Friday, March 30, 2007

That'll teach you to park your car in a parking lot!

After a day and a half of showdown, Ethan finally caved and is now eating whatever we give him. I knew I was tougher than a 14 month old! Well. I know it now.

It is a beautiful time of year to be on the U of A campus. The temperature is perfect, flowers are blooming, and people are cheerful. Spring break was last week, and a lot of people are surprised to find out that although classes are in session, the university is actually not closed the week of spring break, except for Friday. It's actually a great week to be here--we get tons of work done and it's nice and quiet.

Another huge perk of working on spring break is that since the students are gone, faculty and staff can park in their lots. People who don't work in higher education cannot fathom that I pay over $500 per year for the privelege of parking where I work. And I use the phrase "where I work" loosely, since the parking deck that costs me the aforementioned over $500 per year is about a half a mile from my office. But such is the life of a college administrator, and so I perservere. We live for the periods that classes aren't going on, though, because whenever the residence halls are closed we can use their lots, which are right across the street from my building. It means I can leave my house 10 minutes later and arrive at the same time.

Last week, I parked in the student lot on Monday morning and strolled into work. When I left that afternoon, I noticed that the U of A's maintenance department was putting up saw horses in the front half of the lot's spaces. As cars vacated, they were replaced with sawhorses. Tuesday morning, only a few cars remained. As I walked in, I thought "Hmm. Wonder what they do if those people don't ever come and move their cars."

I found out when I left for lunch.

It appears that the building next to the parking lot was in need of a new paint job. I don't know if the crack team of planners in charge of the project just never thought of the possiblity that people might not move their cars in a less than 24 hour period, or if covering other people's cars with giant black tarps held in place with rocks is standard U of A maintenance procedure. Regardless, about 5 cars were in this situation by noon on Tuesday.

Can you IMAGINE your reaction if you came to retrieve your car and found this waiting for you? What kills me is that this is a student lot, and they KNEW that students would be leaving for Spring Break. Why not just close the lot?! I am always very supportive of the U of A. After all, it was here that I received two degrees, met my husband, found my career and learned what it means to be a true Hogs fan. There's no question that the place has treated me well. But really, this is just absurd.

I hate to be a negative Nelly, so I'll end this post on a positive note. The abolute most annoying guy on this season's Survivor was voted off last night. Justice is served!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Hunger Strike

Ethan has apparently decided that eating is not for him. For about the last month, he has refused any food except for cheese and bread products. It's not that he tries but doesn't like other foods--he literally will not let them get within 6 inches of his mouth. Matt and I have tried everything-- tricking him, distracting him, putting the spoon in his mouth when he's asleep, you name it. He just flat will not do it.

This is my first question. HOW did Matt and I produce a child that is uninterested in food? And then, how is this a problem you fix? We can't reason with him. We can't beg or bribe him. Last time I checked, they don't make vegetables disguised as cheese. We are helpless!

We're taking him to the doctor on Friday, more for advice than anything else. In the meantime, I'm going to look online for bread recipes that use green beans and chicken.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Hogs won--and I have proof!

I have MUCH from the last week to blog about, but I have been hindered because all of the topics I have to discuss have accompanying pictures, which I did not get a chance to download off my camera until moments ago. Now I have them, so the only obstacle is deciding where to begin.

I think I'll start with Friday night. Matt and I took Abby to a Razorback baseball game. It was the first game in our weekend series against Vanderbilt (they are the #1 team in the country; we are 9th). We inherited our season tickets from some friends who moved, and they are killer seats--front row, a quarter of the way from home to first. We prop our feet on the visitor's dugout. The weather was perfect, and the stadium was packed. The game turned out to be really exciting, with a 7-7 tie going into the 9th inning. No one scored, so we went to the 10th inning.
(To all my non-sports friends who read my blog and are falling asleep right now, sorry--bear with me a moment.)

Vanderbilt didn't score in the top of the 10th, so we were up. After a base hit, a sacrifice bunt got Sean Jones to second base. Our next batter hit a high pop fly that went way into right field. Jones raced for third base--and then kept right on going. He slid home and touched the base a millisecond before being tagged by the catcher. SAFE! We won the game, and defeated the #1 team. It was fantastic. I had my little camera with me to take pictures of Abby in her cheerleader getup (picture in a moment), and when I realized Jones was going for home I aimed the camera in that direction and clicked as I cheered. After things calmed down and we were picking up our stuff, I finally remembered to take a look at the picture. Talk about good timing.

You'll note that Jones' hand is on home plate and the catcher has the ball about a quarter of an inch from his back--he's clearly safe. Amazingly, the shot was taken in the split second after he slid in, but before the umpire called him safe. How cool is that?! I'm quite proud of myself

Surprisingly, Abby did very well at the game. I thought she would get bored, but she enjoyed it. She learned what strikes and outs are, and cheered with the Diamond Dolls. And ate ice cream. It was probably her enthusiastic presence that inspired the Hogs to win. It certainly made the mascot's evening:

That rounds out the first photo-assisted blog. Check back soon for more--maybe even later today!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ice cream can work for you too!

How does it always happen that March arrives and then before I blink it's almost over? Why March? I don't get it.

As planned, my grandmother, Abby and I headed down to Little Rock Thursday morning. I got a call on our way down with some great news--my brother Jacob and his wife Patty were at the hospital in Little Rock, preparing to deliver their twin boys! The timing was perfect. We got down to Little Rock in time to get my grandmother settled at home and spend some time with my other sister in law, Siobhan, and her cutie daughter Natalie Kate, before going up to the hospital. The twins, Andrew and Joshua, are as perfect as can be. Patty is officially my hero for delivering TWO babies the old fashioned way--I had to have a C-section just to get one out! Abby was thrilled at the prospect of two new cousins. Their older brother, Jake, and Abby get along fabulously--to the point that we have to separate them sometimes so they don't explode with giddiness. The day was great, save the moment when Abby decided to begin THIS conversation:

(Please note the use of three conversation tools I have found to be frequently successful during awkward conversations with pre-schoolers. Feel free to adapt and use yourself.)

Abby: Mom, how did the babies get out of Aunt Patty?
Me: (Stalling) The doctor helped get them out.
Abby: But HOW did they get out?
Me: (Evading) Well, I wasn't in there at the time, sweetie, so I don't exactly know.
Abby: Well, how did Ethan and me get out of YOUR tummy?
Me: (Distracting) Hey, want some ice cream?

I am SO not ready for that conversation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Parties and bowling and babies, oh my!

I've been a little lackadaisical in posting, I realize. (Don't bother looking it up--I DID spell lackadaisical right). In my defense, it has been a busy week. My grandmother has been staying with us, and Abby has spent the last two days at home with her. They've had a ball. I've been spending time with them, and so haven't had time to download the pictures from Abby's birthday--until now. I am taking my grandmother back to Little Rock tomorrow, so I won't be able to post for a few days. These photos should tide you over, though. First, the birthday party.
Is that a great cake or what? I thought I ordered a way bigger size than we needed, but it was pretty much all gone. Her friends had a great time, and she loved being the center of attention:

Finally, a couple of shots of her in action on the gym floor:
Now, onto bowling. I am very pleased to report that I bowled a quite respectable 125 in my second game. We had a great time, but the best part was the matching shirts and awful shoes. Here is a picture of my team, the Fighting Otters, making our "game face":
What kind of boss, you may wonder, would arrange such an outing with a group of people like us, AND put us in matching shirts? This kind:

Just proof that good form does not a great bowler make :) Love ya, KB!

And finally, a picture of the entire Team UGPO. We're a bunch of oddballs, but we're lovable oddballs. What more could you want in an office?

I've decided to end today's post with a picture of my little man, because I feel I've neglected him a little on the blog lately. Gosh, this is one cute kid.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Don't you wish you worked with me?

Well, we survived the birthday party--just barely. Abby had a great time, so the goal was achieved. Now we have to reprogram her as a normal kid, no longer the birthday princess that eats cake for breakfast. Speaking of eating, Ethan has decided that he will only eat cheese, crackers and Cheerios. That's it. We're about to buy stock in Kraft.

This afternoon, the staff of my office (about 15 people) are going on a staff retreat. We have a development thingie for a couple of hours, and then we are going--wait for it--bowling! We even god bowling shirts, personalized with our names. We're divided into teams, and my team is the Angry Otters. Intimidating, isn't it? It will be a throwdown for sure.

I'll post pictures of the birthday party and the bowling battle soon!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

My Abby

Yesterday I had a three year old. Now I have a four year old. How does this happen? If you had asked me, back when Abby was born, what kind of child I imagined she would be when she turned four, I probably would have said all the generic stuff, like that she would like playing outside and eating hot dogs and that she would say and do things that would make her daddy and I chuckle. How could I ever have known that I would have a child who:

- Can sing "Jesus Loves Me" and "So Happy Together" by the Turtles with equal enthusiasm--and fairly in tune

- Invented and correctly and frequently uses the word "poink" (it's a combination of point and poke, and it's that thing you do to kids into their belly button when you want to bug them)

- Counts school buses on the way to day care in the voice of the Count from Sesame Street (THREE school buses--HA HA HA)

- Enjoys dressing up in bizarre getups and doing the vogue in front of her mirror

- Doesn't listen when I tell her to put her toys up, but can hear me open a piece of chocolate from across the house

- Has made such a reputation for herself at her pre-school that when I meet other parents, even though I may not be familiar with their child, they say to me, "OH! You're Abby's mom! What a kid!"

- Is determined to be a Razorback cheerleader when she grows up

- Loves to play the game where we list everyone we know and put them into two catergories: Silly Goose or Sweetie Pie

- Has her grandparents so wrapped around her finger that I'm fairly sure they would buy her a small island if she asked the right way

- Adores her little brother and considers him her best toy

- Has parents who go into her room every night to watch her sleep, thank God for giving us such an amazing daughter, and realize we can't wait to see what she's going to do next.

Happy birthday, Abs. I love you!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

I just wanted some plates!

I have a love/hate relationship with Target. I love their stuff, and I think it's very affordable. I'm usually pleased with my purchases from there.


Target has some major flaws in their stocking system. It seems that if Target is going to start carrying something, say a new shirt or picture frame, they order X number for each store. ALL of them are shipped to the store, ALL of them go out on the shelf, and when they're gone--they're gone! Now, if you see something you like and you don't buy it and you go back later and it's gone, that's your own fault. However, their system really causes a problem when you are trying to buy pieces of a set of merchandise.

For example, when we bought Abby's big-girl bed, we bought the bedding at Target. They had a full product line--sheets, pillow shams, curtains, lamp shades, rugs, the whole bit. Even though it was a fairly new line, though, they were out of a couple of crucial pieces. No chance more would come in. Already off of their website. Frustrating!

The same thing happened to me yesterday when I went to buy supplies for Abby's birthday party. I would find a great set of plates, but they would be out of the napkins. Finally I found an entire line of party supplies that were perfect--only they were out of the plates and half of the decorations. I just bought solid color plates that matched, thinking I could get on the website and order the plates--but this line is nowhere to be found on the website.

Is this a problem everywhere, or does the Target here just get a raw deal with its stock? Would it BE so hard to reorder some stuff? If someone bought it all, clearly it's popular! I'm all for keeping trendy, but this is a bit too much.

I've decided to hold off on my exciting new blog plans until next week--best to get over the trauma of my daughter turning 4 before expanding my empire here.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Back to life, back to reality

The last few days have been interesting ones in the AMEN house for sure. I returned to work on Thursday, and had been here all of an hour before Ethan's school called and asked me to pick him up, as he had a fever. I did so and took him home. However, we had to leave again that afternoon--to go pick up Abby, whose school called and said she had a fever. Yahoo.

I spent the entire day Friday with one or both children on my lap. Then Matt came home, and he was sick too. It took them all weekend to recover. Abby has a hideous cough, but E seems back to normal. I was VERY glad to return to work finally.

On the looooooong plane ride home, I had some time to think about ways to spice up the blog, and I have some fun new things I'll be unveiling in the coming weeks. You should be excited! I know I am. But maybe that's just because no one's coughed on me today.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Italy Part 7: Musings

Writer's note: This is one of a series of posts about my fabulous trip to Italy. Please scroll down or click on Archives to the right to make sure you read them in order.

I realized that in telling about our trip day by day, I omitted some overall comments I have about our trip. They are, in no particular order, as follows:

The Food

Ohhh, the food. Perfecto. We ate SO much. Amazing pastas, fantastic pizzas, gelatos and pastries and Happy Hippos (don't ask). The food was GREAT. I will say, though, that I found two things that I had been told repeatedly by many different people to prove false, at least in my opinion. I found gelato to taste pretty much like regular ice cream despite dozens of people swearing it's entirely different, and other than the extremely thin crust, I found the pizzas to be pretty much the same, too. The one thing odd I did notice about their pizzas is that if you order more than one topping, they have the annoying habit of dividing the pizza into sections and putting a different topping on each section instead of mixing them all up. What's that about?

The Music

The entire time we were there, we never heard a single Italian song. Never. Backstreet Boys, yes. Shakira, you bet your hips. But an aria? Forget it. Our gondolier did not sing, but we passed one who did. To our shock, he was serenading his boat full of Asian tourists with--wait for it--Mandy. Barry Manilow? SERIOUSLY?

You Name It, We Rode It

Kristen pointed out that we used virtually all mainstream methods of transport during this trip: airplane, automobile, train, and boat. I don't know why exactly, but this makes me feel very worldy and chic.

Italians Are Very Nice--And Not Too Shabby Looking

Because Molly knows everyone in Asolo, we were greeted like family everywhere we went there. However, we quickly learned that most Italians are like that--so helpful and friendly. They helped us when we were confused, chatted more than they had to, and really seemed glad we were visiting their country.

Of course everyone knows that Italy is supposed to have more than its fair share of good looking men, and I am here to tell you it is no myth. They are everywhere! Old, young, tall, short, whatever--they were all so...Italian! An example for you--this is the gentleman that created the oil painting I bought and brought home:

I Can Have Good Luck On A Trip!

I am never the person that gets the upgraded hotel room by accident, or just happens to have an empty seat next to her on the plane. However, I was charmed or something on this trip. Every single flight went off without a hitch, we navigated the train station and vaporettos effortlessly, we never ONCE got lost. It was scary how easy things were.

My mom is OLD!

First let me say, I wasn't going to write about this, but my mom told me to. When I say my mom is Old, I am not referring to her age. You know how when people get Old, there are certain behaviors they start to display--they're universal. For example, Old ladies clutch their purses like they are going to be snatched from them at any moment. They fret. Well, my mom has become Old. At the train station, she wanted to go wait on the platform 12 minutes before the train arrived, even though we were already sitting in the waiting area only 20 feet from the platform. She was sure the train would zip in, slow almost to a stop to allow people to dive on, and then roar off again. She also kept freaking out about riding the vaporetto, sure that some hooligan was going to mug her. It got to the point that when she would display such behavior, I would just mutter "Old..." I think she thought it was funny.

And What Does She Have To Say About All This?

My mom has agreed to comment on this post to give her own insight to our trip, so read the comments if you want to see what she has to say.

I'd Like To Thank...

This seems a bit silly, but I have several people I need to say thank you to for the trip, and what better forum than my blog? So, Acadamy Awards style, here I go:

I'd like to thank...

Molly, for being such a gracious hostess, putting up with us and putting us up, finding us great deals and meals, and making our trip so fantastic. Thanks to you, we got to see an Italy that so many people miss out on.

Molly's husband and kids, for doing such a brilliant job of pretending not to be irritated that these three women came and invaded your house.

Kristen, for being the easiest person I have ever traveled with in my entire life, and for blow drying my hair straight when the straightening irons wouldn't work (do not EVEN get me started).

Dad, for thinking this was a great idea and having as much fun as I did planning it, even though you weren't going, and for loving mom this much.

Matt, for immediately supporting my scheme, and for not holding it against me that I went to Italy while he stayed home, and for taking such good care of our babies while I was gone.

Mom, for being so completely surprised, and for being worth all the work.

Well, I think that about wraps it up for the Italy trip. Remember, if you'd like to see all the photos (there are some GREAT ones that didn't make the blog) email me or post a comment. If you take anything away from reading about my trip, let it be this: If you want to visit Italy, or anywhere for that matter, DO IT. Don't be the person that always says, "Oh, I would love to go there." Be the person who goes!

Italy Part 6: Monday and Tuesday

Writer's note: This is one of a series of posts about my fabulous trip to Italy. Please scroll down or click on Archives to the right to make sure you read them in order.

Ever since we arrived in Italy, the weather had been overcast and foggy. We woke up on our last full day there to a glorious sunshine-filled Venice. We hit the ground running. First we walked to the famous St. Mark's square, which contains the dazzling basilica and more pigeons than I have ever seen in my entire life.

We did some shopping around the square and just wandered through alleyways and over bridges, eventually making our way back to the grand canal. Our hotel, which I chose entirely based on the reviews I found on, was an unbelievable stroke of luck. It was literally right on the grand canal and about 20 steps from the famous Rialto bridge, one of only 3 crossing the grand canal. Below are pictures of our hotel, the view from the front of our hotel, and the Rialto bridge.

After lunch, we paid the exhorbitant fee to take a gondola ride--a requirement for a trip to Venice. The weather was perfect and the ride was wonderful. After that, we stayed in the area around the Rialto bridge, shopping and eating. We barely made a dent in that incredible city, so I'll just have to go back someday, I guess.

Tuesday was our return home day, and quite possible the longest day of my life. It was 22 hours from start to finish, but worth every moment. We had a perfect trip.

Note: The photos I have posted are but a small sample of the over 200 photos I took. If you would like to see them all, email me or post a comment here and I will send you the web link to view them on Shutterfly (doesn't take up any room on your computer's memory that way).

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Italy Part 5: Sunday

Writer's note: This is one of a series of posts about my fabulous trip to Italy. Please scroll down or click on Archives to the right to make sure you read them in order.

The first half of Sunday was pretty quiet--we get ready, packed our things, and made one last trip into Asolo to shop and eat lunch.

Around 2, we packed into Molly's car, said good bye to her family, and made for the train station in Castelfranco. There we parted ways with Molly, who was the best hostess EVER. On the way to the train station, I frantically asked Molly some common phrases in Italian so I would be prepared for us to be out on our own in the big city of Venice.

I find it thriling to be in a strange place where people may or may not speak English and have to find my way. Kristen and I viewed it like we were on The Amazing Race. Can we get tickets for the right train, and get off at the right station, and find our hotel BEFORE DARK? It turns out we can, just fine, thank you very much! We got off the train at the edge of Venice, and walked out to this:

Rainy but stunning. We got on the vaporetto (which you must say with a roll of the tongue--vaporrrrreto), a fancy word for a water bus. We rode on the grand canal for about 15 minutes, then got off at our stop. Our hotel was literally right in front of us. We went in, dropped our stuff, and took off into Venizia. What an amazing city. I've never been to Disneyworld, but I imagine it feels like what I felt like in Venice--every corner brings something new and amazing, and your eyes never get tired of it. We walked around until the shops closed, and then headed in to get plenty of rest for our big day in the big city.

Italy Part 4: Saturday

Writer's note: This is one of a series of posts about my fabulous trip to Italy. Please scroll down or click on Archives to the right to make sure you read them in order.

We woke up on Saturday with a full itinerary and ready to go. First, we were headed to Nove, which is a small town known for manufacturing pottery and dishes for Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma and--oh, yeah--Tiffany's I bought two Tiffany's pieces that together retial for $185 here, and I got them for $37 total. Gotta love a bargain!

After Nove, we headed into Marostica--a beautiful town set entirely in the walls of a huge castle's grounds. Just lovely. We had lunch there and people watched for while.

After Marostica it was back to Asolo. Kristen and I acocmpanied Molly to the grocery store while mom got some rest. Since it was our last night in Italy, Molly took us to a fantastic restaurant called Due Mori, then we headed to bed.

Here's one more picture from Saturday, of Mom and Molly at the cafe in Marostica:

Italy Part 3: Friday

Writer's note: This is one of a series of posts about my fabulous trip to Italy. Please scroll down or click on Archives to the right to make sure you read them in order.

We arrived at the Venice airport around 9:45 Friday morning. Molly was there waiting for us, and we hopped in her car to head to her home in Asolo, about an hour and a half away from Venice. Asolo is in the foothills of the Alps, and is EXACTLY what you think of when you imagine small Italian hill towns. Molly, her husband Jimmy and their kids live in a house about a 10 minutes' walk away from teh heart of the city. Here's their house:

Yes, it really is that beautiful. After getting settled in, we walked into town. We passed vineyards and sweet little old men and women out walking and riding bicycles. The views on the walk were breathtaking:

Then we got into Asolo, which is just incredible. Narrow winding streets, stunning old buildings--just perfect.

We spent some time in Asolo, then headed back to their house. Friday night, we had dinner and the home of another professor, Dominic, and his wife Laura. Dominic is British and Laura is Italian. Also there were John and Nicky, both British. It was such a fun evening, and everyone was incredibly nice. We were tired but so thrilled with our first day in Italy.

Italy Part 2: The Reveal

Writer's note: This is one of a series of posts about my fabulous trip to Italy. Please scroll down or click on Archives to the right to make sure you read them in order.

It was very important to me that my mom not know about the trip until the morning of the day we were leaving. Our plane was due to leave around 2 PM, so I told her I was picking her up for Branson around 7:30 AM. She whined a great deal about having to be ready so early for her vacation, but I knew she'd appreciate the packing time. I went to her house and walked in with the video camera rolling. I said I was doing a video diary of our Branson trip for this blog, and she never questioned it. I set the camera down, still recording, and handed her a present--told her it was from dad and I had wrapped it. It was a guidebook to Venice. Then dad handed her her passport and spending money all wrapped up. She started crying and hugged dad, thinking it meant he was taking her this summer.

Finally, I said, "Mom, we're not going to Branson today." "We're not?" she asked, thoroughly confused. I yelled, "No! We're going to Italy TODAY! TODAY, we're going to Italy!!!" She just said, "WHAT?" over and over for 10 minutes. I am going to try to navigate YouTube to get the video online so I can post it later--it is priceless. Soon, the doorbell rang, and it was Kristen. My mom saw her and cried out "I'm going to Italy!" and Kristen just smiled and said, "Can I come?" She and mom grabbed each other and just screamed and jumped up and down.

It took mom an hour, literally, to calm down enough to think about packing. She had just enough time to get everything together, and then we were off to the airport! Here's a picture of us right before we took off:

Italy, Part 1: The Setup

Okay, I think almost everyone knows this already, but just for posterity's sake, here is the story of how the Italy trip plan was hatched.

My mom and I have two mutual friends, Molly and Kristen. Molly is a professor and spends each summer with her family in Italy, where she teaches for an American college exchange program. This year, though, they are there for the entire spring semester. My mom has wanted to visit her there for years, as has our other friend Kristen. My mom's 50th birthday is next week, and months ago my dad told me he wanted to do something spectacular for her birthday. One day in November while having lunch with Kristen, I mentioned mom's birthday and asked if she had any ideas. She suggested, almost as a joke, taking her to Italy. We both got so excited, and by the end of the day it was all set up.

The thing to know about my mom is that she always figures out her surprises. She takes pride in it. So I was VERY determined that she wouldn't figure this one out. We kept it secret, and had her so off track that she truly never suspected a thing. I told her we were going to Branson for the weekend, and invented so many details about the trip that she never had reason to suspect otherwise. And, mwaaa! Our evil plan worked. We planned a 6 day vacation to Italy for my mom, Kristen and me, and she never had a clue.