Monday, June 15, 2015

Six years

Grace turned 6 last month! Just because, we had Grace pick out a gift to give to Henry for her birthday, so he wouldn't feel left out. He opened his cars first and that was almost all they needed! Grace and Henry just wanted to play with his cars.

Grace did, however, get back to opening her presents after awhile. It's such a nice feeling when you feel like all of the gifts you gave were epic wins. After each gift, she just wanted to focus on that gift and nearly forgot that there were more to open. I think my favorite was a miniature light table with tracing templates. She instantly got the hang of mixing and matching silly faces using the templates.

Her reaction was golden when she opened her Elsa dress.

She put it on and slowly, intently paced through the house quietly singing "Let it go" with earnest.

The festivities ended with six cupcakes from the local cake shop. Hooray for Grace! I don't remember why she was flexing her muscles here, but isn't she cute?

It was a low-key celebration because we were preparing for a week at Disney World starting the next day. Now that was the REAL celebration. I will post pictures on that later.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Flashback: When in Rome...

Today is one of the busiest days of the year on the highway outside our front door. A year ago, Scott and I surprisingly found ourselves participating in this major traffic-generating event. I had only been working for about a month, and the ad agency that my bank hires invited me to enjoy their pit suite at the NASCAR race at MIS (Michigan International Speedway). MIS is just a few minutes down the road from our house.

We spent almost the whole day there! My agency has connections within MIS. We were given the head-to-toe tour of the facilities. The above picture was taken as we stood solemnly among the spotters on the roof above the sky suites. We were warned before leaving the elevator that we had to stay quiet and move slowly and under no condition were we allowed to raise our hands over our heads. The official spotters were very busy keeping an eye on the track for debris or accidents, and others were keeping a close eye on the spotters for any signal they might send. It was a pretty amazing view. You can see the pit suites from here, which is where we spent most of the time when the race was underway, enjoying free Shirley Temples, complimentary meals and a plethora of hors d'oeuvres, all behind sound-proof windows and in air-conditioned comfort. I've decided that is the very best way to enjoy a NASCAR race.

We got to park on the infield,walk around the cars in the pit before the race, tour the sky suites and cafe, thoroughly explored the fan plaza, and get almost within touching distance of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Here we are on the roof of the pit suites. You can see the spotters on the roof of the sky suites in the background.

As we explored on our own, we wandered as close as we could get to the track during some of the test runs of cars preparing for the Quicken 400 the next day. It was amazing to feel the power of the cars as they rocked your whole body when they sped past at 200 miles per hour. It was like nothing I've experienced before. I can see how the thrill can be addicting. I'm glad our pit suite also offered complimentary ear plugs, because we definitely needed them here.

This was a crash course for me on race traditions and culture. Here's an example: I saw the black skid marks around the finish line and assumed that it was remnants of cars trying to avoid collision. I felt like an idiot when I realized they were celebratory marks that the winners always make at the end of a race, like their victory dance. I think I only mentioned it to one person, though, so I didn't make that big of a fool of myself.

I think our favorite car was the M&M car, which after much trial and error we got a decent picture of while in motion. Taking a clear picture of a car driving 200 mph is not easy. We ended up getting a small matchbox version of this car in the fan plaza for Henry. He still loves it and plays with it a year later.

Here's a shot of the pits.

And finally, here's the afternoon when the race began and the stands were full of crowds. It was definitely a memorable day.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Flashback: Epic 5 year-old birthday cake

For Grace's 5th birthday, almost a year ago, she wanted a my little pony cake for months before. She wanted Twilight Sparkle. How on earth do you make a pony cake? Should I just do a square cake and frost a picture of Twilight on the top? Should I do a little figurine of Twilight, like I did with Hello Kitty? I pondered this for months. I know that sounds a little ridiculous.

At Grace's preschool, the birthday child was invited to bring cupcakes for snack time. This gave me two opportunities to do a fun twilight confection for Grace, so I took two approaches. In my mind, one was an epic win and the other was an epic fail. Either way, it was EPIC! I needed it to be epic, because I had just been hired at my new job and would start four days after her birthday. I needed this cake to count for at least two birthdays, since I knew I wouldn't be able to put as much time into her cakes in the future.

First, epic win: cupcakes!

I purchased edible black ink markers just for the occasion. They were adorable.

Now, the epic fail: the cake. Ok, maybe not so much epic fail, but I definitely bit of more than I could chew. I decided to sculpt Twilight Sparkle into a cake! The process was thrilling and terrifying. I don't even remember how much time it took. It was a labor of love, and I didn't care.

Now, before you see the picture, I need to warn you, the head fell off and smacked face first on the counter before I got a picture. For the picture's sake, and for the birthday song, I carefully balanced the head back on the cake and tried to quickly finish the mane to cover up some damage. I wasn't quite done with the mane, but compromised structural integrity forced me to make concessions. But, the face and ear did get squished, and I couldn't cover that up so well...

Grace didn't seem to mind. Look at that tongue, hungrily licking her lips.

As the situation has it, I'm not planning on making a cake for Grace this year. We have bigger plans in the works, which I no doubt will post about eventually. Just over two weeks until her 6th birthday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Egg Hunts

I'm not sure when Easter became all about plastic egg hunts, but somewhere between my childhood and the childhood of my children. With almost no planning at all, we lucked out with two Easter egg hunts in one day!

The first one was in the park across the street from our house. It was put on as a service project by the Middle School Student Council.

Our friend who lives nearby stopped by our house to tell us about it. Here is her daughter with my kids. I took 7 pictures of these three standing there. All 7 have my friend's daughter standing nicely in the middle and smiling. All 7 have my kids holding a different pose and/or face expression in each.

By the way, Grace was super proud of her outfit in the above picture. What you can't see is that she's wearing a sweater that matches her legwarmers almost perfectly.

Later in the afternoon, we were lucky enough to have an egg hunt with cousins at my sister's house. For this one the eggs were actually kind of hiding, which makes it way more fun.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Portraits by Grace

In January Grace drew portraits of each of us that characterized our dreams, then she taped the pictures on our bedroom doors. It was really sweet.

For herself, she dreams of fairies night and day, so of course, she is a fairy.

At the time, Henry was slightly obsessed with Batman, so Grace drew Henry as batman.

Scott is currently chasing his dream of being a doctor.

Then I got to mine and I just stared.

Mom, the martian? It took me about three minutes to realize that she had drawn me as Fiona from Shrek the musical which I was in a year and a half before. I guess that is a dream I chase--being on stage. More and more as Grace gets older, she surprises me with her thoughtfulness and insight.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The last couple days

Grace made sweet conversation with a pair of worms as they explored their way across the pavement.

Henry confidently pumped his legs on the peddles of his hand-me-down bike with glee. Every so often his momentum would stop or he'd get stuck on an uphill slope, so he informed me, "when I ring my bell, that means I need you to push me." I heard the delicate jingle of the bell every other minute while we were outside. I think he rang the bell more to make sure I was still giving him my attention than when he actually needed help.

Henry and Grace both leaned against me for nearly an hour as we read book after book on the beanbags in the library. It has been almost a year since I've taken them to the library, which makes me a little sad. When we got home, all they wanted to do was read their library books over and over again. Grace picked out two Halloween books from the library. She still loves Halloween.

 On a car ride Henry said, "Someday I want to be a bird."
Grace followed with, "Someday I want to be a flying cat mermaid. Actually, a flying cat mermaid ...princess ...fairy."


I couldn't resist: