Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chewie, Gooey, Ghoulsy, Cutesy (and we survived it all)

Well, another Halloween has come and gone, and I'm happy to report we have survived yet again.  I'll admit, things weren't quite as put together this year as they've been in years past.  I don't know, maybe it was having two kids in fall sports, maybe it was Duke's travel schedule, maybe I'm just getting old and tired.  But in the end, the kids had fun and that's pretty much all that counts, right?

A good portion of the week leading up to Halloween was spent baking cookies:  4 dozen undecorated cookies for Delila's party at Infinite Bounds; and 4 dozen decorated cookies for Jake's soccer team.  The kids love helping make cookies, so I thought it would be a fun thing to do together.  Two failed batches and a very messy kitchen later, I realized the error of my ways.  So...I turned them loose with their own cookie and some decorating supplies.  I'm brilliant like that!

Good, not-so-clean fun in the making!

 Seriously, can you ever have too much goopy green frosting?

I mean, how else will you get all the sprinkles to stick?  Hmmm, it still needs a little...something.

Oh!  I know!  A little black frosting!!  Perfect!!

Now for the real dilemma:  where to start....

Oh yeah!  Right here!!

We don't worry if things get a little drippy...

...because it's finger-lickin' good!

The frightful festivities were in full swing by Friday night.  We had tickets to the Dallas Mavericks' basketball game.  Kids were encouraged to dress up and were rewarded with all kinds of goodies prior to tip-off. 

Delila's decision to dress as a "magical pink unicorn" worked to our favor. She stole the show and got the whole family moved down to courtside seats. And of course, the Maverick's mascot, Champ had to stop by to see who was stealing all his thunder. Yes, our little lady made it on the Jumbotron that night.

Jake originally wanted to be a penguin for Halloween - probably because we had so much fun watching them on our trip to the Baltimore and Dallas World Aquariums this summer.  But since I wasn't up to figuring out how to make a penguin costume that he could easily walk the neighborhood in, he figured dressing up as a Zombie Football Player was good enough for him.  Let's face it, if it has anything at all to do with football, it's pretty much OK with Jake.

He was looking pretty scary once the makeup was complete.

Here he is, a Zombie Dallas Cowboy rising from the grave.  Hmmm...maybe that's the problem with the Cowboys this year...zombies.  (Oh, and don't worry.  Jake's not rooting for the Cowboys.  His heart still belongs to Pittsburgh.)

Although Halloween was on a school night this year, we stuck to our tradition of gathering with a handful of neighborhood friends to snack and get dressed.

Here's Lila, suiting up under the careful supervision of Katie the Terminally Cute Witch.
Yep, I'm pretty sure that tail belongs on the back.

Hats on!

And the BFFs are ready to go!!  (That's Best Friends Forever, for our non-texting readers - you know who you are.)

And they're off!  Trick or treat!!

As is also the tradition, good friend Karen helped me hold down the fort and dole out treats.  It was a great time.  The only thing that will 'haunt' me - other than Jake's peeling face, of course - is that I didn't get a group picture.  We were pretty disorganized, and it makes me sad that that moment's gone forever.  But that's the only real regret.  The week was a hectic good time.  Fun was had and the treats were plentiful.  In the end, the kids were home in time for baths and went to bed dreaming and scheming of Halloweens to come.  Of course, I'll be having nightmares about the ghoulish mess I have to clean up tomorrow.  But it was a good time and we all survived...and that's all that really matters.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Texas State Fair

In Dallas, this time of year isn't short of excitement.  The weather turns!  No more 100 degree days.  Well ok, maybe we still get close to that mark during the day, but at least the nights cool off.  Football! Professional.  College.  High School.  And at our house, the best kind of football, Front Yard Football!!  This time of year also brings the Texas State Fair!  And this is Texas we're talking about folks, so it doesn't get any bigger and better than this!

We love the fair. So what if it means dropping hundreds for dollars on bad beer, food that'll kill ya and cheesy rides for the kiddos.  It's my favorite voluntary tax.  This year, like most recent years, we were graced with Mimi and Bubba's company.  We also met up with our dear friends the Pittmans.  And like every year, we had a great time.  The weather was the best it's ever been - mid 70s with a slight breeze.  We got there minutes after they opened the gates and stayed until we'd had all the fun we could have.

Jake got to toss the football a few times.

It was almost like he was a real professional football player!!

Duke was feelin' it too!

 Lila & Jake had a front row seat for the bird show. 

The birds were flying pretty much straight at them, but our little photographers didn't even flinch.

 The Owl wasn't too sure about all those kids being so up close and personal...

...but the Raven didn't care, probably because he charges for his time.
The car show at the Fair is huge, and it's always a lot of fun.  Jake took his girl Keily for a test ride in the new Bitchin' Camero.

Lila chose her cars to match her hair...

...and her outfit.

Of course, we had to take a few minutes out to ogle the new Super Sonic Blue Corvette...since that's what Mimi & Bubba are cruising around in these days.

We always have a good time at the car show, but hanging off the back bumper of a real live Monster Truck was an added bonus this year.  Talk about your Texas-size truck!!

Of course we did our fair share of eating while we were there.  The Tornado Taters were yummy.  The Sweet Tornado Taters - made out of sweet potatoes and drizzled with a marshmallow sauce - were even yummier.

Every year, I dutifully try the Official Food of the Fair.  Last year, as you may recall, it was Chicken Fried Bacon.  It was OK.  This year's "Official Food" was fried Frito pie, and it gets an enthusiastic and artery clogging thumbs up from me!  Just what is Frito Pie?  And how does something become an "Official Food" of the Texas State Fair.  Let's start with the Official Food thing.  Every year, there's a big contest to determine which over-the-top fried food will be the Official Food of the Fair.  This year's winner was Fried Frito Pie.  Which brings us to the second questions, what is Frito Pie?

Well, typically it's a scoop of chili served on a bed of Fritos and garnished with grated cheese, sour cream & onions (if you're into onions).  It's hands-down one of my favorite things to eat at the fair.  Fried Frito Pie is a Frito scoop, filled with chili and cheese, battered and deep fried, and served with sour cream and salsa.  And it was mmmm, MMMMM, GOOD!  Much better than last year's chicken fried bacon.  (Though Cenz and I both agreed it could be improved upon by using a cornbread batter.)

Jake preferred the ice cream.

We added a little extra excitement to our Fair experience this year by letting the kiddos take a gondola ride across the themselves.  Yeah, I know...YIKES!!! It was supposed to work like this:  Colin (who's 12), Keily, Jake & Delila would get in the gondola.  Duke & Bob - who had a bit of a head start - would hustle through the midway (what Texans call the area with all the rides), and be waiting to meet the kids when they disembarked.  That's how it was supposed to work. didn't work quite that way.  The guys took their lead, but the gondola moved much faster than we expected it too.  Cenz & I couldn't reach the Dads on their phones, so we took off with the speed and craziness capable only from two moms who've realized what a colossally stupid idea the whole thing was.  In the end, everything was fine.  The Moms made it to the other end before the Dads did.  The kids were safely corralled by the Big Kid and were patiently waiting for us. The Moms were mad at the Dads.  The Dads didn't think they did anything wrong.  The kids didn't understand what all the fuss was about, and just wanted to know when we'd all be done yelling at each other so they could ride some rides.  Whew!  All's well that ends well.

Our first stop was a crazy twisting turning beast of a roller coaster.  Jake did not want to go.  Delila did.  Jake was big enough.  Delila wasn't.  So Jake went.  Lila was dragged off kicking and screaming.  The ride was crazy and scary and nobody had a good time -- especially poor Jake, who didin't even want to go in the first place.  After that horrible decision, we decided to stick to things a little more age appropriate.

Delila, still feeling a little robbed because she'd been kicked off the big kid coaster, insisted on taking a solo ride on her own roller coaster.

It was just what the doctor ordered.  She had a blast! 

Jake redeemed his midway experience on the pint sized monster trucks.

 At the end of the day, everyone agreed that we had a great time and can't wait to do it again next year.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Jake Games - The Rest of the Story, The Rest of the Cupcakes, The Rest...Ahhhhh

OK.  Last birthday post.  I least until December when it's Delila's turn.  So, Jake's actual 'birthday party' took place on Friday, October 1st.  As you may recall from this post, we decided to go with a home party this year.  The guest list quickly ballooned. We panicked a little. We regrouped.  And we survived -- and even had some fun along the way.

At the final count, 27 kids showed up ready to party.  Fortunately for us, Mother Nature showed not just mercy, but extreme favor by providing us with an absolutely gorgeous evening for an outdoor party.  The only reason anyone needed to set foot inside the house was to use 'the facilities'.  All the fun, food and games took place in the front yard.  While we waited for all the guests to arrive, the kiddos entertained themselves on the seemingly endless supply of ride-on toys & sporting goods that have amassed in our garage since we moved in four years ago.  (Where on earth did all this stuff come from?!)  Duke had everything all set up in the driveway and the kids needed no coaxing to help themselves to the fun.  It was a little surprising when the sprinklers went off.  The kids found it hysterical and didn't seem to mind getting a little wet - especially since we'd prepared them in advance for a little messy fun.  We thought it was pretty funny too...until we couldn't manage to get the sprinklers to stay turned off.  Duke made sure the switch was in the off position, but 60 seconds later they were on again!  It happened a couple of times, and each instance was greeted with squeals of delight from the kids.  We're increasingly convinced that there are gremlins living in our garage.  Not only do the sprinklers turn on a will, our garage door seems to have a mind of it's own as well.  Very strange.

After all the guests arrived, the Garage Cafe opened for business.  The juice was flowing and the pizza was plentiful.  Maybe a little too plentiful.  **Note to self:  31 kids & a handful of parents will not eat 16 large pizzas.  **Another note to self:  No man, woman, child, nor combination of all three can live on pizza leftovers for more than 3 days without swearing off pizza for a long, LONG time.

After the kids were fueled up on pizza, it was time for The Jake Games to begin.  This was Duke's part of the party.  We divided the kiddos up into teams and then set them up with a series of sports challenges, including:  hockey, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, football (of course), and a relay race.  

The kids did great!  They followed the directions and worked together pretty well on their randomly generated teams.  I also have to give a shout out to the parents who helped keep the games moving along.  It would have been utter chaos without them. 

After the games were complete, it was time for another rousing rendition of that classic kid favorite, the Happy Birthday song!

Then the wish was made, the candles were blown out, and the kids dove in and devoured most of the 61 cupcakes I painstakingly baked and decorated.  I'd say that part took about...oh...60 seconds, maybe.

And then...the moment everyone had been waiting for.  The big finale.  The water balloon fight!!

Oh yes!  It was wet!  It was crazy!  Not everyone enjoyed it to its full potential (Delila).  But it was good clean fun.  And Mimi & Bubba get the credit for it.  They're the ones who spent the entire afternoon filling ~200 balloons...and popping a few too.  Poor Mimi got quite wet in the process, and I'm sure Bubba's hands cramp up just thinking about the experience - but they were really good sports about it, and it was without a doubt, the pinnacle of the party.  Well...

...Jake might argue that point a little.  After all, he's the kid that got to open all the presents.  That part was pretty fun too.

And that's it.  There is no least not until next year.  Will there be a 2nd annual Jake Games?  I don't know.  This years games were pretty fun.  Maybe after a year's rest....