Saturday, November 29, 2014

Decorating the Christmas tree

It's the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so that means it's time for the annual setting up of the Christmas tree.  The kids love this tradition.  They pull out their favorite ornaments and set up the nativity scene.  The big difference this year is that we got a new tree.  Mike and I bought our old tree at a garage sale for $20 fourteen years ago.  It was a pretty tree, and it served us well all those years, but the flocking was such a huge mess every year.  I sold it this year for $25 and bought a pre-lit, non-flocked one that came with a storage tub for $25 at a garage sale.  Today, as I was listening to the general hubbub, I thought how funny it would be if there was audio recording of this event.  I started writing down sound bites.  Here are some:

“Stop, Sarah. Look up. Do you see what I'm doing here? Does that look like a good place to start dumping stuff out?”

“This is the filthiest thing I think I've ever seen.”

“Everything was going so well until I smashed the angel's face into the wall. Sorry, bro. You ok?”

“Don't get that sticky on anything.”

“Why are there more branches than slots?!”

“I'm gonna have a real tree when I grow up.” “Well, that's your prerogative when you move out. I've never, ever had a real tree.”

“Sarah, get your head out of there.”

“It'll be interesting to see how we get it all plugged up.”

“There are two males up here, and one of them's a branch dangling.”

“I plugged it in...why aren't the lights on?”

“Dad, it looks like the tree is wearing a tutu.”

“I'm taking a break. I'll come back with a fresh perspective. I need hot chocolate.” “The hot chocolate mix doesn't work, Dad. It's too old.”

Some of the sound bites go with some of the pictures below.  You can match them up if you want a fun little game.

Noah's broken backhoe bucket and fire truck ladder that he's been putting on the tree for at least 10 years.

This one is very special, because it has sand in it from a beach in Korea.

The age-old bird that I remember putting on our tree when I was a little girl.

The cats LOVE this day every year.  

Sarah made this headband herself with the pompoms that she and Mike made this morning.

The top of the tree was stuck so tightly in the box that it took three pullers to extract it.

Success!  The top of the tree is birthed!

The cats always like the ornaments, but this year, I put a special treat inside a couple of them: the last of this year's crop of catnip.

A little holiday tussle ensued.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Noah's 13th birthday

 Instead of having a party for Noah, we took a trip to Milwaukee for his 13th birthday.  We left on his birthday (Friday, 11/21/14) and returned the next day.  Our destination was a place we just heard about recently:  The Safe House, a spy-themed bar/restaurant.

 The cats made packing difficult.  There was a very small window of opportunity where no cat was in the suitcase, early in the morning on the day we left, so that's when I packed.  The second I finished, Marty was right back on top of it.  They didn't want us to leave.

Noah got to choose whether he wanted to sleep in and then leave, or get up early and go.  He chose to sleep in, but he was up early anyway.  The first words out of his mouth when he woke up and inspected himself were, "Oh man. Not even a chest hair!"  He said thirteen doesn't feel any different than twelve.  Sarah had decided the night before to have a party for him in the morning, and she had decorated for it:

A big box had arrived from Aunt Kathy and Uncle Matt earlier in the week, and since we didn't have anything for Noah to open on his birthday (we had given him a bike a couple weeks prior), we saved it for him.

He was happy to find that it contained a bucket of baseballs.  Sarah also gave him several sweet gifts that she had made.  Then we were ready to hit the road.

We stayed at a Best Western in a slummy area on the outskirts of Milwaukee.  It was a super old hotel, but it had everything we needed, including a pool, free parking (that was the determining factor, since hotels in the city charged $25/night to park), free breakfast, and a good price.  The room was big, and it even had a full kitchen and a big bathroom with a whirlpool tub!  
Our first act was to go swimming.  You can see Noah's rugburn on his chest from playing football at youth group.
After swimming, we went to the Safe House.  Just finding it and parking and getting there was an adventure in itself!  The entrance is in some back alley that looks like nothing, and the sign on the front doesn't say anything about Safe House; it says "International Exports, Ltd."  There's supposed to be someone at the door to ask for the password, but apparently she doesn't come on duty until 5:00, and it was only 4:45 when we got there.  While we were wandering around, I pulled on some random lever, which caused a bookshelf to swing open, and we were in.  
We sat at a table by this sign...
and near this chunk of the Berlin wall.
While we were waiting for the food, our "server agent" sent us on a spy mission.  One of the clues was to find a picture of Burt Reynolds in the women's bathroom. Mike and I were skipping over that one, because the clue referred to Burt having a "heart-on".  But Sarah wouldn't let it go, and kept talking loudly about how we have to find Burt Reynolds' heart-on in the bathroom.  There was a naked picture of Burt in the bathroom wearing nothing but a big red heart over his area.
Sarah especially loved this mirror.  She stood there and laughed for a long time.

Noah got a piece of chocolate cake with a trick candle.
We left via the secret tunnel, after getting the code to open the door from a phone booth.

It was dark when we got back to the car, so we didn't notice this parking ticket on our windshield until the next day.  We thought it was two hour parking for free and unlimited parking after 6:00, but apparently it was two-hour metered parking, and unlimited metered parking after 6:00.  So the $25 parking we saved by staying at a hotel outside the city was negated.
A kind stranger took this picture of the four of us downtown, right next to the scene of the crime.  You can actually see the back of our illegally parked van on the right.  
The next day we stopped at Lasertag Adventure in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on our way home.  We were all on the red team, and we won.  Mike (a.k.a. Goliath) came in first place. 
Sarah played some games, won some tickets, and spent them on vampire teeth.
Mike & Noah played trampoline dodgeball.  That's Noah bouncing off the wall on the right.

Truck stop on the way home.

It was a good trip, and I think our brand new teenager enjoyed it.