Thanksgiving Preparations

The bathrooms are cleaned, the rugs have been vacuumed, and I’ve counted out plates and napkins. So far I’ve made cheeseball, lemon squares, chocolate mousse, and vegetarian gravy. Between us, we’ve made three trips to the grocery store, just today. But it’s coming along. I’m a little bit worried that we’re not on our “A” game. On Sunday we had a favorite soup, Hearty White Bean and Pasta Soup, for dinner, and it seemed tasty enough, but possibly missing some je ne sais quoi. J took some in a thermos for lunch, and it was only when she got home that Cute W and I found out what the problem was: we’d forgotten the beans. You know: the “hearty white beans” that give the soup its name? So, I’m not sure we’re doing so great.

Just writing this reminded me that the bean-less bean soup was really just one of our culinary missteps lately. On Monday I decided to make pickled pumpkins for the first time, which I’ve been meaning to do since they made me a security risk almost a year ago. So I was following the recipe, but then I decided that I needed to boil the pumpkins for a little bit longer, since the recipe had called for the pumpkins to be chopped, but mine were more chunked, to mimic how my sister had done it. And then I forgot about it for a little while and the pumpkin pickling liquid turned into a veritable vinegar syrup that mysteriously overflowed itself (since I’d forgotten about it, I wasn’t there to witness this part, hence the mystery) all over my stove. Which would be okay–sticky and messy but okay–except that the stovetop then overflowed and I had pumpkin pickling syrup running down into my oven and onto the floor.

I felt like I was going to be needing my oven over the next few days, so this was a problem. I yanked out that drawer underneath the oven in order to access all of the oozy bits, and the terrible thing about moving something that is hardly ever moved is that, next thing you know, you end up finding all sorts of grotesqueness. Which I typed in thinking that I would get a spell-check, because “grotesqueness” sounds slightly too awkward to actually be a word, but if you are wondering what it means, just look under your well-used appliances and you’ll have your answer. Anyway, an hour after I’d finished my comprehensive cleaning, I found about two tablespoons of syrupy stuff that had made its way through some cranny of my oven at a more leisurely pace, and that’s when I knew that I’d have to do a more comprehensive cleaning, which involved purchasing some kind of cleaner that was clearly produced with absolutely no consideration for the next seven generations. It involved gloves and breath-holding.

Today I baked lemon bars. Or, I started to bake lemon bars, and then as I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, I realized that the stupid oven still smelled like chemicals. The smell would screw up the lemon bars. I decided to jack up the heat to 400 degrees and put a pan of juice into the oven in an effort to exorcise the chemical smell. It actually worked. Things started to smell like delicious juice. Hooray. I popped in the lemon bars. When the time was up, I removed the lemon bars and realized that I’d never re-adjusted the temperature. They looked edible but unsatisfactory. This was happening just as J arrived home from school. I let her taste the stuff and she yelped, “You’re not throwing it all away, are you?” The girls have since assured me that they can choke down the sub-standard lemon bars, but I made a new batch, anyway.

We’ll see how tomorrow goes.

My Unique Talents

This morning, I slept until 10 am. 10 am! And I’m 45. Now, some would mock me and roll their eyes about me sleeping the day away. Perhaps a couple of those folks live in my house.

But, think about it. I have the sleeping-stamina of a teenager!

People pay good money for dewy, wrinkle-free skin. And for slender, youthful physiques. And for long-lasting, perky erections. In other words, people pay good money to be more like teenagers, but without the pesky angst. And, do you see, with absolutely no effort at all, I am capable of sleeping like a teenager?

I feel like there must be a way to monetize this talent. If you come up with any ideas, please let me know.

Speaking of my slobbish habits talents, ever since I heard that there are going to be new Gilmore Girl episodes on Netflix, I’ve been pondering how to handle this. Do I binge-watch the entire series? Check the show summaries and only watch my favorites? Binge-watch except refuse that last season that didn’t involve any Palladinos? I’m not sure. I’ve definitely been catching up. The one extra development is that I might have gotten the girls sucked into it. I tried a while back and they were not interested, but since then they’ve come around. Also, it makes me really eager to fold laundry, so that’s excellent.

The Updates

Last Friday, J and I went with friends to see Suffragette. We thought the movie was great, but it was also stressful. With any historical film, there’s that spoiler called the rest of history, but even though we know that women can vote now, the film ended on a decidedly poignant note.

Then we went home and I turned on the news, which was clearly a mistake. Cute W and M were off at a soccer tournament, and J was in  bed, and I was reading about Paris. Which, yes, I feel guilt that I wasn’t as upset about all the horrors happening everywhere else, too, but I spent a semester in Paris. It’s been a home for me, which makes it feel like a personal violation. So I was all by myself moping, and I tried to cheer myself up and fight the terrorists with kindness by updating this article on  Local Adopt-a-Family Programs and Other Ways to Give Locally This Holiday Season. Also, I ate some chocolate. I’m still in a bit of a funk, actually, about world affairs in general, which has led me to writing some slightly rant-ish emails to politicians. I’m going to try to move on now.

Here at home, things are pretty good.

M is loving soccer. Like, loving-loving-loving soccer. She was really frustrated with her school season (which runs from the end of August through October), so we were all excited to switch to the year-round club soccer at Black Watch. She’s got new coaches for this year as well as a few new teammates, and it’s a love fest. She’ll arrive home from practice and I’ll ask how it went and she’ll beam and splutter about how fantastic and wonderful it is. It’s like she wants to marry soccer. Beyond that, school is good. She’s not loving math and recently came home outraged with her first-quarter participation grade in Spanish, and she finds it very annoying when I try to chat with her endlessly about how relevant her social studies homework is to today’s issues, but, whatever, it’s all good.

J is loving gymnastics, too, which is particularly awesome, because she seems to love it much more this year than in years passed. I’m not sure what’s prompted the increased joy. The biggest change is that she’s doing the “Xcel” program, which means that it is slightly less intense than what they did last year, and the gymnasts get a little bit of flexibility in their routines. Last year, I’d practically have to drag J into the car to go to gymnastics, and then we’d sit in traffic and I’d ask, “Are you sure you’re liking gymnastics, honey?” And she’d get annoyed and defensive: of course I do! I love gymnastics! And then she’d seem really quite happy at pick-up time, but then she wouldn’t do any gymnastics for fun and she’d moan when it was time to go again. But then I’d just have to keep my mouth shut, because it felt like I was yukking her yum, even though she didn’t seem to be loving it. This year, she’s skipping off to practice and demonstrating her floor exercise dance moves and waking up and saying, hooray, it’s a gymnastics day. So, hooray. That’s excellent. She’s also loving the trumpet and seems to be doing very well with it, although since I have no idea how to play a single instrument (stop judging me!!), I have no sense of whether she’s a prodigy or it’s just very easy to play. Maybe a little of both? I don’t know, but I’m psyched that an instrument finally seems to be sticking, and yes, I did just knock on wood.

And now I’d better stop procrastinating if I’m going to ever be remotely prepared for hosting Thanksgiving.

Gratitude Studies

It’s been up for a couple of weeks, but the Thankful Tree has been looking a little bit paltry.




This puzzles me. My children eat multiple times per day, often while wearing clothes that are sometimes even moderately fashionable and sitting in a house that is, if not particularly spacious, generally pleasant and almost adequately heated. As if that weren’t enough, J is currently reading a novel about a traumatized girl whose best friend has died and M is reading a memoir by a quadruple amputee. In fact, other recent items from the girls’ reading list include Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, I Am Nujood, Aged 10 and Divorced, Words in the Dust (cleft palate in Afghanistan), Sold (human trafficking), and Between Shades of Gray (Siberian work camp). I am not even kidding. So you’d think that my children would be fully aware of their immense good fortune.

The only explanation, I concluded, was that the process itself must be flawed.

Oh, sure, you can mock me and say that I’m living in denial, but the truth is, we really were beginning to hit a fake leaf crisis.

When we first started the Thankful Tree, it was with cute little construction-paper cut-out leaves. A couple of years in, I happened upon a clearance bin with ridiculously cheap garlands of fake leaves. I couldn’t pass them up, which is saying something, since you know I’m not a shopper or an impulse-buyer. It was a bargain that could not be ignored. I used them to make an adorable autumn wreath.



And then, there will still more of them, so the next Thanksgiving season, I ditched the construction paper and went with the fake leaves. They had little fake “stems” that could be used for hanging them, and they looked much more realistic than paper. I was inspired to find a bigger branch, the tree was upgraded, and I was Thankful.

But our leaf supply has dwindled. The only ones left from the bargain garland were small, bumpy, and stem-free, and even those were in short supply. It was hard to fit thankful messages in between the fake leaf veins.

And there was no going back to construction paper. I mean, that’s obvious, right? I needed some new fake leaves.

I thought that this would be easy. Alas, I was wrong.

I thought I was such a super-awesome planner, getting into Thanksgiving on the first day of November. But I was clearly behind the retail curve. I tried the grocery stores, Target, Party City, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond. The closest thing to My Fake Leaf Vision were some packages of fake leaves at Party City, but they were awfully small, and the only way I could think of for hanging them on my branch would be to poke a hole in them with a needle and make a thread loop, and that sounded like way too much work.

Then I headed to the craft stores—Jo Ann’s and Michael’s and A.C. Moore—and I started getting a little bit panicky. Every single store is in full-on Christmas mode. If there was anyone in the entire world who was still, I don’t know, thinking about planning for the holiday that is still a couple of weeks away, there was almost no evidence of such tragic losers in-store. Each place had a token discount bin filled with the Land of Misfit Harvest Decorations, like a fox with a bad dye job and a fake squash with a chunk gouged out to show its tawdry foam-plastic interior.

DSC00230Finally, at Michael’s a happened upon a game-changer: adorable clothespins. My children are weirdly obsessed with clothespins. In fact, after I came home, I mentioned to M that I thought that they were “weirdly obsessed” with clothespins, and she argued with me, and I cited as evidence their frequent use of clothespins for photo displays and other examples of home decor, and that’s when I realized that she was arguing about being “obsessed.” She was obsessed, but this obsession wasn’t “weird” because, hello? Clothespins are awesome!

So I picked up adorable little clothespins, then circled back to Party City for the little fake leaves (c. $3 for 70-odd leaves: me likey).


And, can you believe it? The kids are clearly exhibiting increased signs of gratitude. And Cute W filled out a leaf stating, “I am thankful for this new leaf system.” Smartass.


Parents Just Don’t Understand

I realized that my children can recite numerous lines to Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” except that they’ve never actually heard the song from those guys, just from the time Leslie Knope sings it, in that Parks & Recreation episode  in which she accidentally performs a gay penguin marriage. So I just made them watch the video. I’ll admit: it was even more stupider than I’d remembered.

“Will Smith is, like, really, really old now, right?” M asked.

“He’s not that old.” I answered.

“Yeah, he has kids who are older than us.”

“Oh. . . so by ‘really, really old,’ you meant, ‘about my age’?”

“Yeah.” Of course she did.

Blaze Pizza

Last night we tried Blaze Pizza as part of a middle school fundraiser. It was our first visit to this spot at Mohawk Commons, part of what used to be the Barnes & Noble store (RIP, may we hold it and our beautiful memories in our hearts forever). Full disclosure: we, as a family, are pretty fussy about pizza. We generally prefer to make our own pizza at home. Take-out just usually isn’t all that terrific, and it always feels brutally unhealthful. We like fresh mozzarella better than regular, and J likes artichokes on her pizza, which you can’t always get. Before we visited Blaze, one person had told me that it was awesome and someone else insisted that it was terrible. I knew that the place would be packed with fellow fundraisers, but it’s infrequent that one can feel virtuous about buying take-out, so I was all in.

Blaze Pizza is part of the recent trend of fast-casual, quasi-healthful, hipster-vibe restaurants. With the “build your own” pizza, you talk your way through your order like at Chipotle, and perhaps the very best part is that you’re not paying per topping. I ordered pizzas to go because J was at gymnastics and M was home studying for a math test, and we each got our own, enough for dinners and leftover lunches (Cute W was traveling for work).

Now, the pizza ordering process itself was a little weird. For one thing, the first person to start you off takes your name and writes it on a little sheet that accompanies your pizza. More precisely, they write your name and an emoticon, like “Katie :)”. And when I saw that, the first thing that I thought was, “These youngsters do know, don’t they, that ‘:)’ is supposed to indicate a smiley-face?” A smiley-face is a little picture that cannot be typed in exactly with a standard keyboard, and so that’s why the little smiley-face shows up sideways. But an actual smiley-face, drawn with a marker, should have the eyes next to each other horizontally and above the smiley-face mouth. Like, that’s actually how people have been drawing smiley faces throughout recent history. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a facist, and if, from birth or because of an accident of some kind, your face happens to be arranged in a way that’s more like, say, a Picasso painting, and you wanted to replicate such an atypical arrangement in marker, I fully support that. But I’d suggest that at least 9 out of 10 people who enter the Blaze pizza establishment have eyes located above their mouth, and indicating this with a marker is quite simple. So the sideways smile ends up more like: *wink, wink* it’s almost like I’m smiling, but in a vaguely corporate-hipster way. Oh, yeah, some of you may think I’m making too much of this. But if I didn’t, I would have to stop writing and go take a shower, fold laundry, or answer work emails. So I’ll carry on.

Also, having established that my name is Katie, every single staff member used my name so much that it became awkward. It’s always funny, I think, to go into a new establishment with tons of new staff, because they are so recently trained, thus terrific at following exact procedures as directed. They just got this gig, and the franchise owner just finished all sorts of professional development seminars, and so the staff are at top-form. At Blaze Pizza, top form means saying people’s names all the freaking time. Now we’ve all heard that people like to hear their own names, and they take that crap seriously at Blaze. So, the script is something like, “So Katie, I’ve put the classic red sauce on, Katie, what cheese would you like, Katie?” and “Katie, here’s pizza #2 for you, Katie.” And if, like me, you start to giggle when you’ve heard your name for the 13th or 14th time in three minutes, and you snicker every time it’s mentioned thereafter, it can make the ordering process somewhat challenging.

And finally, I take exception to the slogan “Fast Fire’d.” Why is there an apostrophe there? Don’t they know that an apostrophe indicates that a letter or letters are missing? No letters are missing! They are turning the word “fire” into a past participle used as an adjective to indicate that the pizzas that they are serving were exposed to fire. Quickly. And, okay, someone could potentially make the argument that they took the word “fire” and added the “ed” to put it into the past form, but they didn’t want to spell it fireed, so they called it “fire’d.” But that’s just unnecessary, because it is standard grammatical/spelling practice to only add a “d” when the verb that you’d like to express in past tense already ends with an “e” (see, for example, bored, irritated, stoned). So adding an apostrophe is about as unnecessary as drawing a smiley-face sideways in marker.

But, really, I am just giving them a hard time. The staff were delightful and friendly, and they didn’t do anything irritating like wipe their nose before picking up a handful of cheese or using a dirty broom to sweep out cobwebs over where the meat is being cooked (I’m lookin’ at you, Clifton Park Chipotle!).  So, anyway. . . .

J’s pizza had classic red sauce, regular and fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, and artichoke hearts.


I didn’t bother with a picture of M’s pizza because it was pretty basic–just sausage on top. Mine, however, was a vision of loveliness: half classic red sauce, half spicy red sauce, regular and fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, artichokes, banana peppers, mushrooms, red peppers, kalamata olives, spinach & zucchini.


I was super-psyched to have the kalamata olives as well as regular black olives. I walked in thinking that I’d throw on sauteed onions and roasted garlic, but in person the onions looked potentially slimy and the garlic just seemed like too much of a mouthful. And I just forgot about the arugula–sad! I added the zucchini because, hey, it’s another vegetable, but I don’t think it really added or detracted to my overall pizza-joy. I meant to compare and contrast the regular vs. spicy sauce, but it was tough for me to gauge which was which. I think that the spicy sauce wasn’t particularly spicy, but the effect is cumulative, so if my entire pizza had been spicy sauce, it might have been a bit too much for me. I loved having the fresh mozzarella option, but I was so busy figuring this out (they used the term “ovalini,” which was wholly unfamiliar to me) that I neglected the Parmesan. Since Cute W was not with me and I love-love-love him, I was mentally planning his pizza, which I believe should include Gorgonzola and bacon. In short, there are many, many options, and if that’s overwhelming to you, you can check out the Signature Pizzas.

The verdict? M thought it was awesome. The crust was lackluster and falling-apart thin at the center, but I loved the toppings enough that I didn’t mind that they felt like they were piled onto an edible paper plate. Still, the benefit of the super-thin crust–besides the fact that it makes for quick while-you-wait prep–is that it doesn’t make you feel nearly as bloated as you feel at the end of a second slice of your usual take-out pizza. And with all of those veggies piled on, you could almost convince yourself that it’s pretty good for you. When J came home, she pointed out that it was much more like our homemade pizza than any pizza we buy at other places, and I realized that she was right. Except, of course, our crust is better.

If you are a pizza person who prioritizes crust, this is not your place. But for freshness and topping varieties, it’s pretty dang delicious.


The Reject Team

The girls got a bunch of candies. Naturally, some of them were more well-received than others. Along with the leftovers that no trick-or-treaters had chosen at our door (cough, cough: Whoppers), whatever the girls didn’t want was dumped into a large Halloween bowl.

So, first of all: pretzels? Pretzels are not special! Who freakin’ wants pretzels for Halloween? It’s like, crazy.  Okay, acknowledged, they’re in the shape of “Bats & Jacks,” but. . .

Okay, wait a minute. This is literally what I just did. I said, “Wait, jacks? What the hell are jacks?” And then I opened the bag of pretzels to try to figure it out. And, duh, they mean jack-o-lanterns. Of course. Except then I had opened the bag of pretzels, and so I ate one. And you know, it’s been a long time since I’ve had empty white carbs topped with salt, and they are friggin’ delicious. I am not even kidding. I continued eating, and I decided to go look for a beer. And now I’m back in front of the computer with a second bag of pretzels and a hard cider. This would be funny if it weren’t a little bit sad. Today I ate more than ten different vegetables in my quest for excellent nutrition and now I am having pretzels and hard cider. Sigh.



But, anyway, I only mentioned the pretzels because M, Cute W, and I were discussing the reject candies after dinner (J was at gymnastics).

It started when Cute W rummaged through the reject bowl and pulled out a mini Caramel Apple Milky Way. I wrinkled my nose.

“That just sounds like a really bad choice to me,” I said.

“How would you know?” he countered. “Have you ever tried it?”

I defended myself. “No, but I didn’t say that it tastes bad without tasting it, I just said that it sounds like a really bad choice, which I know from reading the label, even if I haven’t tasted it.”

Then Mr. Self-Righteous went into some schpiel about being open to new experiences, blah, blah, blah. A moment later he was offering me the other half of his very small, some would call it a miniature, Caramel Apple Milky Way. I offered M half of my share (she indicated that she was not, in fact, open to this new experience), then bit into my quarter. It was bad. Like, fake-flavored and strong-flavored and, the truth is, I wiped my tongue with a paper towel. In fact, just remembering it is driving me back to that hard cider (now there’s an apple flavor that I can embrace!).

Meanwhile, M had sought another new experience that was not particularly successful, either.

“Look, Mom, this one’s, like, captain of the reject team,” M offered. She was talking about Sixlets, a name I don’t remember ever having heard before, although the Sixlets people insist that they are candies that I’ve loved since I was a kid. Umm, no. I don’t think so. The package proclaims that it is both nut-free and gluten-free. And here’s the thing. There are many, many dietary choices that one can make that are delicious even without nuts and gluten (flourless chocolate cake, meringue, fruits. . . all valid, life-affirming, joyful choices). This is not one of them. This is the kind of product that you offer to some poor nut- or gluten-free child and they take a bite and they weep about how miserable their life is because they can’t enjoy what other children get. It’s, like, inflicting misery on some of our most vulnerable population. And that is not okay, people.

The final candy with top scores in the reject category was a pumpkin spice Hershey’s Kiss. Now, full disclosure: I don’t like pumpkin. Or pumpkin spice. I am not one of those people hugging baristas at the beginning of October because the orange-colored drinks are available. But M really likes a good pumpkin pie (a friend recently told me that her son dressed up as a “Starbucks White Girl” for Halloween. By that she meant Ugg boots, Northface, jeggings, and overpriced coffee. At first I thought to myself, “You mean, he dressed up as my daughter.” But then I consoled myself that I am too cheap to buy her Uggs. So, really, he was dressed up as my daughter’s friends. Also, the racial distinction makes me uneasy. I believe that there are definitely girls of color in this town sporting overpriced footwear, outerwear, and beverages. But I digress.)

The point is, even a girl who enjoys pumpkin does not enjoy a pumpkin spice Hershey’s Kiss. First, we smelled it. We agreed that it smelled like a Yankee Candle. Not in a good way. Then I took a little nibble. And paused to witness my tongue’s experience. Meanwhile, M tried it.

She was quicker on the conclusion and her analysis, submitted to Cute W, who, after the mini Caramel Apple Milky Way experience, seemed to become less open to new things. “It starts out just tasting like white chocolate,” M explained. “But then. . . .”

Meanwhile, I was nodding my vigorous agreement. It was innocuous at first.

“But, then,” M said, “it kind of. . . festers.”

Absolutely! It was a creative but appropriate word choice. Sometimes she makes me so proud.


There’s candy all over my living room carpet–part of an elaborate bartering system set up between the sisters–but besides that, I am sweeping Halloween out of the house as quickly as possible. It’s not that I’m anti-Halloween. I just feel like it snuck up on me this year, so I’m trying to get a jump on Thanksgiving before it smacks me in the face. Plus, this is the first year that we’re actually hosting Thanksgiving, so I can’t be scrambling to pull out the Thankful Tree on the Sunday before, right?

We had a pretty crazy number of trick-or-treaters come to our house. The City of Schenectady had set trick-or-treating hours for 2-8 pm, which seemed like a very early start-time to me. And yes, I know that we’re not exactly in Schenectady, but we’re pretty dang close, plus we definitely have folks who drive over to our neighborhood just for the great trick-or-treating. Of these, I’d say almost half of the groups include parents who are holding their own bags for treats, too. Which, okay, it’s a bit comical and I know that people find it irritating, but it’s a great lesson in gratitude. I mean, not only do I get to live in a neighborhood that’s pleasant to walk around and filled with friendly people, but I can also pretty much buy myself some candy whenever I dang well please. By the end of the evening we were pretty much wiped out. The Snickers, Reese’s, Sour Patch Kids, and rainbow slinkies were all long gone, leaving us with just some Whoppers and sidewalk chalk. Of course, then the girls gathered up enough candy that they can afford to be picky, and the good-not-great candy has made it back into the community bowl. I even took a walk today and found about half-a-dozen pieces of random candy along the sidewalks–truly an embarrassment of riches.

The girls had fun trick-or-treating. Each of them were part of their own mob of friends, and they seemed to have just as much fun hanging out and trading candy as they’d had getting dressed up. One comical part, I thought, is that the parenting attitudes about Halloween safety are so vastly different. My fifth-grader, J, started with some late-afternoon trick-or-treating with her neighborhood friends, but she peeled off from the group when they started to get too far because she was going to be heading to a friend’s house later. It still wasn’t quite dark, and I let her freely roam and bike, so when she told me her plan I was all, “Sure, sure, whatever.” Later, I drove her to the friend’s house even though it was only a few blocks because I knew we’d be tired by the end of the night. At some point I noticed that one of my neighbors had alerted me that J was venturing out alone, along with her approximate whereabouts. So I sent a “thanks” reply almost two full hours later, and I think that the other mom was appalled at my laxity. But, dude, I’d seen my daughter since then. I just hadn’t seen the text. For the rest of the evening, the parents chatted and drank wine while the fifth graders made occasional check-ins, reporting their next proposed route and approximate eta. One of us would throw mittens at one of them and we’d all call “Have fun!” and then re-focus on the chips and dip. But meanwhile, my eighth-grader, M, was with a bunch of her almost-high-school friends, and they were accompanied by multiple grown-ups for the entire time that they were out trick-or-treating. For the life of me I just can’t relate to parents who would rather stick to their eighth-graders than stay in the warm house drinking wine, but I guess that’s why I’m not the best mom ever.

West Trip: Getting to Moab

Somehow the summer got away from me and I never got around to posting more about our vacation out west. Well, I mentioned it, and then I told you about visiting family in Cute W’s family hometown and hiking around the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. But that was all just the first week of a two week extravaganza, so there’s much more.

Part of the reason why I never got around to posting is that I wrote quite a bit about the particulars in a bunch of articles for KidsOutAndAbout. I was super-fortunate to work with the Discover Moab folks who helped me score some great experiences to review, and I wanted to make sure all of those folks were represented first. You can see general information and links to a bunch of my reviews over on KidsOutAndAbout.

When we planned our vacation, we knew that we were spending a week with Cute W’s family, and then Cute W said, “As long as we’re spending all this money to go out west, we should check out some national parks or do the Grand Canyon or something.” Which, okay, yes. So we ended up booking our flights so that we had a week-long space on the calendar between saying good-bye to family in Colorado and catching a plane in Las Vegas a week later, and we set about figuring out what to do where. We figured that the Grand Canyon was a must-see, and then we just looked on the map to try to come up with what to do in between Colorado and the Grand Canyon. All of which I’m explaining because it wasn’t like either of us started out saying, “I’m dying to visit Moab, Utah.” But, you guys? Moab, Utah, turned out to be completely awesome. We spent four days there, and we’d totally go back for a week.

We started our visit with a big ol’ drive to get there. We’d rented a car and it pretty much barely fit all four of us and all of our stuff. Along with your usual clothes and shampoo and such, we had a bunch of camping equipment with us. Plus, we’d just finished hiking and camping with family, so they loaded us down with a bunch of their leftovers. And we were in, I guess you’d call it a sedan? It wasn’t super-spacious. We were trying to be thrifty. The girls were not super-psyched. The drive was excellent, though, because there was so much to see as we drove. Before we even made it out of Colorado, we made a stop at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I’d never even heard of the place before we started researching our trip, but it was almost exactly halfway along our drive, which made the timing excellent. And then it turned out to be surprisingly cool.

Colorado 2015-07413

We didn’t do any major hiking–just parked alongside and checked out the overlooks–but you could walk right up to the edge of the canyon, and the view was amazing. It completely freaked M out, though. At one point, Cute W was leaning forward to take some pictures and M practically yelped, “Dad, watch out! You have a family!” We have some pictures of the three girls, J and I grinning and M between us, grimacing and cringing in fear. She’s usually such a bad-ass, so seeing her like that was pretty hilarious.

It was a fun spot, and we enjoyed exploring along the edge.

1Katie peeking black canyon

And by “we” I mean, three out of four of us enjoyed exploring along the edge.

The craziest part was that there were two climbers who were in the middle of practically-vertical canyon wall. It looked like a girl and a guy, with the girl either injured or panicking. All of which was happening across a yawning chasm while a bunch of us tourists were pointing and wondering how it would go. And I have no idea, because we left before they made substantial progress.

As we explored, J was very excited about taking plenty of photographs.

1girls looking over black canyon

Cute W and M were literally back in the car, ready to go, when J found a bunny. And of course, she needed to take many, many pictures of the bunny

1bunny at Black Canyonand she kept taking pictures in the car, too.

1car view

We still had hours to go to get to Moab.

It was nighttime when we finally arrived at Moab, and we were immediately excited when we found the spot where we were staying. The location was awesome, and it was pretty dang cute inside the house and in the garden, too. I wrote a review for KidsOutAndAbout, which you can see here, but here’s one of the pictures that didn’t appear in the review:

1Moab cottage interior

It was actually quite awesome to have the little desk/dataport set-up in the living room, although I pretty much tripped on the edge of the tile for the entire stay. But the hands-down best part was that it was a quick walk to the main street. We dropped our stuff off and headed to a nearby frozen yogurt place, then ate it outside while watching lightning in the distance. It was a great start.




Getting Ready for Fall & Winter

We picked up our seasonal ski rentals at Goldstock’s today. If you’re thinking of skiing or snowboarding with the kids this year, renting by the season is a much, much better deal than renting by the day. If your kids don’t ski or snowboard yet and you want to learn, I recommend a season pass to Maple Ski Ridge, which is very local and very cheap. It’s also not huge, which is great when the kids are little, but not so fun once they want to conquer huge mountains. Don’t forget that if you have kids in the 3rd or 4th grade, you can take advantage of I SKI NY’s special program that lets them ski for free at a bunch of resorts, and if you have a 5th grader, there’s a similar program form Ski Vermont called the Fifth Grade Passport.

I was worried that we were a little late this year, but even though business was brisk, we managed to get what we needed. When the guy walked out with a pair of skis for J, she had a somewhat pained expression that I interpreted to mean that the skis, which had daisies on them, were slightly too adorable for her. Maybe I was right. Or maybe she was pained because I was analyzing her expression. In any case, he checked for what else was available and came back with something that was an even more complex floral design, and J was like, “It’s fine, it’s fine.” Mostly to shut me up. Which was especially annoying because I thought that the first skis were cuter. But J was positively done with me. Meanwhile M was on the hunt for some wear-to-school gloves, and she ended up picking out a pair that had a weird design. Which I didn’t mention at all, because I’d learned my lesson for the delay. On the drive home we realized that the gloves were designed with “e-tips” so that she could keep her gloves on while playing on her phone. Well, of course. That’s absolutely necessary.

We’re also all set for Halloween. M had it in her head that she wanted to be a pumpkin, and I guess she was lobbying among friends to go for “traditional” costumes: pumpkin, witch, mummy, and so forth. But no, apparently the friends all wanted to be prisoners or criminals or some such, so she bowed to the theme and decided to go with cop. J, meanwhile, had the opposite problem. She wanted to do some group friend thing, but no one was into it. In fact, she specifically wanted to be a crayon among a vast rainbow of crayons, which is what M had done in 5th grade, and I wondered if it was because back then she was little and thinking, “When I’m a big 5th grader I’ll dress up to match all of my friends, too.” And what’s funny is that back when M started dressing with all of her friends, I found it annoying that they were being cliquey instead of creative, and now that J’s friends are the same age and are creative instead of cliquey, I feel like she’s missing out on the fun clannish-ness of that experience. Or maybe I’m afraid that some of her favorite people will all be dressed in coordinated costumes and she wasn’t invited. I sort of hate 5th grade.

Anyway, usually J relies on overpriced catalogs to inspire her costume (like last year’s dryad costume), but apparently the catalog folks have wised up and learned that I never actually buy anything from them, because the catalogs never came. So we went to The Costumer in search of a little inspiration. She ended up deciding to be a minion, and then of course the cheap version of the minion didn’t come in her size, like, anywhere. Basically it was only in small and medium anywhere I looked (and if you’ve found one, don’t tell me now because it’s too late). After much pondering and soul-searching, she decided to kick in her own cash to upgrade from the Mom budget and get the more expensive version. It’s overpriced, but it includes a twirly skirt and magnificent 3-fingered gloves, so she’s excited. And since she has big goggles and a head band covering many distinguishing features. . . .


Okay, I don’t think she’ll be the only minion at school, but she’s adorable and happy. And even if it’s not the most creative Halloween ever, but I’m glad that we’re ready and don’t have to think about it anymore, at least. Except that I need to go buy candy, and check to see if I have other junk to hand out, because I like to make Halloween an exercise in de-cluttering as well.