Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Follow That Rabbit!

Anna, Jack and Kara recently performed in the school play, "Follow That Rabbit!" (Alice in Wonderland). The auditions were held back in December and the casting made shortly thereafter. As a second grader, Kara was only eligible for the chorus type roles of either a card soldier or a flower. She thought the card soldier sounded like more fun and happily took on the part of the 3 of Hearts.

As third-graders, Jack and Anna had the entire play open to them. Shortly after they auditioned, the director e-mailed me to see if they would be willing to play Tweedledee and Tweedledum. She liked the idea of having twins in the role and thought they would be perfect. Jack hadn't sung at his audition and the role involved a song, so she wanted to make sure he'd be willing to sing and that they were both willing to work together. They were excited about the idea, although there was some fighting about who had to be Tweedledum.  Jack lost.

Like most of Alice and Wonderland, their part was a lot of nonsensical nonsense. They had a very long song (4:30) with speaking parts before and after the song. In total, it was about a 7-minute performance. It was a difficult role and it took a lot of practice. Essentially, the song involves telling Alice the story of the Curious Oysters as the Walrus (Jack) and the Carpenter (Anna), so it was almost like a part within a part. The Walrus and Carpenter lure some oysters out of their oyster bed with the promise of adventure and then the Walrus eats them all and the Carpenter gets mad. The moral being that curiosity can lead to trouble (and, the oysters should have listened to their mother!).

Rehearsals at school started in January. Initially, they all had practice once a week, and then the frequency increased for Jack and Anna's group. About a month before the play, we started really working on it at home. The song has a lot of instrumental sections and the cues for them to sing weren't always obvious. Plus, they had to figure out what to do during those instrumental moments. In the movie, there is a cartoon interlude showing all the action of the walrus, carpenter and oysters. But, they had to find a way to communicate it to the audience. I'm not going to lie--it was a mess in the beginning. I was worried. But, like everything else, lots of practice turned the tide. By the day of the show, they were awesome!!!

Meanwhile, Kara had perfected the soldier's march and song and was ready to go. I also had a role in the play--on the scenery committee. It was a committee of three. We met once or twice a week and took projects home in the interim. The head of the committee (who happened to be Alice's mom) was a true artist. Honestly, she did about three times as much as I did. But, it was still a major time commitment on my part. It was also a commitment for Thomas, since it meant many nights he came home from work, got dinner ready, fed all four kids and then had to drag everyone out to Jack's baseball or Kara's soccer. My biggest project was probably making giant paper flowers. I did it at home and it probably took me about 5-6 hours to make 16 flowers (that includes watching many YouTube tutorials).

Some of my giant flowers. These decorated the flower garden risers.

A few more flowers
The benefit of being on the scenery committee was that we were the only parents allowed to come to the school day performance. We also had reserved front row seats for the evening show. That was pretty nice. In the morning show, Anna was very nervous and more reserved than she had been in practice. They were still really good and multiple teachers made a point of telling me how much they enjoyed their performance. But by that night they had worked all the jitters out and they were amazing! Jack is just a natural performer. He was never nervous and really enjoyed being on stage and hamming it up. Anna had to work a bit harder, but she was willing to put forth the effort and in the end, she was awesome! Most of the cast was fantastic (there were a couple who were impossible to hear, even in the front row), but in my biased opinion, Jack and Anna were among the best. If I were giving out the Tony, they would have been definite contenders!

Two stars are born!

Anna's favorite part was probably hitting Jack with her carpenter's hammer :)

Kara also performed perfectly. She sang and painted the roses red and did the card soldiers march with aplomb. We were very proud parents!

Card soldiers shouldn't smile!

Painting the roses red (those boxes were another scenery project).
Everyone woke up a bit sad Saturday morning, knowing it was over. After months and months of rehearsals, it was all over with 2 performances. Since they enjoyed it so much, I am hoping they will all continue with school plays.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Dutch Wonderland Trip, Day 2

We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites, which is right across the street from Dutch Wonderland. It is our hotel of choice when we visit, the price is good, the hotel is clean, there's an indoor pool and a nice breakfast. What more could one want?

Unfortunately, no one slept very well (except Luke, he was wiped out!). The first night in a new place is always tough. I woke at 5 and stayed in bed for a while trying to fall back asleep before deciding to go the exercise room. I set a goal to exercise 100 days in a row and it was day 56. so I didn't want to ruin my streak. Unfortunately, I have only lost like 5 pounds, but that's a whole other blog.

So, after my workout, I returned to the room to the kids just waking up. Everyone loves a hotel breakfast, so they were happy to get dressed and go to the lobby. We enjoyed our waffles, eggs, and muffins. The kids really wanted to go back to the pool and we had some time before the park opened, so Thomas and I were happy to oblige. The pool was surprisingly crowded, but we still had fun. The kids swam for about an hour. We staggered our return to the room, so we weren't all trying to get changed at once.

Everyone loves a breakfast buffet, even a small hotel one.

Hanging out poolside

We checked out, and went across the street to Dutch Wonderland. We walked in the park at exactly 10AM. Perfect timing!

We went through the park and rode all the rides again. Kara decided she was ready to try out the roller coasters. Back story time! When Kara was 3, she was fearless. She loved all rides, but I pushed her too far too fast on our first trip to Disney World. After that, she became much more timid on amusement park rides. However, during our trip to Universal Studios this year, she decided to try new, more exciting rides and was surprised to find she actually enjoyed them. However, she wasn't tall enough for their roller coasters, which were probably too intense anyway. So, today was her day. She started off on the little kid one, before she decided she was ready for the Kingdom Coaster, which is a good-sized wooden roller coaster. She loved it! She went on it twice in a row and would have gone on more, if we had let her. We have our 5th Wilson coaster aficionado! 

No good photo on the big coaster, but here she is rocking it in the front row of the smaller one!
Pressing our luck, we brought Luke onto the log flume. He did not like it. After we got off, he ran to the ride attendant to tell her, "that was scary, I did not like it!" So, it looks like we might have another long road ahead of us. All I want is a photo of the six of us on Splash Mountain, with everyone looking happy. Is that too much to ask???

Luke insisted I hold him tight throughout the whole ride
But, I digress. The park wasn't as crowded as the previous day, we did all the rides again, some of them multiple times. We walked through the dinosaur area and saw the diving show. We have always enjoyed the diving show and make sure to catch it on each visit. Thomas and I were ready to call it a day by 3. It is never as much fun to make the drive home and we had it looming in front of us. The kids were agreeable, so we rode a few more rides and then left the park. Luke napped for most of the drive and we made it home in time for everyone to shower and relax for a bit before bed (and, for me to write these blogs!).

We lost a drink taking this shadowy shot, so it's not for nothing, it gains a spot in the blog
It was another successful trip to Lancaster and our favorite little amusement park!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Dutch Wonderland, Day 1!

It has been a couple of years since our last visit (last year's weekend was cancelled for weather, I am not sure what happened in 2015), but everyone was excited to return to Dutch Wonderland. The kids knew it was happening at some point this season, since the tickets were a Christmas gift, but they didn't know exactly when. Friday was a big night in our house--the three older kids all performed in a school play (blog to follow). They didn't get to bed until almost 10, which is late for our kiddos. However, they were all up by 8. Kara was actually up around 7. Thomas told her about our plans. We wanted her to decide if she wanted to go to her soccer game before we headed to Lancaster. She was happy to skip it and get on the road as soon as possible. Anna was super excited and everyone immediately began gathering bags for the car. We had already packed their clothes and essentials.

By 9:15 we were in the car and on our way, we stopped once at a Pennsylvania Welcome Center for a bathroom break and rolled into the Lancaster Cracker Barrel at 12:30. We had a leisurely lunch and let everyone choose if they wanted a dessert at Cracker Barrel or if they wanted to wait and get a treat at the park. Everyone wisely chose Coke Cake and our (very mini) vacation was off to a good start. After lunch, we browsed the outlets. Jack and Luke played on a small playground while the girls and I went to Children's Place. Anna and Kara have reached the age where they love trying on clothes. They were having an amazing sale of 75% off clearance. We bought 2 dresses, 1 pair of pants, 2 headbands, sunglasses for Luke, and 2 earring cards for $20.15!!! The boys then joined us to look at the Pottery Barn Outlet. We all love Pottery Barn, but they are so overpriced (in my opinion). Not the outlet! Prices were already reduced, and then the entire store was an additional 30% off! Unfortunately, we had the kids, which made browsing hard. We spent a lot of time chasing them around as they sat on chairs, laid on beds and opened and closed drawers. They had a lot of furniture I loved, there was a table and chairs I would have bought if we had any way to get it home. Sadly, the only thing we bought were new lunchboxes for the kids ($24 retail, $10 at the outlet). Still, it was fun.

After a restroom break, we were ready to head to Dutch Wonderland. They have a preview option, which allows you to go into the park 3 hours before closing on the day before your visit. This weekend, that meant we could enter at 3pm. We were at the gate at 2:58, The ticket taker gave me a dirty look and said, "the preview doesn't start until 3," as if we were trying to sneak in hours early. But, I was patient and polite and we calmly waited the remaining 2 minutes.

The park had a camping jamboree where girl scouts camped at their campground and then came to the park, so it was a bit more crowded than we expected for this time of year. But, we still managed to ride most of the rides in the park. Just like the girls had at his age, Luke adored the "whip it" ride, which for some reason, our kids have always called the bumper cars. In fact, he adored just about everything. At one point, he was really mad that he had to wait for the big kids to get off a ride and he threw himself on the ground crying. People just smiled and stepped around him as I waited for the fit to pass. After a minute, I decided to move him to a nearby bench. I picked him while he screamed and as we sat down, he suddenly stopped crying and said, in a very calm voice, "mom, what's that ride???" as something in the distance caught his attention. Just like that, the tantrum was over (to be fair to Luke, he doesn't have many fits, but this was a very long day for him).

The "bumper cars". Anna got off, saying, "it's still really fun!"

A favorite of all Wilson children, but the other 3 are way too tall now.

On the Turtle Whirl with Dad

The big kids still enjoy the little rides

We stayed until the park closed at 6. It took a while to get out of the parking lot. Our plan had been to go to Chick-Fil-A, but like every CFA, it was a zoo. We couldn't even find a parking spot. So, we drove across the street to a KFC. No one was happy. But, we were hungry and tired and didn't want to waste any more time (the hotel pool was calling our names). We ate a meal that no one liked and then went to the hotel. We checked in and then immediately changed into our bathing suits. By now, it was 7:15, so we told the kids they only had 45 minutes, which wasn't near enough time for them, but they were good sports when we told them it was time to go. We played Marco Polo and had a good time. Luke just jumped off the side of the pool into my or Thomas' arms over and over and over and over again.

We got back to the room and got everyone in bed.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother's Day Weekend

The celebration for our family began on Friday, when I went to a Mother's Day Tea at Luke's school. Luke made me a crown, a sun catcher, and a handprint photo. We had muffins and his class sang two songs. It was cute and fun.

Saturday, Thomas and I had a date night. We went to Sotterley Plantation for a wine/food tasting. We don't really drink wine, but we thought we would give it a try. We enjoyed the experience and there was some delicious food, including crab cakes, barbecue pork sliders, and chocolate covered strawberries. We also got to walk around the plantation house which we both enjoyed. It was very fun night!

Selfie from the portico

Sunday, we told the kids we had a fun surprise for them, but that it required they get up early because we had to be in Annapolis by 9. They had no trouble getting up and we left right on schedule. The surprise was a ride on the Chesapeake Pirate's Cruise! First, they got their pirate names (Lookout Luke, Jumpship Jack, Krazy Kara & Almighty Anna). Then, they got their pirate outfits and faces painted.  Anna wanted to be a mermaid, everyone else was a pirate. We took pictures and then climbed aboard the ship.

Luke loved the pirate garb!

which was followed by the painting process

Anna opted for a mermaid look, the rest of the kids were pirates. We were one happy family!
We sailed around the river looking for treasure. The kids got to shoot water canons at a scallywag pirate. They found the treasure, drank some grog and cruised around the harbor. The kids absolutely loved it. They all wanted to know when we could go again. Most of the other participants were in the 2-5 age range, but our big kids didn't mind and were very enthusiastic throughout the whole experience.

It was pretty cold for the thieving pirate. But, he was a good sport and even allowed us to knock him in the water. Luke loved this part and kept wanting to shoot the canons.

Drinking their grog as they wave at the people in the harbor.

Lookout Luke with Terrifying Thomas

From there, we went to the Annapolis Mall. We walked around and had lunch. On the drive home, I played the music I felt like listening to and then let everyone else have a say (and "You're Welcome" from Moana has been in my head ever since). We came home, I took a nap, talked with my sister for awhile and enjoyed my gifts. I love when the kids write what they think of me. It is fun to see where their minds are. For example, Kara apparently thinks I really like to nap. I actually don't nap very much, because I like to keep to the same sleep schedule, but apparently, she really notices when I do (honestly, today was probably the first nap I've taken in months). I do like to lay in bed and read, so maybe she assumes I've fallen asleep? Anyway, I had lots of gifts from each of them, here's a few:

From Kara

Kara, part two


Little Lukey hands

And, sweet Anna's

I always feel a little sad seeing the Mother's Day stuff in the stores, I miss my own mom so much. But, I am extremely grateful for the family I have and that love that I feel for them, not just on Mother's Day, but every day.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sick of Sick and other Updates

I used to think my family had good immune systems. We seemed to avoid a lot of illnesses and were never struck too hard with whatever was going around. Our visits to the doctor were generally limited to well-visits. Not anymore! I am not sure what has been going on the last couple of years, but we have had some rough winters! I honestly can't remember the last time all 6 of us were healthy. Granted, most of it is very minor. I am counting colds, but still! The latest annoyance is Anna's pink eye. She woke up on the 20th (a Thursday) with a little bit of pink, watery, eyes. It wasn't too bad and I thought it might be related to a little sty in the corner or her eye, so I sent her to school. The next day it was clearly pink eye. We kept her home. We have fought pink eye before and I know that the vast majority of cases are viral and eye drops won't help.  We treated with cold cloths and colloidal silver. She stayed home again on Monday, but seemed back to normal on Tuesday. We thought it was all over. She looked great on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, I noticed her eye looked slightly watery again. To shorten this story, by Sunday she couldn't get her eye open and it was the worst it had ever been. I broke down and took her to urgent care and got the darn antibiotic drops. We have never had pink eye clear up and then reappear, so maybe it is a rare case of a bacterial infection (as opposed to viral). Meanwhile, Thomas has flu-like symptoms and has been miserable all weekend. But, I need to say again how thankful I am that our heath challenges are minor and simple inconveniences.

In better news, we went to the school's annual Sock Hop last week. Everyone had a good time, it's one of the few things we've done every year, so now it feels like an unbreakable tradition. They always do a silent auction and I generally place bids, but have never won anything. This year, we bid on a Nintendo Switch and a book basket. The kids loved monitoring the bids and Anna and Kara "guarded" the sheets and would run to us every few minutes to let us know if we were still winning. We were outbid on the Switch, but won the book basket. Jack was so disappointed, but handled it well. They also had fun dancing and playing with their friends. Luke had a great time. He loved holding his "ticket" and handing it to the volunteers to redeem his root beer float and brownie. And, he was super cute dancing with the big kids.

Jack had his first baseball game Saturday. His team lost by one run, but fought a good fight. Meanwhile, Kara had a soccer game. Her team lost, but Kara scored her first goal! She was very excited. Her team can be difficult to watch, unfortunately, they haven't won a game yet. In fact, they didn't even score a goal the first two games. But, Kara has maintained a positive attitude and played hard. We have been very proud of her, it is easy to be a good sport on a winning team, but it's definitely more challenging when you are down by double digits week after week. 

Jack and Anna had their 3rd grade recorder concert. It was enjoyable and fun to see how much progress they've made. I like that they start teaching them to read music and play an instrument in 3rd grade. 

In conclusion, here is a side-by-side of Jack and Luke. The other day, we were playing in our neighbor's sprinklers and Luke was wearing Jack's old swim suit. I was struck by the resemblance. For a moment, it was like Jack was 3 and standing in front of me again. It was a sweet moment and a reminder of how quickly time goes by.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Time Hop Tuesday Tangent

After such a lovely Spring Break, Luke and I were a bit lonely without the older kids. To combat this sad situation, we decided to walk to the school to have lunch with Jack and Anna. On our way, we passed one of my favorite houses. I love to slow my pace and linger at the well-manicured lawn and beautiful plants. The park like setting of benches under large oak trees evoke a quiet happiness.   And, each holiday or turn of the season brings something new to admire. Many times I have driven by and seen an elderly couple working peacefully in this yard. We always smile and wave, but they are generally far back from the road. Today, the man was working right next to me as I passed. He stopped what he was doing to smile and nod at Luke and me. It appeared as though he would have welcomed a short conversation, but I did not stop, choosing instead to offer a cheery "hello" as we continued our walk. I immediately regretted my decision; I so wanted to tell him how much I admired his yard, but the moment had passed.

As I was pondering what I should have done, a long buried memory resurfaced. When I was 9 or 10, my family lived in Massachusetts on a busy road. There were no children nearby, so my brother and I generally played together in the woods behind the house. Occasionally, we would ride our bikes down the dirt road that ran behind our yard. At the end of this road was a single, large white house with a beautiful yard. We made up stories about the house and convinced ourselves that something nefarious lived inside the walls. To us, the road was exceedingly long, but in reality, I imagine it was less than a quarter of a mile.

One day, there was an elderly lady working in the yard. I do not recall the specifics of the situation, but I know that eventually we were put to work. From that day on, we would occasionally venture down the road and find ourselves pulling weeds or pruning bushes. The lady's husband was ill and we never went inside the house. But, one day something changed. When we knocked on the door, we were invited inside. We sat and were offered cookies and a drink and we chatted with this kind lady. Although she did not speak the words, we learned that her husband had died. The dynamic had changed and I believe our visits became much more meaningful. Unfortunately, we were young and didn't quite understand what this change meant. Our visits were still infrequent. Eventually, we moved and this memory was long-forgotten...until today.

We all grow old. We should stop and quite literally, smell the roses. I wish I had been kinder and more attentive to my elderly neighbor when I was 10, and now 30 years later, I wish I had stopped to chat with my other elderly neighbor. Although, I have no reason to suspect my current neighbor is lonely, it would have been nice to offer him my sincere compliments on his yard.

I wish my children had more exposure to the older generation. I keep thinking there should be an eHarmony to match up families with no nearby grandparents with grandparents with no nearby grandchildren.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Spring Break 2017, Part II

Saturday--making the girls' "recipe" and dying eggs

Anna and Kara had come up with a recipe that involved making rice krispie eggs, filling them with a surprise, topping with a sugar cookie and adding a handle to make it easy to lift the sugar cookie. Oh, and they needed to have M&M flowers, stuck to the cookies using "spring colored frosting." We went to Walmart early in the day and got all the supplies. Then, we had fun putting it all together. I let the girls take the lead and they had a great time. I think they are ready for added responsibility in the kitchen. That night, everyone dyed our 24 eggs.

First we made the cookies
I didn't get any of us making the rice krispies, because we had to move too fast to shape them.

Frosting the tops

Completing the project

And, the traditional Easter Egg decorating

Sunday--Kids opening day at Nationals Stadium!

We had an Easter egg hunt in our basement on Easter morning. We also enjoyed a pancake and bacon breakfast. (Luke liked it so much, he demanded pancakes for dinner. Much to his confusion and disappointment it was not meant to be: "but, I said I wanted pancakes?!?!?") That afternoon was Kid's Opening Day at Nationals Park. We took the metro and got there early enough to enjoy the pre-game festivities. Our section was a bit crowded, so after a couple of innings, we decided to move to a less-crowded area. In doing so, we missed Bryce Harper's first home run.

With room to roam, the kids, Luke in particular, did much better. But, there was still some whining and discontent. The score was tied at the end of the 8th when we decided to leave. In doing so, we missed Bryce Harper's game winning home-run in the ninth. Seriously, what were the odds? We were there for 8 complete innings and missed the two biggest moments! Jack was great at the game, he watched the game, didn't ask for anything, and never complained. I won't comment on the others...

The three older

And Luke, this would have been an awesome picture, but for the guy climbing in the background. Unfortunately, Luke was done and wouldn't pose a second time.

Monday--Calvert Marine Museum and Rita's

For our final Spring Break outing, we went to the CMM. We had fun seeing the otters, doing the marsh walk, and browsing through the exhibits.  We also climbed into the lighthouse. Then, it was on to Rita's for some Italian Ice. A good time was had by all!

I asked the kids their favorite activity we did during Spring Break. Kara said baking our Easter things. Anna and Luke said Six Flags. Jack said the field day on base.