Monday, May 30, 2011

May Showers

If April showers bring May flowers, then what do May showers bring?  Well, in our school district they brought inspiration for the Vocabulary Parade!!  So what's a Vocabulary Parade, you ask?  It's an event where you dress up as a vocabulary word and parade around the school for all the parents and teachers to see.  We decided to team up on this project with Best Buddy Andrew.  By "we", I mean Andrew's mom Brandy & I thought it would be a great idea if the boys coordinated their costumes.  It was a great idea.  Really.  You know, they could go as Hot and Cold.  Or Sunny and Cloudy -- that way when they were together they would be partly cloudy.  Get it?  Partly Cloudy?  How clever is that?!

Anyway, our brilliant idea of working together really didn't turn out so brilliantly.  The boys' great ideas didn't synch up with the Moms' great ideas.  Jake wanted to be a cat and Andrew wanted to be a dog.  We managed to talk them into being "Raining Cats & Dogs", and while it wasn't exactly a single vocabulary word, it did manage to use 3 words from their list.  So, with the decision made, we rummaged through drawers and closets, hit up a couple of stores and ended up with exactly what we needed to transform our boys.

We taped some tinsel-y rain to black umbrellas, strung up a bunch of cats and dogs, and stuck on some foamy letters so there would be no doubt as to what the get up was representing.  And while the boys were more interested in having "predator showdowns" between the cats and the dogs...

...they seemed pretty pleased with their finished products.

And on the day of the parade, the weather cooperated perfectly.  It rained cats and dogs!  There was no partly cloudy to this day.  It was all rain, wind...and a few tornado warnings -- which, of course meant another camp out in the closet at our house.  But that's springtime in Texas for ya -- and another story for another time.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gimme A Break!!

Since becoming parents, Duke & I haven't spent much time away from the kids.  Sure, Duke hits the road for business, but that's not really a break.  Every now & then, Duke'll take the kids so I get a chance to catch up on things around the house, but that's not much of a break either.  And after 6 1/2 years...well, it was time for a break for both of us.  And boy oh boy, did we get a break!  Where'd we go?

Luzern Switzerland!

Six days of sweet freedom.  Free from housework, yard work, sports schedules, etc.  Six beautiful kid-free days.  So what if the first day was spent traveling and the 2nd day was spent working out the jet lag.

My folks deserve the credit for our fantastic get-away.  We contacted them earlier this year to see if they'd be interested in hanging out with the kiddos so we could jet off across the Atlantic for a friend's wedding.  They answered YES without hesitation.  Brave?  Stupid?  Naive?  I'll go with brave -- although I'm not sure they knew what they were signing up for.

In the days before kids (BK), Duke and I really enjoyed traveling in style.  But these days, our kids have relegated us to 2nd-class everything.  Let's face it, things like sports and family vacations burn through that disposable income pretty quickly.  But so what if we were flying coach -- we were getting away from it all!  Who cares if we didn't have seat back TVs.  We had movies to watch on Duke's computer.

But in 2nd class, you can't always believe what they tell you -- like that there's an electrical outlet under your seat.  Well, there wasn't.  Oh well, no big deal.  The row in front of us had one of these friendly little signs too.  Too bad we couldn't get that outlet to work.  When we asked the flight attendant about it, she informed us that the outlets in coach had been disabled.  Disabled!  Talk about feeling 2nd class!  Whatever.  That wasn't going to ruin our good time.  Good thing we brought these:

Now all we needed was a little bubbly to make this really feel like the BK days!  So what if it would be horrible and so what if we had to pay too much for it.  We were on a break and we were going to make the most of it!

Oh yeah!  Now we were feeling 1st class!!  Just look at that cute little bottle  Hmmm...never heard of it.

You gotta give 'em credit for trying to make it look real like the real deal.

Twist cap "champagne".  Mmmmm, good!

It went perfect with the fine plasticware and gourmet snack mix.  The real problem arose when we tried to indulge in another tiny bottle.  Apparently, American Airlines doesn't think more than two people flying coach from New York to Zurich will want to drink sparkling wine.  We expressed our amazement and disappointment to the flight attendants.  OK, so we whined a little and spun a sad tale about how our first child-free vacation in six years was really getting off to a rotten start.  Oh, and then Duke flashed some of those American Airlines Your-So-Special coupon thingys around.  Before you could spell  N O   F A I R, our flight attendant friends disappeared and reappeared with this...

A bottle of Pommery and two plastic wine glasses -- in a plastic bag full of ice to keep it nicely chilled.  WoooHOOO!  We were traveling 1st class after all!

We arrived in Luzern on a beautiful morning.  We had a couple of brutal hours to kill before our room was ready.  We wanted to catch a nap because we had big plans that night - our traditional fajita dinner at our friend Happy's house.  Every time we come for a visit we spend one night mixing margaritas and grilling up TexMex.  It can be a challenge finding the ingredients.  Last time we tried to buy meat for fajitas, the butcher told us the cut we were asking for was only good for the trash. Seriously!  So, this time we smuggled in our own meat.  We brought our own tortillas too.  Fortunately we didn't get caught.  Apparently the contraband-sniffing dogs at the Zurich airport have no palette for American beef.

This fajita tradition spans decades and numerous places of residence.  By my calculations, we've prepared this meal 5 times and in 4 different kitchens in the last 18 years.  Happy and family had another new home to show off this year, and what a beautiful new home it is.  Check out that view!

As is always the case at these affairs, we enjoyed the company of old friends and made the acquaintance of new friends.

The next day we took the morning at a leisurely pace.  Once we got up, fed and out, we decided to do something we'd never done before.  We hiked up to the Musegg Wall - the ramparts of Luzern.  Built in the 1300s, the wall and towers are still in really good shape and three of them are open to the public.

There was a meeting of some kind being held in this tower (the Nolli Tower) the morning of our walk - it was full of men in business suits.

We trekked through the fields to the next tower known as the "Little Man" tower.  It's 108' tall and I'll tell you what, after climbing to the top I felt like I needed to plant a flag on the turret just like the little man on the turret.

The steps leading up to the tops of the towers are more like ladders than actual staircases.  And at the very top, the steps are actually made out of stone.  They're about 8" deep and 18" tall.  Apparently, the ancient Swiss had very long legs...and very small feet.  The next day we came back to the wall again, but this time we ran it -- including all those crazy stairs.  It was a great workout to say the least - and an excellent way to get in top form for the afternoon's Wedding activities. 

Oh, and climbing the towers was also a great way to take in the incredible view across the lake.

Later that afternoon the wedding of friends, Patrick and Sondra, took place in the courthouse in the center of town.  The building is only open for weddings on Friday afternoons.  So, a Friday afternoon wedding it was.  There was lots of laughter and an exchange of what we thought were credit cards, but turned out to be identification cards.  Of course, everything was in German, so we really had no idea what was going on.  But everyone seemed to be having a great time.  After the formalities, there was champagne, light snacks, and...

a tour bus?!?  Only for our crazy friends.  Seriously, I don't think it's ever been done before in the old part of Luzern -- which is strictly  pedestrian. 

Of course, we had a police escort to make sure things didn't get out of hand.

After about a 30 minute bus ride, we arrived at the destination for the evening festivities.  The Vitznauer-Hof - a charming hotel on the banks of the lake.

 Of course we had a room with a view.

Even the lawnmower was cool.  And yes, that's a "roomba" style mower.  It just puts around the garden mowing the lawn completely unsupervised.  Kinda like a goat, but not quite as messy or cantankerous.  Those Swiss.  What will they think of next.  (Oh, and by the way, Friend Happy has one of these to keep her incredible lawn looking perfectly manicured.)

That evening, a very nice dinner was served in a private dining room.  Again, the weather was absolutely perfect -- as was the food and the guest list.

The next day got off to a leisurely start...until a boat arrived carrying +100 of Patrick's & Sondra's closest friends.
Hey!  We know those people!

The band played...

The pretty little Swiss girls danced & sang...

The crazy Swiss boys...well, I'm not really sure what was going on here.  What I do know is that everyone was having a great time.

And then it was time for everyone to get back on board the party boat to Luzern.  That's not to say the party was over...

Not by a looooong shot.  There was still a very large bottle of champagne to drink on the roof-top terrace of the Monopol.

I believe the bottle was actually a gift to Patrick and Sondra and served as a very nice Wedding souvenir which will add ambiance to Bar 58 (the bar Patrick and Sondra own and operate.)

So that brings us to Sunday -- the last full day of our break.  As another beautiful day dawned over Luzern, we were discouraged to learn that we would not be meeting our German friends Uli & Gunter.  The original plan was to join them in Zurich for a relaxed day of kid-free fun.  But alas, a stomach bug got the best of Uli so we were left to our own devices.

Instead of going on into Zurich, we decided to spend one more day in Luzern.  We trolled around town for a while and then hit the trails and hiked up to Chateau Gutsch.  This is the small hotel where Duke & I spent our wedding night.  It's truly a charming place, but somehow cursed.  I honestly think the only time it's been open was the one night in 1992 that we stayed there.  Actually, that's not true.  It was open in '94 -- I know because we met friends there for a drink, but closed shortly there after for "renovations".  For the last 10 years or so, it's been owned by some Russians that are supposed to be working on the place.  I'm convinced it's a money laundering operation for the Russian mob.

In spite of our disappointment that the place isn't still open for business, there is a bar/snack-shop conveniently open at the end of the trail that serves cold Eichoff beer (the official beer of Canton Luzern) and sports a darn good view of Luzern & the lake.

We were also pleased to discover that the lizard population is still thriving.  We remember these little fellows well from our stay so many years ago, and we were happy to bid them "GrĂ¼ssi".  And while we probably would have been happier to spend time with our dear friends as opposed to lizards, it was pretty hard not to be happy about spending another lovely day under a beautiful cloud-free sky in one of our favorite cities in the world.  As a matter of fact, the whole trip left us feeling a this:

A BIG thanks goes out to Mimi & Bubba for keeping an eye on the kids so we could have such a fabulous break.  It was greatly appreciated.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chocolate Bunnies, Easter Eggs and...Sleeping in the Closet?!

Well, I guess I’d better get this Easter post up – before I fall too far behind again. Like every holiday in our kids’ lives, Easter was more than just a one-day event. Especially for Delila. As a “little kid”, she still gets to celebrate holidays in school. Big kids like Jake, who attend Big Kid public schools don’t get to participate in such frivolities. You know, because that would be mucking up the division of church and state thing. So, while Delila was hunting for candy-filled eggs at Infinite Bounds, Jake was sitting in computer lab. Poor Jake.

The real festivities got started bright and early Saturday morning with the neighborhood egg hunt. Once again, favor fell upon the little kids – they got to go first. Lila & Katie were ready to go when the whistle blew!

So many great eggs!

The Big Kids did their best to be patient. But let’s face it. Waiting is boring!

By the time the whistle blew for them, the boys were ready to go!

When all was said and done, our hunters were satisfied with their loot.

That wasn’t the end of the day’s festivities for Lila. She got to attend her 2nd Infinite Bounds Gymnastics Team Easter Egg-stravaganza. This is really a site to see. The girls are encouraged to wear their stretchiest leotard. Last year, we didn’t heed this advice. Lila wore her prettiest leotard, not her stretchiest one. She ended up being quite uncomfortable. Why? Well…

…because the Team egg hunt consists of running around the gym finding eggs and stuffing them into your leotard! It’s a very funny thing to watch.

After all the eggs have been found, the girls sit in a big circle, unstuff themselves and survey their bounty. It’s tons of fun.

The next morning brought goodies from the “real” Easter Bunny.

Chocolate bunnies for breakfast?

Oh yeah!

And just who’s idea do you think that was?

Then it was out to the yard to search for more goodies.

The real Easter Bunny does a much better job of hiding eggs.

Although the ants didn’t seem to have any problem finding some of the candy-filled eggs. Poor Marshmallow Peep.

Fortunately, the ants didn’t find ALL of the eggs.

Jake made sure no eggs were forgotten.

He also made sure they each got the right eggs. I have to say, my kids are pretty savvy negotiators.

After our candy-induced comas wore off, we were joined for dinner by our good friends The Pittmans. Duke made his our first ever “Beer Butt Chicken”. It was delicious! Cenz brought over a honey baked ham – which is Delila’s new favorite food. Delila! The one who won’t eat half of the things she KNOWS she likes – let alone try something new. She took one look at the ham and declared, “I want to eat some of THAT stuff.” *sigh* Four years, and I still can’t figure that girl out!

After dinner our crazy kids decided to go swimming. They didn’t care that the water was only 65 degrees! They probably would have stayed out there all night if the thunder and lightning hadn’t chased everyone inside. A huge storm whipped through and the tornado sirens started to blare. Never a good thing at our house. Jake really hates the storms, and the sirens really throw him into a panic. So, we quickly emptied the closet under our stairs and at Jake’s urging, we all huddled inside until the sirens stopped screaming.

The Pittmans made a rapid departure during a break in the weather. Our kids didn’t recover so quickly. So, we made a comfy nest in the closet, read a few stories…

…and called it quits for the day.