Tag Archives: Travel

Playing hookie at Disneyworld!

I have waited to write this post because I wanted to have time to do it justice, but I am accepting that there is never enough time…

…so I’m just going to do a quick intro, then caption a bunch of photos and say,

“We played hookie for a week and went to Disney!”

The intro:

It was a fantastic, last-minute, unexpected (but always hoped-for!) event.  Grammy and Grandpa came with us (thank you; we loved being with you!).  We pulled all the kids out of school to go.  The timing just worked…T was free because he’s not yet 3; H was easy because he is still very content to sit in a lap or ride in a stroller; the girls are young enough that being out of school is fine (allowing us to go when the crowds were very minimal); and although there was rain (and rain, and more rain!), the reality is that we do fine in the rain.  It’s the lines and heat that get us, and both of those were driven away by the drizzle.

First, a few memories that I don’t have photos for…

(1) The hailstorm on the way down.  Holy moly!  Kudos to my husband for driving safely through that!  And kudos to the kids for rolling with it.  It was so loud they couldn’t even hear us explain what was happening.  Side note: the manufacturer of our sound machine should add a “hailstorm” setting next to “whale call” and “ocean sounds”, because it put T and H to sleep in seconds!

(2) The hotel we stayed in en route.  We entered the lobby during “happy hour” and descended on the buffet like a herd of locusts.  The manager came over and played with the kids, brought them cookies from the vending machine (“since the fresh baked ones we’re making aren’t ready yet”, she told us), and upgraded us to a suite with no extra charge.  The kids were so excited about having a bed in the same room as a TV they went a little bonkers and were jumping on the mattress.  T was so excited at all the hoopla, he exclaimed between happy bounces, “This is awesome!  I love Disneyworld!”   . . . Ha!  I loved hearing that!  We could have just driven to the local Marriott and he would have been totally thrilled. : )

(3) The rides at the parks.  There were too many kids to juggle to get the camera out during most of the rides, but oh how we loved those roller coasters.  E did space mountain with her dad.  Both girls did thunder mountain and splash mountain with dad and me (while Grammy and Grandpa took the boys on a train ride).  And T loved the kiddie roller coaster.  He would have gone on the bigger ones if he had a few extra inches.  Oh well.  Next time!  (Note to future travelers: they insisted that each child have an adult with them on the rides because E is not 7 yet…thank you for braving the roller coaster with us Grammy and Grandpa!  Also, ask us for details on the fast pass and baby friendly “rider swap” program if you’re planning a trip…)

(4) The video I accidentally made, but will never share, on the way home.  I tried to film a short clip of the kids at a mall food court, but accidentally neglected to turn the camera off.  So what I actually have is a 40 minute audio tape of the 6 trips to the mall bathroom we made with the older 3 kids.  (Heaven help me, it was one of those “I have to go again” days and the lines were long and…anyway…it’s an awesome audio of the conversations we had about “what was your favorite part of the trip” and “I loved this” and other priceless memories from the week, interspersed with lots of horrific bathroom sounds.  What are the chances?!

And, of course, the photos:

Hard to choose which ones to share…The kids LOVED meeting the characters.  And we all just loved being together.  Here’s a random scattering:

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a “high five” with Buzz

T after he defeated Donald Duck in arm wrestling.  One of m favorite T photos ever : )

T after he defeated Donald Duck in arm wrestling. One of my favorite T photos ever : )

Poured rain the day we had the princess breakfast...randomly caught a "carriage" to the castle and the girls were beyond thrilled..."a royal carriage" they still recall!

Sweetest S! We surprised you and E with special occasion princess makeup and sticker earrings this day in honor of your breakfast with the princesses.  It poured rain en route and we randomly managed to catch a covered wagon to the castle.  Grandpa and the driver sang to us as we rode.  The girls were beyond thrilled with the whole experience . . . “a royal carriage!” they still talk about : )

Jasmine and her twin, E

Jasmine and her twin, E

Aurora and her twin, S

Aurora and her twin, S

I don't know who those other characters are, but this is my dad and I LOVE him.

I don’t know who those other characters are, but this is my dad and I LOVE him.

Oh My !!!

Oh My !!!

There is no caption to express how happy this photo makes me.  E is dressed as a fairy, and she was able to meet Tinkerbell and Rosetta this day.  S, though not pictured here, was dressed as a fairy also.  T spent part of the day dressed as Thomas the Train because, well, he's the best character ever obviously, even if he doesn't live at Disneyworld.

There is no caption to express how happy this photo makes me. E is dressed as a fairy, and she was able to meet Tinkerbell and Rosetta this day. S, though not pictured here, was dressed as a fairy also. T spent part of the trip dressed as Thomas the Train because, well, he’s the best character ever obviously, even if he doesn’t live at Disneyworld.

Thank you, Grammy!

Two fun lovin’ gals…Grammy and S!

Grandpa and H, taken back at home, but in honor of their many snuggles at Disney.

Grandpa and H, taken back at home, but in honor of their many snuggles at Disney.

Did I mention that it rained?!

Did I mention that it rained?!

H, wanting to hold his mama's hand on the ride home.

H, wanting to hold his mama’s hand on the ride home.  How I treasure these moments… (even though I had to climb into the backseat while we drove down the interstate at 70mph to get my thumb into position…you are so worth it, H!)

I’ll post a few more photos in a future post so you can see T as the cutest beast ever (cast in a short skit with princess Belle…here’s a preview..).

Oh, what a prince charming, that one!

Oh, what a prince charming, that one!

More later!

Adventures in Potty Training (alternate title: Dinner and a Show)

Nana is visiting, and offered to treat us to dinner at the local Hibachi restaurant, much to our delight…

I forgot to make a reservation, so we had to wait a bit.  No problem.  The older kids admired the fish in the tank, and I bounced H, as Nana sent a text message to my husband who is away on a work trip.

The peace was broken when I heard T announce, “I have to go potty!” and turned around to see his pants – and underpants – around his ankles in the crowded waiting area.  That’s right.  Full frontal for the captive audience.

Dinner and a show! (of sorts).

I raced to hand H off to Nana, who said “I’d love to hold him.  Give me one minute to get my phone back in my purse” to which I responded “YOU HAVE TO TAKE HIM NOW!  LOOK AT T!!!”  to which Nana responded “Oh!  OH!  OH MY GOODNESS!!!  T!” to which T responded, “I HAVE TO GO POTTY RIGHT NOW!”  to which I responded by handing off H, picking up T and sprinting to the bathroom while holding T like a weapon naked from the waist down, to which the crowd responded by parting like the Red Sea, to which the host responded by offering to seat our family immediately (an act I discovered when E came to get us in the bathroom).

As a side note: E was shocked to see me helping T stand on the seat and peeing in the potty that way.  (I’m new to this with boys; is that an accepted method in public restrooms with little boys?, because I am open to alternate suggestions…he’s not wide enough to sit on – or tall enough to stand on the floor and use an – adult potty, and although I am queen of carrying the porta potty everywhere we go, there are times when we’re not going to have it…)

Anyway, as if all of that weren’t enough, the chef at our table did the flaming volcano thing that they do with the onion, then brought out a little statue that looked like a boy peeing to douse the flames, which prompted everyone at the table to laugh except for T who was decidedly unimpressed and said, “I do that now too, but I pee in the potty” which I can only assume means that given the choice between peeing (a) into a potty, (b) into a restaurant area crowded with people and (c) into a flaming volcano, T finds only options a & b acceptable.

How’s that for an exciting Saturday night?

(And thank you for dinner, Nana!  And to everyone else, you are welcome for the show : )

Actual excerpt of a family conversation…

While pulling out of our garage today, just after everyone had been buckled into the car and the whole family was on its way to run errands: 

Dad:  “OK.  Where do we need to go today?”

Mom:  “I need to go to the grocery store.”

E:  “I need to go to the bathroom.”

S:  “I need to go to Disneyworld.”

[brief pause, as dad absorbs these responses, and until S breaks the silence]

S:  “Drop me off first, please.”

Christmas Recap, Part One

I do love Christmas.

I am one of those people who turns the Christmas music on the day after Halloween, plays it non-stop throughout the season and leaves the decorations up way too long.

Case in point: we took our tree down Saturday (ahem, Saturday, January 21…) and are still eating off of our Christmas dishes.  I have plans to pack them up tomorrow, which makes this the perfect day to post some details and photos from the holiday season. What?!  You thought the holiday season ended weeks ago?!  Nonsense : )  Soon you’ll be trying to convince me it’s already 2012.

Anyway, I’ll kick it off with some images from our family trip to Georgia, where my older brother rented a cabin and invited everyone (including Nana, my other siblings, their spouses, and 9 children ages 6 and under) to join him.  Super fun and everything Christmassy (except for the silent nights!)

Here are the kids and cousins coloring Christmas pictures…

and making ornaments…

and playing with Uncle B on the Santa train

and celebrating cousin E’s birthday…

cutting Christmas cookies…

preparing to decorate Christmas cookies (T helped with the set-up)

and having fun with playdo…

I do realize that a lot of these pictures look the same.  I guess I just love them in sequence because they show that regardless of what the activity was, the kids all just jumped right in (is this a factor of their age?  I do love this age…) and simply enjoyed being around that big table together.  Such fun to have so many siblings and cousins in the same photo frame…

Here’s one that looks different, mainly because my brother (the official family photographer) took it and his eye is much more artistic than mine.  Six of the kids listening to stories (including S, who is on the far right with a red halo made out of pipe cleaners perched on her head).

And no, it wasn’t bedtime… (lest the PJ’s and stories throw you…)

It was just an awesome, fun, relaxing, wonderful family get together!

(and because I have to keep it real on some level, can I just say that I truly wish I had taken a picture of the one yard that we drove by on every trip to and from the cabin that had a random toilet in front of it?  When we got back, and friends asked the girls how their trip was, their first words were not about cousins, Santa, playdo, ornaments, stories, bunk beds, train rides, cookies or anything else (though those did get eventual mention…)  Instead…

“We saw a toilet right in somebody’s yard!”

Awesome.  (and lucky for the homeowners that we found a gas station with an open bathroom a few minutes before we spotted that toilet on our initial trip in, because one of the kids had to go, and we were desperate, and, well…let’s just say that I’m glad I didn’t have to explain to the kids why I was leading them to a nearby tree when there was a toilet just waiting in this gentleman’s yard!)

Updates and Holidays!

So I can already see that my blog posts will be less frequent during the holidays.  Things are joyfully busy around here (i.e. lots to write about, but no time to write it!)

Our updates:

(1) Thanksgiving: wonderful time with Nana, Aunt B, our cousins, and not a single kitchen disaster (this totally makes up for the time I cooked the turkey upside down…)

(2) Happy Birthday to my husband (!):  so grateful for the day this guy was born, the day I met him, the day I married him, the birthday we just spent with him and all the birthdays we hope to share with him in the future.  Happy, happy birthday!

(3) Advent:  As we prepare our home for the holidays, we are trying to prepare our hearts for a celebration of our Savior’s birth and our souls for the day He returns.  How’s that for a “to do” list entering each day?!

(4) Update on E: Thanks to all those praying for E, and to the doctors who have cared for her and advised us (this includes her primary care doctors as well as additional doctors in our circle of friends & family who have offered insight and counsel).  It looks like we are on the tail end of a cold that really hit E’s respiratory tract (and then took a short break before hitting it again even harder), and we have learned a lot about what to look for and do if something like that happens again.   Not since E was a baby have I snuck into her room just to listen to her breathing at night.  Let’s just say I have done that several times this week (and into S & T’s rooms too, even though they have been fine, and E is truly fine now…).  Those breaths are so, so precious.  E (and her mama) are breathing very easily now, praise God!

(5) Update on the blog: I’ll check in when I can this month, but there is so much living to be done right now I can barely find the time to write about it.   So think of us as we dress E in a sheep costume for the church nativity play, head out of state for an early Christmas/family gathering, taking E&S to see the Disney Princesses on Ice, help T eat despite his new obsession with the words “no” and “yuck”, welcome family into our home for Christmas, and celebrate every moment of hustle/bustle AND quiet/peace we find in this holiday season.

…and remind me (after the holidays) to tell you about the e-mail I sent to Santa last week  : )

Short version: I will continue to post when I can this month, but will be back to more regularly scheduled programming in January!  Merry Christmas!

The upside, the downside (and clearly not enough of the outside)

The upside to having a gas fireplace in your house: 

easy firelight…just flip a switch and the whole family can enjoy the cozy living room.

The downside to having a gas fireplace in your house: 

someday, friends will invite you to make s’mores outdoors and on the way there one of your children will enthusiastically volunteer to “turn the fire on” and ask you to show them where the switch is.

It’s clearly time we introduced our children to more of the great outdoors.

Besides, how hard could it actually be to go camping with three children, ages five, three and one?

Don’t answer that…

a “priceless” day at the fair, while on a budget

If you read the last post (http://wp.me/p1Auii-cI), you know how much we love the fair.  Here’s a behind the scenes peek at how we make it work without breaking the bank.  (Sorry if some of the this advice is too late for this year!  And I hope this comes across as “here’s what we try”, not “we have it all together”, because I assure you, we do not have it all together!)

But with that in mind, here’s how we keep it (i.e. us and our budget!) from falling completely apart!

–       Buy advance tickets (discount admissions, discount rides, and we love that kids 5 and under are free…the online advance tickets also offer an opportunity to “click here!” for a $20 rebate.  I clicked it, so I’ll either get a check in the mail or a virus on my computer…stay tuned to find out which!)

–       Find the free parking

–       Buy favorite foods (including typical fair foods) at the grocery store before the trip and eat them right before you enter the fair (we had hotdogs, yogurt and granola bars in the car, and the kids walked through the gates carrying popcorn from home in quart size ziploc bags…full tummies and a treat in hand before we saw the first vendor)

–       Set expectations.  Our kids knew they would each get to pick 2 rides and 1 treat before they entered the fairgrounds.  They also knew we were doing the free stuff first (“I’m saving your tickets until we see everything we might want to use them for!”) and eating treats last.  That meant that as we walked from one free activity to another, we had fun conversations about “is that the treat you’re going to pick?” …  “is that the ride you’re going to pick?” instead of begging to do things right then.

–       Know where the fun free things are.  I checked out a local mommy blog and got the 411 before we entered the gates.

–       Take special candy as a special surprise for when your kids need a fix.  (For us this meant breaking out the “Jessie the cowgirl” pez dispensers E had gotten as a birthday present and reloading them.)  Also take suckers (which my kids love and can carry with them for a while.) These came in handy for us when the girls found out the “goody bags” at one tent contained pickles (not their idea of a “goody”, and I offered to trade them the pickles for a sucker).  Extra tip: hide these treats until the moment you need them, so they are a preventative tool instead of something else to beg for!

–       If the kids can ride by themselves, let them.  We assumed we would have to ride with the girls this year (and budgeted accordingly, telling the girls they could each pick 2 rides).  When we discovered they were ok riding alone, that meant we had saved the tickets it would have cost for mom or dad to ride, and the kids could choose extra activities.  (Side note: if part of the family fun is doing it all together, then ignore this or find a balance.  Dad and I each did one ride with the kids.)

–       Do a “looking loop” before your kids pick their rides.  (Our kids are familiar with the language of “looking vs. buying trips” to the store.)  Our looking loop allowed for informed decisions and prevented later disappointments.  The way ours worked:  dad went to have our advance purchase passes converted into real tickets while I did our loop through the Kiddie Land rides with the kids.  Every time they said, “I want to do that right now!”, I could respond, “This is just a looking loop!  I don’t even have the tickets yet!  We have to choose what rides we want to do, then go meet dad to get the tickets.”  After we had seen lots of things to choose from, we had a conversation about what they wanted to do.  (Side note: we encouraged our kids to agree on rides, since it seemed easier and more fun to have them enjoy rides together.  This was pretty easy for us, since (a) they are close in age and (b) E’s excitement about a ride convinced S and vice versa.  When we realized we had a few extra tickets, they decided to spend them on separate rides, so mom and dad split chaperoning for that part and it was no problem.

–       Don’t forget an extra picnic meal with drinks!  We had a picnic dinner and included special drinks (the kids could choose a juice box or they could split the can of Sprite I had brought from home).  After dinner, they got to pick their one treat each at the fair.  They chose ice cream and cotton candy and shared with each other. (I overheard the cutest conversation between E & S about how if they chose different things, they would actually get a taste of two treats; they love it when they think they’ve outsmarted us!)  Note: budget extra if mom and dad are getting treats too.

–       If you can, splurge a little or find a way to make a special activity work.  The girls wanted to ride a horse.  E had been saving her birthday money from Grammy and Grandpa for that opportunity and the fair proved to be just the place.  E was thrilled, and Grammy and Grandpa were a big part of our fair day even though they were faraway (we called them in NY to tell them all about the horses!).  Thanks again for the pony ride, Grammy and Grandpa!

–       Dress in layers.  We threw fleeces under the stroller.

–       Don’t assume your “bigger preschool kids” will be able to walk the whole time.  We took our double stroller and were so glad we did.

–       Avoid the most crowded days if you can.  If you have preschool aged children, try for a weekday morning.  We went right after we picked up E from Kindergarten and had a blast from 3:30-7:30.  Weekends tend to be the most crowded.  (And although we love discount days, this year we decided that saving $12 was not worth the mayhem level crowds that our fair’s special day would save us.)

–   Set your own expectations for behavior accurately.  With young kids, there are bound to be “moments”.  Time it around naps, etc. where your kids have the best shot at success, manage when necessary, and focus on the positive.  At least if someone has a meltdown, you were in an area where the viewing public had lots of more interesting things to look at (the fair!) instead of on aisle three at Target, where we always seem to attract an inordinate amount of attention.

I think that’s most of it.  Bottom line: we had our fun fair day for around $50 (under $30 if I get the rebate…of course it will be over $1K if the rebate button was a hoax that actually opened a portal of doom on my computer…I’m choosing not to think about that…).

Anyway, I know there’s a mastercard commercial in here somewhere that ends, “a day at the fair: priceless”, but laundry calls so instead of writing it all, I’ll just stick with that punchline, and say that if you are so inclined, we hope you enjoy your well-budgeted/priceless day at the fair!

All the world’s a fair!

We had a blast at the state fair yesterday! In addition to enjoying all the exhibits and goodies we had brought from home (a picnic, special drinks and candy!), the kids were each allowed to pick a few rides and one edible treat.  End result: roller coaster (!) ferris wheel (!), swing rides (!).  And don’t forget the ice cream (!) and cotton candy (!).  My goodness, we do love the fair : )

This was the first year the girls were able to go on rides by themselves, and they absolutely adored both the experiences and the independence.  Here they are on the swings:

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S was smiling most of the time, but I love this photo because it captures the "ooooooh!" moment so nicely!

As an extra treat, E had put some birthday money (thanks Grammy and Grandpa!) into a “horse riding bank” just waiting for an opportunity to be a real version of “Jessie the cowgirl”.  What a magical moment watching her buy a ride and treat her sister to one.  They just beamed.  A quote from E (age 5):  “I rode a horse!  I rode a horse!  I have wanted to ride a horse my whole life!”  Thank you Grammy and Grandpa!  It’s not every day you get to help someone fulfill a lifelong dream : )

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Technically ponies, but it's all the same to us. And our ride lasted a little longer than average, since they had to stop to clean up after S' when it pooped. (Double bonus, since this resulted in extra time atop the horses and a glimpse of horse poop. An exciting moment for our kids! Although less thrilling for the two cowboys on duty, I would imagine.)

The fair also offered lots of exhibits the kids loved.  They were able to

– play “farmer” (picking, weighing, and “selling” produce for toy money that they used to “buy” a bag of items)

– see our “grocery store” food actually growing (broccoli was particularly neat)

– talk to a motorized cow on a toy tractor

– have a conversation with a woman on stilts

– “fish” for the letters in their names, and

– hold a baby chicken (check out the photo below!)

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Of course, the highlight for my husband and me was just watching the kids.  These are the kids whose imaginations are sparked by a cardboard box and an hour of free time.  So you can imagine watching them transform into roller coaster-riding-adventurers, food-growing-farmers, and yodeling cowgirls yesterday at the fair.

P.S.  In an effort to keep it real (!) I should also tell you about all the missteps (and near missteps!) involved in any trip with our creative and crazy crew, but I won’t bore you with details of

(a) the sheriff that almost ticketed mom (note to self: don’t unclick the seatbelt to reach for the sippy cup right as your husband stops to ask the sheriff how to find the free parking),

(b) the display produce we almost picked off the vine

(c) our fruitless hunt for the “state’s biggest pumpkin!”, or

(d) how we spent as much time in the bathrooms as we did on the rides.

Instead, I’ll just reveal that those missteps are always part of a normal day for us, and it’s infinitely more fun to have missteps at the fair!

I’ll leave you with one last photo.  Here’s hoping this image will tide me over until next year.

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The Ferris Wheel in Kiddie Land

Can you tell from this post how much I love (that my kids love) the fair?!

Picking apples…making apple pie…rejecting apple pie…eating gummi bears!

We spent Friday evening with our cousins, Saturday apple picking and Sunday making apple pie!  What a fun weekend (though we really missed daddy, who was traveling for work Friday and Saturday…)

Our recipe for fall fun:

(1) Find a place to pick apples

(2) Have a great time picking apples!

(3) Play on the farm while mom convinces the owner to let her send him a check to buy the apples we picked, since she cannot find her wallet.  Then play with mom while we celebrate the nice man who agreed!  Play options = demonstrations on how to turn apples into apple cider, four tire swings, a porch full of rocking chairs, nature walks, and tables of sample apple goods including apple cake (!).

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making apple cider (after the man spent 5 minutes explaining why this apple cider is very different from & so much better than apple juice, he gave S a sample and she exclaimed, "Yum! It tastes just like apple juice!") I think I was the only one amused by this...

one of four tire swings...we tried them all!

(4) Load everyone into car to drive home.

(5) Unload everyone from car because as we’re leaving I discover my wallet in the center console, which means we can go back in and pay for apples.

(6) Buy ice cream because (a) it’s ice cream, (b) we now have mom’s wallet, and (c) mom needs a break before loading everyone back into the car again.

(7) Eat fantastic ice cream on a porch swing and get so wonderfully messy that T has to go shirtless the rest of the day.

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Chocolate ice cream - 1; T's shirt - 0

(8) Head home.

(9) On Sunday afternoon:  Have a fantastic time coring apples at home

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(10) Realize that we have two apple coring devices in the kitchen, which means we accidentally stole one from my sister last year.  Sorry, Jake!  We owe you an apple core thingy!

(11) Roll out the dough!  (OK this is probably not what my grandmother meant by “rolling out the dough”…although technically – if you look closely at the picture – there is rolling involved here…)

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If you can't make out the image of the red box in the background, it is pre-made pie crust. Sorry grandma!

(12) Prepare the pie.  Get the supreme compliment from E, who claims “the pie looks just like the one Snow White made for the dwarves in the movie, except hers had writing on the top”.

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This is the pie Snow White made in the movie for "Grumpy" and is what my kids wanted me to do. Wouldn't my husband have loved it if I had served that for dessert without explanation. Fortunately for all of us, I am not that skilled with the dough.

(13) Put a strip of dough on the top to spell the word “I” (I admit…a token effort…but it was easy, and everyone in the family could pretend it was personalized just for them…).

(14) Read stories and eat dinner while the pie is cooking.

(15) Cut the pie.  Have the kids taste it.  Determine that no children like it.  Serve ice cream with gummy bears for dessert.

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"gummi bear a la mode"

(16) Move everyone out to the driveway to help wash the mud from the apple farm off the car.  Take turns spraying each other with the hose.  End result: car still muddy, kids very wet.

(17) Decide a spray with the hose counts as baths for everyone.

(18) Collapse into bed.

All in all, a very successful apple pie making experience…

And a very, very fun weekend…

Even if – after all of that –  my kids chose “gummi bears a la mode” as the better dessert!

Note to self (re: navigational systems)

Note to self:

When the building you need is located on “Six Forks Road”, borrow your husband’s GPS.

Seriously.   Six Forks.   You’d think that would have been my first clue that I was in way over my head.

On the upside, I did find the building – and within it – a consignment sale where I struck gold by discovering, among other things, a pair of $1 ballet slippers for S (my budding ballerina) and an $8 Halloween costume for E (who is desperate to be Princess Jasmine this year).

So what if I spent approximately one-zillion-dollars on gas?!