Another Visit to the Zoo

Apparently the zoo is the only place we ever go that is blog worthy. The reality is, it is usually the only time I take photos of the kids unless they are modeling some sewing project for me. So here are the photos of our visit to the zoo this week:

The zoo is currently under construction while they put in the "African Savanna" that opens next year. They tore out the train, the playground, and the Utah section in the center of the zoo to make way for the new stuff.

Luckily, they recently opened a little play area near the new Rocky Shores area. It includes a big slide, a shipwreck, and a splash area. My kids loved the slide and Violet insisted on driving the ship and singing her pirate princess song.

I am not sure we have ever actually seen the otters at the zoo because they seem to like to hang out away from the windows. Luckily there is an otter statue nearby that is almost as good.

We had a fun carousel ride with no drama now that Eddie is brave enough to ride an actual animal. Naturally, he chose the giant preying mantis. I tried to convince him to ride something else, but he was determined. That left Violet with either a bear or a turkey. Luckily she was okay with letting me choose. I really didn't want to stand between a giant bug and a giant ugly turkey for the whole ride.

A classic photo opportunity on the tiger statues. And yes, Violet is wearing a leash. We braved the zoo without a stroller for the first time. I don't think that all three of us would've survived the trip without the help of the puppy "pack pack" as Violet calls it. Without it, Violet probably would've moved in with the orangutans.


Our Fun Week

Even though we seem to have given up on our blog, I thought I'd post some of the cute pictures I've taken of the kids this week. 

On Saturday, Dave was not feeling well, so I decided to get the kids out of the house for a couple of hours. Luckily, my mom was able to go with us so we went to the zoo. It was a perfect zoo day since it was overcast and breezy. 

Eddie's first ride on a moving animal (a bison) on the carousel.
Violet rode the baboon. Notice she is wearing a leash. Yep, I am one of those moms.
It was so nice to have my mom there to help out with the kids. Our previous zoo trip ended with me telling Eddie "this is why we don't do fun things!" Having another adult and a leash for Violet made a huge difference. Violet has become quite the escape artist and she runs pretty fast.

On Monday, our friends Alicia & Tyler invited us to see Despicable Me 2 with them. We had never taken Violet to the movie theater, but figured now was as good a time as any. So we went. A little bit of popcorn kept Violet in her seat through the entire movie. We were very impressed with her.

I held her for the last 15 minutes or so, thinking she would fall asleep on me. But who can sleep when they still have popcorn to eat?!
Dave had the kiddos pose by the movie poster. Eddie is practicing for when he works on The Price Is Right. Violet was trying to finish her popcorn.
 The past two days have been ridiculous for us. The kids have been driving me absolutely crazy. So I decided we needed to do something fun this morning to use up some of their energy. I had planned to go to the Daybreak splash pool, but since there were dark clouds, I was afraid we'd get there and they'd close it. So instead, we found a free splash park in Riverton and had a blast despite the dark clouds.

I'm glad I was not on the receiving end of this...
 Violet wasn't quite as keen on the water as Eddie was. In her defense, it was pretty cold water. I convinced her to run through the tunnel once and as soon as she got through it, she said "Okay, let's go home."

Violet spent most of her time climbing this, then sliding down over and over and over.  
"I'm a pirate princess..."


Easter 2013

We took an overdue trip to Logan to celebrate Easter with my family. On Friday night Kristen and I crashed our sister-in-law Kirsten's birthday dinner at Savannah's BBQ. Let's just say things got a little messy trying to figure out their unconventional BBQ sauce bottles.

On Saturday morning the little monkeys got to exploring the big trees in Grandma's yard. For lunch we drove up to the New York Deli in Preston, then stopped at the Pepperidge Farm outlet on the way back. We were surprised to run into our pals the Carters.

  After lunch we went to USU campus to take some photos of the kiddos. Let's just say they were less than cooperative. This shot was the closest thing to the both of them sitting and smiling together. Meanwhile I ended up with plenty of outtakes.

  I think we can slap this on some Utah State promotional materials.

 Everybody loves the arm sculpture outside the TSC.

All the cousins at Grandma's house after Easter dinner on Saturday night.

Back at home on Sunday, Violet was just as cooperative with photo-ops.

Eddie was happy to pose with a prize from Easter egg hunting while Violet was composing herself.

Once Violet got a chocolate egg in her tummy, and was freed from the constraints of sitting still, she proved much more photogenic.


My New Venture

I know all our loyal readers have been anxious to find out what we have been up to that has been keeping us from posting for the last two months. I am happy to break the silence with a mash-up of our lives since January.

In February, we got hair cuts. We went to the zoo. We celebrated Valentine's Day. We worked out. Nothing terribly exciting there.

March has proved a bit more eventful for the Barton household. On March 8, I took Eddie to visit Kitty City at the Utah Humane Society. He doesn't care for dogs, so I had my reservations about taking him. He insisted that he likes cats and he stuck to that. We had a fun hour getting to know the cats before my stomach started to ache.

I convinced Eddie that we should go since we were supposed to go grocery shopping on our way home. By the time we got on I-15, I decided we were not going to stop because I was not feeling well at all. Twenty minutes later, we were home and I immediately went to lie in bed. It wasn't long before I yelled for Dave to consult about my condition. My entire lower abdomen throbbed with a sharp pain that nothing seemed to help. Dave called the doctor, gave me a blessing, arranged a last minute babysitter, and took me to the E.R. Of course, after hobbling into the hospital doubled over in pain and writhing around while getting checked in, the pain stopped as soon as they took me back. After various tests over the next two hours, the doctor said he was fairly certain that I had a kidney stone. It was small enough not to show up on the ultrasound, but all other signs pointed toward it. I think it must've passed while I was at the hospital because I haven't had any problems since then.

After that excitement, we eventually got our lives back in order and I got to work on my newest venture: an Etsy shop. I made a wreath for our front door and enjoyed it so much that I decided to try making and selling them. I spent some time building up my inventory and converting our storage closet into a craft space. And then today, I opened my shop. So far I have listed mostly wreaths, but I am also working on an idea that I call "Stitched Lit." This combines two of my favorite things: literature and sewing! I have high hopes that there are other people out there who love the same things I do. My shop, Hot Commodity Home Decor, is linked on the side bar of this blog, so check it out! And if you decide to buy something, use coupon code "blogfollower" to get 5% off your purchase.


Violet's Birthday Bash

Violet's little birthday party was a success. A few people had to miss it due to the stomach flu, but we're very grateful they kept their germs away.

First we sang and let Violet blow out the candles. Well, we tried to let Violet blow out the candles, but there were at least four other children trying to help. I had to keep relighting them just to get us through the song.

The cake was tasty, but the kids couldn't be bothered with it for long. All of the children abandoned their food after about 5 minutes... all except for Violet. She liked it enough to sit quietly and eat it until we made her stop so we could do presents.

Violet got a lot of nice gifts. My parents sent her a helmet, some Minnie Mouse toys, and this dress, which she was excited about.

She also got a Dora DVD, a book, and more Minnie Mouse toys (you can never have too many of those, right?). Her gifts from Dave and I were clothes, a mixer to go with her play kitchen, and a scooter. The scooter was a big hit. While the other kids played upstairs, Violet stayed down with the adults and tried out her new scooter. This morning, I brought Eddie's scooter in (which he got for Christmas), so they could ride together.

All in all, it was a very nice birthday for Violet and we are grateful for everyone who helped us celebrate.


Violet is Two!

Today is Violet's 2nd birthday! In honor of her birthday, we are having a party for her tonight. I got tired of nagging Dave to design an invitation, so I did it myself. I am pretty proud of my Photoshopping skills.

Obviously, we decided to go with a Winnie the Pooh theme. Violet loves "Winnie Pooh" and watches it nearly every day. She also sleeps with her stuffed Pooh every night. To help give Pooh some time off (for a thorough cleaning, maybe), Eddie decided to give Violet an Eeyore. Soon after receiving it, she told me "Want Raddit." Unfortunately I think that Rabbit is such an unpopular character that they don't make Rabbit toys.

Grandma and Grandpa Barton came to visit on Saturday and brought Violet a new blanket. It was the perfect gift because it had kitties on it and Violet's favorite game to play is pretending to sleep. She is always climbing into someone's bed. As soon as she got her new blanket, she laid on the floor, pulled it up, and said "I seepy." Of course, she doesn't actually go to sleep when she does this. Because that would be awesome if she did.

Some of Violet's other favorite things to do these days are playing catch, hopping around pretending to be a frog ("riggit! riggit!"), and having dance parties. She also loves to draw and can be occupied for quite a while with just a pencil and a blank sheet of paper until she has filled the entire thing with tiny squiggles. She loves animals and babies and Cub Scouts and Eddie.

Violet makes us laugh every day with her silly personality. She can count ("one, two, blast off!"), knows the letters W and E, knows how to use the iPad, and is an exceptional snuggler. Also, thanks to her recent interest in Princess movies, she has learned how to give passionate kisses and occasionally tries them out on Dave and I (which is a little creepy). She also knows quite a few songs and will randomly sing nursery songs, Christmas songs, princess songs, or Winnie the Pooh songs.

As for the birthday cake, I am quite proud of it. I spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking at different ideas and melded several together to create this:

The cake itself is a checkerboard cake with funfetti and pink raspberry cake. Unfortunately the cakes stuck in the pans so the cake is sinking a bit in the center. For the frosting, I had Dave sketch Pooh on top with a toothpick, then I made the rest up as I went. I found pre-made frosting bees which worked great and added a few pre-made frosting flowers. I think it turned out pretty great, but the true test will be when Violet sees it this evening.


December So Far

So far this month, we have done a few fun things. We started off the month with a visit to the Festival of Trees. Our kids liked it for about a half hour before Eddie got tired of walking and laid down on the floor. I had just given the kids some new Christmas pajamas that morning and Eddie insisted on wearing his all day long. We allowed it because the sight of Eddie in his Santa jammies never failed to make us laugh. Here he is posing with Jack & Sally at the Festival:

Who ever heard of a skinny Santa?
We have yet to get a decent photo of Violet in her elf pajamas. But here she is the next morning, doing her new favorite thing: removing all the ornaments from the tree, adding toys in, then rubbing her bare belly up against the branches.

Who needs pants when you've got killer boots?
Last weekend, we went downtown to visit Temple Square and City Creek. We had a delicious, but ridiculous dinner at the Blue Lemon (eating with our children is always ridiculous). Eddie's favorite part of our visits to Temple Square is the bell by the assembly hall. He talks about that bell all year long. So after we saw the bell, we visited The Christus, then walked over to see the reflecting pool. We tried to get Eddie to smile a normal smile and he insisted that this was a normal smile:

Violet enjoyed seeing the trees all lit up and she really liked the statue of Jesus. She really wanted us to let her get in the fountains and refused to keep her gloves on.

We made it back to City Creek in time for the fountain show. Every hour, they have a choreographed fountain show that plays along with some Christmas music. A couple of times each evening, they have a medley where you get to see all three shows in a row. This was Eddie's favorite part.

Yes, that is fire in the fountain.
The next day, we went to meet Santa at the Sorensen Home Museum in Draper. I had never been to the museum before, but read that it's not terribly crowded so you don't have to wait long to see Santa. We only waited about 15 minutes. This is the first year that Eddie agreed to sit on Santa's lap. Violet, on the other hand, was not too happy about it. As you can see, she spent the entire time on Santa's lap gearing up for a huge scream. I don't think she breathed the whole time.

I am fairly confident that this is the real Santa. Look at that beard!


Christmas Countdown

Now that Eddie is old enough to properly anticipate Christmas, but not old enough to understand how long it is until Christmas is actually here, I decided it would be best to do a more extensive Christmas countdown. Last year, we did a book advent, where we unwrapped a different Christmas story each night leading up to reading the story of Christ's birth from Luke 2 on Christmas Eve.

This year, I intend to do the same thing, though I have extended it to include 24 books in all, one for every day leading up to Christmas. We will start on Saturday, the 1st. Last year I bought several Christmas books, but most of them are borrowed from the library. If you do this, just make sure that you plan the books to be opened before they need to be returned. Here is a list of the books we'll be reading this year, in the order we will open them:

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert E. Barry
The First Night by Barbara G. Hennessy
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
Olive, The Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh
Russell's Christmas Magic by Rob Scotton
Elton the Elf by Lisa Mallen
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff
Here Comes Santa Claus by Gene Autry
Sad Santa by Tad Carpenter
The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia M. Scarry
Oh, What a Christmas by Michael Garland
Sharing Christmas by Kate Westerlund
The Great Reindeer Rebellion by Lisa Trumbauer
Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki
Together at Christmas by Eileen Spinelli
Mickey's Christmas Carol
Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini
The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Beuhner
Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

I tried to coordinate some of the books with some of the holiday activities we have planned. For example, on the day we plan to go to the Festival of Trees, we will read Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree and on the day we visit Temple Square, we will read Santa's Favorite Story (which is about Santa telling the Nativity story).

That brings me to the other Christmas countdown activities we plan to do. I made a list of various holiday events going on in the Salt Lake area, then put them all in a calendar so that we have at least one holiday thing to do each day during December. Some of the things we plan to do are going to holiday story times at nearby libraries, making cookies, watching classic Christmas movies when they are on TV, family game night, seeing the elves at Gardner Village, meeting Santa, taking a drive to see Christmas lights, etc. The point is that we don't spend so much time irritating each other in the house, but we plan outings in advance to (hopefully) reduce the stress such things involve for me.

I am excited for December so that we can get started. Leave comments telling me what you do to countdown to Christmas with your kids.


The Great Northwest, Pt. 2

Since I had to stick pretty closely to Portland to be available for my various press checks thoughout the week, Kristen and I spent quite a bit of time wandering in various parts of the city, checking out quirky little shops, art galleries, etc.

Hmm, I wonder what this place sells. 

This doorway on Mississippi Avenue caught my eye, not long before we filled our bellies with heavenly ice cream sandwiches at Ruby Jewel.

Kristen visited the International Rose Test Garden while I was working, though I was able to meet her there when I was finished. It wasn't peak rose season or anything, but still a pleasant place to visit.

I had seen the food cart, Big-A** Sandwiches, featured on Adam Richman's show Best Sandwich in America, so we decided to check it out one day for lunch. Their namesake features roast beef, french fries, and melted cheese (plus a little horseradish) piled high on a ciabatta roll. Kristen and I split one so we wouldn't have to locate a "Portland Loo" nearby.

On one of my free afternoons, we drove to Sauvie Island along the Columbia River. It was interesting how after venturing just a half hour north of Portland, all the quirkiness and snark of the city all but vanished. We enjoyed the scenic drive past pumpkin patches, orchards, and wide open spaces, then stopped at a farmer market to chomp on corn on the cob and handpick some apples.

After my last morning working, we drove out to the coast. Our first stop was Newport, where we dined on fresh seafood before visiting the Yaquina Bay lighthouse. We were also sorely disappointed to learn that Newport's "Deco District" consisted of a mere two buildings.

A little ways up the coast, we also check out the Yaquina Head lighthouse. I really thought it would be bigger.

Another cool stairwell for your viewing pleasure. It was either this or a photo of the volunteer in the old timey maritime garb. But he was much too busy chatting us up about the thickness of the window wells.

We stopped for the night in Lincoln City, highlighted by a chilly stroll along the beach at dusk. We got back to Portland the next morning just in time to spend 10 whole minutes at the famous Saturday Market before going to the airport to catch our flight home.


The Great Northwest, Pt. 1

Kristen has been planning another trip to Oregon ever since we went last year. She was disappointed she didn't get to tag along with me in the spring, but when I had another press check scheduled this fall, she wasn't about to let another opportunity pass by.

Upon arrival in Portland, we visited “The Grotto” aka The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, a large botanical garden and Catholic shrine.

After lunch we drove up to Mt. St. Helens. Our first stop was the Ape Caves, the longest lava tube in the country.

We did bring one head lamp with us, but it wasn't really sufficient to light the complete blackness of the caves. And unfortunately the visitor center had just closed for the season, so we couldn't rent any additional lights. Thus we didn't make it too far in before turning back.

Next we checked out the Trail of Two Forests, a 1/4 mile loop of hardened lava formations and hollow trunk-shaped holes in the ground.

We attempted to keep driving up to a scenic lookout to actually see Mt. St. Helens, but the snow was really starting to accumulate on the road so we decided to turn around (best not to run our rental car off the road). It was foggy and rainy enough that I'm not sure we could have gotten a clear look at the mountain anyway. Maybe next time.

As we drove back towards Portland I spotted a collection gnarled tree trunks on the edge of a lake.

We had to stop because, well, I have an unnatural affection for such things.

Breakfast the next morning was provided by the Waffle Window. While we were waiting for our food, I photographed the nearby Bagdad Theatre. It seems great old theaters like this are on practically every corner in Portland.

I instructed Kristen to act casual for this cafe shot. If you look closely, you can see her mentally rolling her eyes.

Kristen's waffle was topped with banana, caramel sauce, whipped cream, and granola. Mine featured bacon, bree, basil, and peach jam. Delicious.

To be continued...