Saturday, June 28, 2008

Going Green...

Well, recently I've been inspired to gradually go organic. I've previously done SOME things organically, but not much. I've always been under the impression that it is too difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Just this week I've seen that it doesn't have to be that way and that it can actually be the opposite (in most areas). I don't know if anyone watches the showJon and Kate Plus's one of my faves! Anyway, I watched a rerun the other night and was inspired to start with my cleaning products. I've always been bothered by the chemicals and the affect they could have on my children (not to mention my HANDS!); however, I just didn't know that I could really find a suitable alternative that wouldn't break our budget! The other thing that always hindered me from trying anything organic in cleaning was the fact that I was convinced that organic cleaning products could NOT do a job that would live up to my criteria in cleaning. Well, I've been proven wrong on both accounts! I went and bought a few staple items that are found in most organic cleaning products to get me started and walked out with only spending 10 dollars for quantities that will last me for months! THEN I went home and tested them on my house that was in need of a GOOD cleaning! I was fascinated to find that everything worked MUCH BETTER than any commercial cleaning products I have used at the store! Since I've just begun my experimentation, I will only tell you of the few I've tried so far. First of all, our master bathtub drain has never drained well from the day we bought our house a year ago. My long hair doesn't help any either. We've tried Drano and many other commercial products to fix it but have been unsuccessful! Well, I followed the instructions I was given and sprinkled a half cup of baking soda down the drain and then little by little poured a cup of vinegar down the drain. Once the bubbling stopped, I ran hot water for a few minutes and voila! For the first time, our drain is working perfectly! I was told to do this periodically to keep the drain clear and working properly. The next thing I tried was the All-Purpose Cleaner. This is made of 2 Tbsp. vinegar, 1 tsp. Borax (found in laundry detergent aisle in powder form), 16 oz. Hot Water, a few drops of dishsoap, and 10 drops of essential oil (optional only to add scent- I actually didn't do this but may try it in the future for fun). Mix ingredients in a spray bottle and use for anything you would use 409 for. I actually used this for our bathroom floor because our tile had gotten extremely discolored due to make-up and hairspray. No other cleaners helped at all, but this recipe worked like magic! At first skeptical, even Shane had to admit that it was amazing how clean the floor became after minimal effort! Anyway, I'm so pleased with the results that I just had to share! Next on my list of recipes to try: Dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, and fabric softener. I will certainly let you know how it turns out!

New milestones...

Although smiling is not a new "trick" for Hayes, LAUGHING is! This week we were thrilled to be able to tickle a giggle out of him; and now it has become a personal goal for each of us to be the one who can get him to laugh the fastest! So far Shane is the which I insist he simply MUST be the funniest to look at! Then we have Cade who insists that Hayes does NOT find him funny, which is very interesting to me because I don't know of ONE person who DOESN'T think Cade is hilarious! (and that's without him even opening his mouth!) Anyway, it has opened a whole new level of rivalry in this house of testosterone in which EVERYTHING (and I DO mean EVERYTHING- including seeing who can pee the longest, farthest, and fastest!- and in that I exclude myself, of course!) is a competition!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Our Disney Adventure...

After months of planning and anticipation, we finally set off on our journey to Orlando and Disney World! Traveling with us were our close friends, Lee and Dawn Brown, their kids (Mylee, Landen, and Leah), and Lee's dad and step-mom. My parents were meeting us down in Orlando since they were flying in from Michigan. We were set for a great vacation! The kids had their dvd players, ear phones, and Game Boy, so entertainment was not going to be an issue (hopefully!). They did, however, begin the "Are we there yet?" almost as soon as we left the driveway, but that was to be expected.
The picture at the top is probably my favorite picture of the whole trip. Playing around with my new camera, I thoroughly enjoyed trying new settings and experimenting with different backdrops. Most of the water pictures were taken from really far away, but my telephoto lens made it possible to get right up close! My hubby is the BEST for making sure I had this camera before our trip!

On our way down to Orlando, we were able to make plans to stop in and see my dear friend JoAna, her hubby, and her daughter. Jo and I hadn't seen one another for 5 years, so this was an exciting time for the two of us! Unfortunately, I was only able to take a few pictures before my camera died, so you'll have to visit HER blog to see the rest! :) It was so nice getting to spend some time with them, and we vowed that it will not be ANOTHER 5 years before we get together again! Love you, JO!

Upon our arrival to the resort, we were pleasantly surprised by the many amenities AND our fabulous location! For one, we were on the first floor! Our back door opened to this excellent view and as you can see from the pictures, we were just a hop-skip-and-jump from the paddle and bumper boats as well as the waterpark (in the far right of the first pic)! We couldn't have asked for better! Also, the Browns were just a door away, so our kids were able to wear a path running back and forth between the two rooms! Everything was set for the perfect Disney vacation!

Having traveled for two days, we decided that it would be best to spend Monday at the resort swimming and resting up for the week. The resort had a wonderful little waterpark that was perfect for the kids! The waterslides were just big enough to give them a thrill and to keep them entertained so that the adults could relax a little. (although we adults did have to play NUMEROUS games of hide-and-seek in the pool once the novelty of the slides wore off! :)

Looking for entertainment for the evening, we headed for Downtown Disney. The kids thought they were "something" when they got to get on a Harley at the Harley Davidson shop on Pleasure Island (don't worry, we didn't have the kids "clubbing" at Pleasure Island after dark!). You can see that Cade was trying to look as "cool" as possible and making Xander do all of the work as usual!
After walking around for awhile, we stopped by the fountain to sit and enjoy the wonderful breeze and to take some pictures. As usual, you can see the boys found SOME way to get into some mischief! I'll give you one guess as to who was the first to fall in and get wet...BINGO...for those of you who know my children at all, you will know that Xander is the klutziest (although Cade is a CLOSE second) of the two! I know, I know...they come by it naturally. I'm just hoping that SOME of Shane's coordination got in their genes somewhere!

Beginning our Disney park tour, we headed for Animal Kingdom. This was our first visit to this particular park, and I must say that it is well worth the hefty price of admission! Starting off with a little parental "chat", Lee sat the kids down and made sure they understood what behavior was expected of them and what to do should they get separated from the group. I'm not quite sure they were listening, but they pretended to at least.
It was a pretty hot day, but there were enough attractions that cooled us off to keep it tolerable. We set Hayes' stroller up with a battery operated fan, so he was able to keep cooler than the rest of us. In spite of the heat, Hayes did remarkably well; and by 5 o'clock, we were all able to find relief with a typical daily rain shower. If anyone is planning on visiting Animal Kingdom, I would not leave the park without hitting the kids' favorite (well...they were petrified, but somehow that made it the favorite!) --The Dinosaur Ride, and the adults' favorite--the Safari Ride. On the Safari Ride, we were literally within arms reach of rhinos, elephants, and other wild animals! The lions and cheetahs were farther off, but there really wasn't anything keeping them from coming closer...a little disturbing, I know!!! Excellent attraction though, so make sure you get to see it someday!

Taking a day off from the parks, we stayed around the resort and enjoyed the many amenities it offered. Hayes had his first "swim", Cade mastered the waterslide at the pool, and Xander took the term "bubble bath" to a whole new level! (I think maybe we put a little too much soap in the water! :)

Also, my parents took the boys on the paddle boats and searching for minnows! It was a relaxing day all around! (except for my dad who ended up doing all of the paddling! :)

On Thursday, we went to Magic Kingdom for FULL day of fun! Because of the miserably hot day we had at Animal Kingdom, we decided to take Shane's Aunt Michel's offer to watch Hayes at our resort. She and her daughter Caitlyn showed up bright and early and came ready to spoil Hayes rotten! :) The day was hot and humid but cooled off after a shower in the late afternoon. Even though we kept moving the whole day, we didn't even touch but a third of the park! The kids LOVED the different attractions but were sufficiently scared in a few. The Lilo & Stitch ride just about put them over the edge; and had there not been harnesses, they would have BOTH been climbing the walls! The kids favorite attraction would have to be the Buzz Lightyear ride where we could shoot each other (okay, so we were supposed to be shooting the bad guys!) with laser guns; and the adults were partial to the Monsters Inc. Laugh-In (absolutely spontaneous and hilarious!).

In the evening, we made sure we got great seats for the lights parade and then for the fireworks. It was a spectacular display and a perfect ending to the day! As you can see, Cade was passed out before we even left the park! Oh, to be a kid again!

Needing a break from the hot theme parks, we decided to hit Typhoon Lagoon on Friday. The kids AND adults had an absolute blast and didn't want to leave even after an exhausting day in the water! Xander mastered the tallest water slide (we called it the "wedgie" because...well...I'm sure you can figure it out! :), and Cade didn't want to leave the wave pool! My mom and I split the day so that she stayed in the room with Hayes in the morning, then I came back to stay with him in the afternoon. The heat was just too much for a little guy like him to be out in it all day! All in all, it was a super-fun day; and I think it's safe to say that we will be returning to Typhoon Lagoon on our next Disney trip!

Finally! Friday night was time for the parents to go out for dinner while the kids stayed back at the resort with the grandparents. However, the grandparents didn't have TOO hard of a job since the kids were pretty worn out from their day at the waterpark. We originally wanted to try a restaurant that was original to the area; however, after driving past a few empty parking lots (a sure sign that the food isn't good), we ended up at Carraba's and had an excellent meal. After talking for 4 hours, we ended up closing the place down!! I guess we needed a break more than we thought! :)
On our last night of vacation, we spent some time in Downtown Disney. After dinner in the Rainforest Cafe, the kids had a lesson in dancing along with a big crowd of kids (and some adults too!). They really got into it...even if they DIDN'T quite get it right! :) It was a really fun night, and we got a good laugh watching the kids "boogie"!

Heading home was bitter-sweet. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip, but we were pretty exhausted from it all! You know you've had a great vacation when you have to go HOME to rest! On the way home, we stopped off in Jacksonville to visit Shane's brother IV and his kids, Bailey and Lyric. We ate at the most interesting restaurant on the water with stuffed wild animals in every nook and cranny! Cade freaked when we walked into the place, and he was eyeball to eyeball with a tiger! In addition to the "unique" decor, we had plenty of exotic items from which to choose on the menu. Kangaroo, snake, turtle, and gator tail are just a FEW of the dishes!!! Hmmm...I think I'll stick to chicken; and I DID!!!! Even Shane with his iron-clad stomach did not venture out of his comfort zone; and the boys were happy with their mac-and-cheese!
Well, if you've made it to the end of this post, then you are either a true friend OR you have absolutely nothing else to do with your time! I'll take either one! :) Anyway, we had a terrific time and can't wait to go again! If you have kids (or if you ARE a kid yourself! :), Orlando is a place that you can seriously go every year and do something different! I took so many pictures and video that I had to put them on 3 CD's! Aren't you glad I didn't put them all on here?!? :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

After our first day of summer vacation yesterday, I had to sit down and re-evaluate my plan of attack. Shane was at volleyball camp all day (from 9am-7pm); and by the time he came home, I was ready to be admitted to the looney bin! I could have sworn my kids were on crack or something by the way they were acting! So, enlisting the aid of my sister-in-law Sara, we took my three kids (7, almost 4, and 2 1/2 mo.), her son Gage (11 mo.), and Laura Grace (almost 3), the little girl Sara nannies, to Barnes and Noble for "storytime." Okay, I can read your minds right now thinking "How can that POSSIBLY be 'better' than the chaos of yesterday?" Well, I'm glad you asked. Because you see, when it comes to "plans," Sara and I don't always think through our "plans" from start to finish. They always sound much better in theory than in reality. If you can imagine the two of us, Xander, a single stroller, a sit-and-stand stroller (which is only supposed to carry two but with us carries three...and often four with our crew). I'm sure we are probably breaking several child-safety laws whenever we go anywhere, but we have yet to have a casualty. The kids listened to the story for about 2 minutes and then decided to "look for books." Gage was crawling around on the ground just as happy as could be, while Sara was receiving dirty looks from the other moms who were appalled that she would let him do so. I don't really know what the problem was. He only put one piece of plastic in his mouth, so we are calling it a good day! Cade and Laura Grace were following each other around the store picking out "the same" books, and Xander was making sure the books he chose were "challenging" enough! All the while, I was holding Hayes who was chewing on the binky I was holding into his mouth to keep him from fussing since he was hungry before schedule. As usual, Sara and I ignored the stares were were receiving from the other "more together" mothers in the store and finally gathered our herd and headed for the register. I'm sure Shane will be thrilled to know that the "free storytime" cost him exactly $18.98.

Heading for home to feed the hungry babies, we arrived at our house exhausted and once again wondering what we were smoking when we made plans for the morning excursion. Finally getting things under control, we enjoyed the afternoon watching Cade and Laura Grace play and laughing at their hilarious conversations! Xander was engrossed in his Game Boy, and the babies were napping. Life was good. Now, be warned that what you are about to witness on the video should not be tried at home. We are fully aware that this is the most unsafe trampoline ever; however, we have never had a casualty...well, until today. But before you watch this, just know that the victim was not harmed in any way and no tears were shed in the making of this video.

After Sara ran down to help her up, Laura Grace stood up dry-eyed and her hand to her head and said, "That thing just jumped me off!"
So, needless to say, the kids were finished jumping on the trampoline, and Sara and I are wondering where to get the address for "America's Funniest Home Videos." Not really.

Keeping Up With Xander

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Cade's Chronicles

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The Days of Hayes

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