the garbage, where Annie had found it and assumed that I didn’t want them anymore. While I can follow that logic, I’m a little more stumped as to why she thought it would be a good idea to push the pills out of their foil packaging and all over the bedside table. Hey, y’all, six year-old logic is wacky.

So… not only did we have to have a talk about how it is never, ever okay to play with medicine, not even medicine that is in the trash and comes in adorably fun pop-o-matic packaging, but I also now have the super-fun task of attempting to put the pills back in the correct order, lest I wind up totally stomach-achy all month. Awesome! I love puzzles!
(But don’t worry, I can’t get knocked up, because Nick… Okay, okay. TMI. Moving on.)

The girls may be the ones performing “Hard Knock Life,” but I can assure you that, in this case, ‘steada treated, I was definitely the one who was tricked.

Listen Up

The PGA Championship just finished up right here in Rochester, and although I’m really just an occasional golf fan, it was pretty exciting to have such an important tournament take place in our back yard. (I almost mean this literally. My mom and my aunts grew up in a house that was a two minute walk from Oak Hill Country Club. It’s been rumored that when she was a teenager, my Aunt Lisa and her friends used to sneak onto the grounds after dark and scrawl inappropriate words in the sand traps. My grandmother finally sold that house three years ago, so Oak Hill is no longer actually in my family’s back yard… But, still, there’s a connection.)

Back in 2003, the last time that the PGA Championship was hosted at Oak Hill, Nick and I happened to be visiting the lake from our home in Westchester County (outside of New York City) . Through his employer, Nick was able to secure a job as a walking scorer, and spent several days traveling around the course, pencil in hand, following some of the world’s best golfers and relaying their scores to the official score-keeper people (yes, that’s the technical term) at the end of each hole. He had a blast, and even managed – after his official job was over – to slip me his all-access pass, so I was able to watch the play from inside the ropes. With that as my benchmark, my experience as a golf spectator kind of went downhill from there.

This year, although Nick wasn’t given the opportunity to be a walking scorer again, his company did have a corporate tent, so he spent three days working there – meeting clients, talking with advisors – right alongside the 18th green. Not such a bad week at the office.

He asked if I’d like to work the PGA, too, but I wasn’t convinced. Sure, getting to potentially see golfers I’d heard of (Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson sound, you know, familiar), or maybe glimpsing that delicious Aussie, Adam Scott (if you don’t know him, do yourself a favor and say g’day), held some appeal… but I wasn’t really sure that I was interested.

Then, Nick’s company decided, during the Tuesday practice round, that they would work with the PGA to donate their tent to some local veterans’ organizations. It would be an opportunity for armed service personnel, both active and retired, to see some great golf – for free – while also having access to a nicely-appointed tent and a chance to win some cool, auctioned-off, golf-related prizes. A relatively small gesture, to be sure, but a kind one nonetheless – a chance to thank those who have served our country and allow them to get away and have fun for a while.

Although we, as a family, try to support veterans and veterans’ organizations as often as we can, I often feel like our gestures are greatly inadequate. And so, when I was asked to volunteer as the event’s photographer, I jumped at the chance.

Nick (who was volunteering as well) and I left the lake around 8 a.m., leaving Ella and Annie with my aunt, and told her we’d probably be done at Oak Hill by 3:00. It was a beautiful summer day, perfect for golf – perfect for just about anything – not too hot, not too humid, not too windy. The course was packed with spectators, and even though I don’t consider myself “into” golf, the air of excitement and anticipation that was contagious. We made our way to the corporate tents, watching as the golfers played through the 18th fairway, and then I got down to work.

My instructions were to take mostly candids of the military personnel as they chatted with one another and with the PGA staff and Nick’s colleagues, with a few “official” shots thrown in for good measure. I did so, but even more than that, I was eager to speak with some of those in attendance, to thank them, to try to let them know how grateful I am for all they do.

The conversations ran the gamut, from the Vietnam-era vet who had stayed stateside, test-jumping out of helicopters so that those actually in Vietnam would know what to do, calling those years “the most fun of his life,” to the young soldier who had been wounded in Iraq, rehabbed his shoulder for six months, and then hastily married his fiancee when he discovered that he’d be shipped out again, this time to Djibouti and Uganda. He’d been home for only a few weeks, and his wife – who became teary several times during the conversation – couldn’t stop holding his hand, telling us over and over again how wonderful it was for them to be able to have a day on the golf course like this.

Nick and I spent a great deal of time talking with a burly former soldier/ NYC police officer, who was so blunt and jovial, even as he described the times he’d been shot at from close range (as a cop, not a soldier), that we couldn’t help but laugh along with him. There was a delicious buffet, some short speeches, and several news crews on hand who had taken an interest in what they termed a “charitable effort” and decided to document the event.

Photos. Conversations. Food. Watching a few golfers play through. Photos. Conversations. Repeat. By early afternoon, nearly all of the veterans had had their fill of lunch and were out walking the course, and the tent was strangely quiet. Despite myself, I started to get antsy. When we discovered that the auction wouldn’t take place until 4 p.m., I began to become downright agitated. I knew that Annie and Ella were fine, but I felt terrible leaving them for so long with my aunt – and now we’d be home much later than we’d anticipated. I’d already spoken with the soldiers and told them I was thankful. I’d snapped a lot of photos. The most famous golfers had already played through.

I was bored. And annoyed. And couldn’t wait to leave.

As I fumbled for my phone one more time, cursing the poor wi-fi connection in the tent, a young, slightly-built man came through the door. He was carrying a large black leather case – a portfolio of some kind? – and plopped it down on the table. Without any introduction, he looked up at Nick and me and asked if we’d “like to see some artwork by veterans.” Intrigued (and, honestly, I was eager for anything to break the tedium), we said yes. He opened the portfolio and, staring back at us, was incredible sketch after incredible sketch — pencil drawings, oil pastels, charcoal etchings – mostly of soldiers, some of civilian life, but all done by someone who clearly has a gift. Turns out, this quiet man was a soldier who had returned from Afghanistan less than a year ago (after having joined the National Guard, not expecting to actually be sent out on active duty), and he had created every one of these amazing pieces of art.

Some had been done while in Afghanistan, scraping together whatever supplies he could, and some had been done after he returned, but he credited the artwork with getting him through the war and back again. One of his pieces was a photograph of a bicycle in an Afghani courtyard – a gorgeous photo, radiating peacefulness and contentment, so beautifully composed that it took my breath away… until the young man pointed out the IED, completely hidden to us, buried in the ground just in front of the bike. He casually estimated that by removing that IED, they’d saved at least a thousand lives. It’s an image I will never forget.

While we were mid-portfolio, another gentleman came into the tent. Apparently, he and Nick had chatted earlier about our raising CCI dogs, and he’d come to ask if we knew how he could become a certified dog trainer. As we talked, I learned that he’d also been deployed to the Middle East and, upon returning home, had been unemployed for 99 weeks. Nearly all of his buddies had PTSD, and several had committed suicide or become alcoholics since their return, and he knew he was going down the same path. Then, unexpectedly, he adopted a Siberian Husky who, in his words, “became his best friend and saved his life.” After seeing how his Husky affected him so profoundly, he knew that the pup was unique, so he went through the training necessary to certify his dog as a therapy dog; they visit loads of people each month, and nothing makes him happier than seeing his dog bring people joy. He is now looking to start a business with a “pack” of therapy dogs living in a special house, where soldiers suffering from PTSD can come and stay a while, allowing the dogs to work their healing magic and help the soldiers re-enter society.

Our conversations were finally stopped when it was announced that it was time for the auction — 4 p.m. already. I couldn’t believe how quickly the rest of the afternoon had flown. Neither the artist nor the dog trainer won a prize, but both left the tent with smiles on their faces.

It was not lost on me that if I’d left two hours earlier, when boredom seemed to be overtaking me, I would have missed out entirely on meeting these men, and I never would have heard their stories, stories which will stay with me forever. Sometimes, the universe works in funny ways.

As we walked back to our car, Nick and I marveled at how, really, these folks just wanted to talk. Not necessarily about their time in the military (although that was obviously the reason they’d attended the event, so some discussion about their service was a given), but about anything. Their passions, their dreams, their childhoods. Their other jobs, their marriages, their artwork, their dogs. The subjects kept changing, but one thing remained the same: they just wanted to be heard. And all we had to do was listen.

Which, when you think about it, is a fantastically easy thing to do. To listen.
I wonder, if we all did it more often, if the men and women of our armed forces would have an easier go of things. It seems so simple… But I think it’s time to try.

I’d started out working at the PGA so that I could give back. In the end, of course, I received far more than I gave… Which made the entire thing so very worth it.

That… and these backside shots of Adam Scott.

pga2 pga1

Hey – a girl’s got to have a dream too, right?




Little Buddies

For the past six-ish years, my youngest cousin has spent his summers living at the lake. What originally began with my aunt driving here from Indiana and dropping him off to essentially lounge around with both of my grandparents has morphed into his driving solo across the country (from college in Lake Tahoe), getting a job at the local marina, being the go-to guy for taking my grandma on errands, to appointments and the grocery store, and doing all kinds of odd jobs around the house.

In addition to the grunt work, he’s around to see our extended family members as they visit the lake all summer long. Plus, there’s wake surfing and frequent bonfires. And lunch-hour swims. And relaxing with his buddies every night. And, you know, spending three months – an entire season! – living on the lake. So, yeah, he’s pretty indispensable and I’m truly not sure how we’d manage without him here… but also? Living on the lake. For three months.

andrew dives

Not such a bad gig.

One of the best parts of having Andrew here is that we get to see him so often. Ella and Annie pretty much think he’s a rock star, and love that he pays them so much attention.

andrew and girls“Riding” to the ladder…

andrew and annie
Getting a lift out of the water.

The other best part of having Andrew here is that we get to give him hell for three straight months. The Taylor family prides itself on pretty much constant (good-natured) ribbing, and as the youngest grandchild by quite a large margin (he’s seventeen years my junior), Andrew has taken the brunt of our teasing.

In fact, even when he’s not at the lake, we make it our mission to bother him. When he went off to college two years ago, he made the grave mistake of posting his school address on Facebook with the command, “Use it.” Nick took those instructions to heart, and a couple of months later, Andrew found himself the newest subscriber to Cat Fancy magazine. Nothing makes a freshman guy more attractive than arriving to his dorm with a glossy photo of a silky Persian tucked under his arm.

Andrew’s generally a good sport about this (even when we’re calling out “Good night! Love you, man!” to him from the porch while he’s down on the beach chilling with his buddies), giving back as good as he gets. A lot of the ribbing he’s received this summer has revolved around his apparently never-ending social engagements, especially those where potentially date-able girls are involved.

Hence, when we went out to a restaurant the other night, we spent a good portion of the meal giving Andrew a hard time about the friends he’d be seeing later that night. As we were in the restaurant parking lot, the following conversation ensued:
(Warning: Aunt Lisa, EARMUFFS [double warning: the earmuffs link is NSFW])

Nick: So, going somewhere with your little buddies tonight?

Andrew: Enough with the ‘little buddies,’ dude.

Nick: Any ladies gonna be there?

Andrew: I don’t know. Probably.

Nick: Better go get yourself some rubbers.

Andrew: SERIOUSLY, man.

Me: Really? Is that what we’re calling them now?

Nick: Yup. Big old box of Magnums.

Ella: Ohhhhh, I love Magnums!

Andrew: Uhhh… you do?

Ella: Yes! They’re delicious!

Everyone: *crickets*

Ella: Do you prefer the ones with the caramel or the chocolate inside?

Me: I cannot believe this is happening.

Ella: The caramel are my favorites.

Nick: I’m officially a terrible father.

Andrew: Pretty much.

(In case you’re unfamiliar with them, Ella was talking about Magnum Bars, the decadent ice cream on a stick, not condoms. At least, I really hope not.)

Andrew leaves the lake tomorrow, after having been here since mid-May, and the place won’t be the same without him. I’m not sure what I’m going to miss more: getting to hang out with him, or getting to give him crap about absolutely everything.

andrew slack line
Attempting to walk across his slack line at sunset.

Upon further consideration, it’s definitely the former. It’s going to suck without him here.

Plus, we can always annoy him from afar. In fact, I believe that the first issue of It’s A Rat’s World is already on its way to his mailbox.




Sugar pie, honey bunch

When my extended family visits the lake every year, everyone wants to hang out together – in part because we only see each other one week a year, and in part because we’re awesome (duh). Understandably, Ella and Annie never want to miss out on the action, and we try to include them as often as possible… But there are times when those of us over the age of 18 would like to do our own thing, where maybe we can eat meal without having to watch our language or have anyone physically adhered to the entire left side of your body while informing you that she’s changed her mind, she doesn’t like rice anymore.

Sometimes – especially when their next door best buddies are around – the girls don’t mind not being included in the grown-up fun. Other times, however, they put up a bit of a fuss. Yesterday was one of those days. It was lovely out, a perfect summer morning, and my cousins informed me that they’d like to have lunch at a restaurant that we get to by boat.

Not many complaints with this as your morning view.

The girls think that taking the boat to a restaurant is the coolest thing ever (probably because it is), and I knew that they’d be bummed to be left behind. As I explained to them that they’d be staying at the house, I played my first card: the baby. See, one of my cousins and his wife have recently had a baby boy, and when I suggested to Annie and Ella that perhaps they could “help” their great aunt, Marti (who is my aunt and also the baby’s grandma) watch their itty bitty second cousin, their faces lit up. I could tell that a bit of disappointment still lingered, however, and I wasn’t sure how to erase it.

And then it dawned on me: a junk meal contest.

Last month, when my other aunt visited the lake, she had spirited the girls away one morning and given them an “Auntie Breakfast”: leftover cake, cookies, and Diet Coke (something they are normally allowed to have, like, never). Despite the fact that their sugar high still hasn’t entirely worn off, I told the girls that perhaps they could challenge Great Aunt Marti to see if she could create a lunch that would top Great Aunt Lisa’s breakfast.


They raced toward Marti, so excited they could scarcely get the words out. “Aunt Lisa…breakfast…cookies… Mommy said…it’s a challenge…. can you… lunch…” Marti listened, looking slightly like she’d been physically attacked, and then gave them a look of supreme smugness as she said, “Girls. You are looking at the sugar queen!”

Game. On.

I briefly questioned the wisdom of allowing them to consume something that would be even junkier than cake, cookies, and Diet Coke, but then decided that a) two meals out of an otherwise healthy lifetime will barely even register, and b) it’s worth it to enjoy a lakeside lunch with my cousins and have neither child pinching her sister, playing with the gum under the table, or complaining that these chicken tenders are the wrong shape.

When we arrived home, Ella and Annie were literally jumping up and down with excitement (and sugar) to tell me what they’d eaten for “lunch”: chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon bears, ice cream, Diet Coke, and loads of chips with Heluva Good dip. This exceeded even my highest expectations, and Marti was declared the unanimous winner (which is slightly terrifying because it means that Lisa will undoubtedly feel the need to reclaim the title next summer).

After a relatively relaxing afternoon, the girls came down from their sugar rush, fell asleep quickly, and actually slept in later this morning than they have in quite a while. When they learned that Nick and I would be working at the PGA today, they were initially bummed that they would, again, be left behind… Until they discovered that they’d be with
Great Aunt Marti all day long.

Suddenly, they seemed very eager to get us out the door.
I can’t imagine why.