Thursday, December 27, 2012

Skating, packing and getting yelled at by an old lady

You know that saying that goes, "when a 94-year-old grandfather says 'jump,' you ask, 'how high?'?" What do you mean, it doesn't go exactly like that? Well, that's how the saying goes in the Lafferty family.

Cory's grandfather is 94 and is quite content being the patriarch of the family. He decided he was having a party for his birthday/launch of his book on December 22nd. (Yes, you read that part about the book correctly.) Thus, the whole family trekked to Wichita the weekend before Christmas for a two-hour party in a retirement home. It's what he wanted, so we were happy to oblige.

But, seeing as we were down there for the whole day on Saturday AND we had two young children in tow, we needed to find something to do for the rest of the day. Enter Google. In a few short clicks, I found a "Skating with Santa" event on Saturday morning. Perfect.

Remember, I had been wanting to take the girls ice skating? Well, this was a perfect solution. Plus, Aunt Amber was going to be in Wichita, so she could help with the skating. That meant, I could get some good pictures and not put my camera's life at too big a risk. Double plus, I found out my friend Terah was going to be in Wichita the same weekend with her family, and they wanted to come, too. It was a great plan all around.

Until the actual trip came around. See, as anyone who knows me can attest: I need my sleep. Like bad. I mean, I am essentially useless unless I get a full night's sleep. So, when it came to packing up for Wichita after several nights and days of Christmas get-togethers ... well, let's just say my brain didn't work so well.

I forgot pretty much everything. Including hats, coats and gloves for every single one of us. Not such a great thing to forget when you're going ice skating. I felt like an idiot. Christmas came a tad early as the girls got new coats and hats and gloves. Heck, even I got new gloves! Thank goodness Target was a mere four minutes away from our hotel.

So, freshly dressed with new outerwear, we headed over to the ice rink to skate with Santa. Luckily, despite the shaky start, we ended up having a great time.

Cory and Amber grew up with a pond in their backyard, so they spent many a childhood winter skating. I grew up in North Carolina, so my skating experience was much less extensive. I think I recall a childhood skating party or two, then a couple times as a grown up. With experts like Cory and Amber in my midst, I was able to trust them with the girls while I took pictures.  My mission was to stay upright to save the camera.

Seeing Santa before getting on the ice. Molly later said, "I think that Santa is a girl!" Whoops. We had to explain about Santa's helpers ...

The whole fam ready to take on the ice. Check out the girls' new coats and gloves. Pretty snazzy for a last-minute Target run.

I love this picture!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A tale of two girls ... and Santa

Every year since Molly's been born, we've gone to have breakfast with Santa through my dad's Rotary. The visits haven't always been successful. There was one year Molly refused to sit on Santa's lap. But, we did get a picture of her next to Santa, and she discovered Fruit Loops, which she had never seen before. She now and forever calls them "Christmas Cheerios." So, it wasn't an utter failure.

This year, the breakfast was in a new location. The old restaurant where they used to meet no longer exists, so they had it in the town hall building in Shawnee. Unfortunately, that is even farther away from us in Olathe. And, it started at 7:00 AM.

Now, it's not that I'm not used to being up that early. Trust me, I am. I live with the built in 5:30-alarm clock that is Charlotte Lafferty. However, being up is one thing. Being up, out the door, dressed in Christmas clothes the morning after a snow was a different thing altogether. It was a rather chaotic morning, but we managed to only be about 15 minutes late. And, we still beat my dad, mom, brother and sister.

We all ate breakfast (Catered by Moe's. The burrito place. I had no idea they catered breakfast, but that's an entirely other topic.) Then the organizers brought out a magician. The girls really enjoyed this part, and Charlotte's eyes were bugging out of her head when she saw him pull balls out of his mouth. I am afraid that she will attempt that trick at home.

Then, the main event: SANTA!

For some reason, every single year, we end up being the last people in line. This year was no different. Here was the problem: the night before, Santa had called the girls. Yeah, I know. A personal phone call from Santa? Yes, it's true.

Amber's hospital does a fundraiser every year by offering calls from Santa. So, she filled out the forms, gave some personal info and then Santa called and asked Molly about her dance and running, and asked Charlotte about gymnastics and her friend Ella.

So, after that the night before, Molly didn't see the need to go talk to Santa. "I told him what I wanted last night," she explained. But, then I explained that I really wanted a picture of her with Santa, so she relented.

We waited and waited and waited and waited ... finally it was our turn.

Posing with Santa!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Great Santa Run

Last year, Cory and I ran in the Great Santa Run, a 5K around Johnson County Community College, not too far from our house. We ran it with my little brother and Anne while the girls spent the night at my parents' house. The race is a fun theme. C'mon, it's called the Great Santa Run.

Everyone gets Santa hats to run in, and it is fun to check out everyone's costumes. People ran in full Santa suits, Christmas tree outfits, and all sorts of other Christmas-themed regalia. Plus, they have an amazing breakfast after, with the culinary school of JCCC preparing and serving a huge breakfast of eggs, biscuits and gravy, pastries, lemon bars ... yum.

We had such a good time last year that I definitely wanted to do it again. So, this year, I was all gung-ho for everyone to do it. But, my little brother wasn't in town. My dad wouldn't commit. Anne got sick. Kelli was hurt. Basically, my big plans of having a big ol' Christmas-themed running party were crushed.

But, I had had so much fun last year, and I really thought the girls would get a kick out of it. I mean, there was a Little Elves Run! So, we convinced Cory's parents to come out to watch the girls while Cory and I ran the race. Luckily, the whole waiting area is inside a gym, so no one needed to wait out in the cold. And, even more luckily, the weather was absolutely amazing. It was over 50 degrees and sunny at race time.

How to entertain a cranky 2-year-old? Dora on the iPhone.

Now they're both entertained
Family picture before the race.

We hung out inside with the girls and Cory's parents for as long as possible, then made our way to the starting line. That is where our mistake began. We thought the starting line was where the big archway for the finish line was. Turns out, that was an incorrect assumption. The starting line was actually a good 60 feet ahead of that. So, while we started not very far back from what we thought was the start, we were actually probably 75 feet from the start. Seventy-five feet of people.

Problem was, we didn't realize our mistake until after the race started. We couldn't run fast at all, and we had to weave in and around and through. We were running on the grass, on the sidewalks, on the curbs. It was crazy. At one point, I had to pass a lady walking with two canes. Two canes! That is how far back we were.

(Not that there is anything wrong with walking in a race with two canes. I actually think that is quite awesome and to be commended. But, if I want to go fast, I just probably shouldn't be starting behind this person.)

So, my big plan of redemption and winning another medal was ruined. It took way too much time to weave around the people. And, remember how I said that the weather was gorgeous? Well, it was, but I was way overdressed. I was wearing capris, long socks and a long sleeved shirt, and I was dying. Now, I'm not making excuses. I also haven't been doing speedwork, and there were a lot more people in the race this year, so I probably wouldn't have repeated as last year's 3rd place age division winner no matter where we started.

But, the point of it all, was that we had a great time. I got 7th instead of 3rd. No medal for me. But, we did have a great time. Molly ran the kids race super fast. So fast, in fact, that I didn't even get a picture of it. We all got delicious breakfasts, and got some really fun pictures to boot.

Crossing the finish line. You can tell how far back we started when our official time is 1:30 faster than our clock time.

I didn't catch Molly on camera, but I did get Charlotte running with Cory.

Hanging out with the giant Santa.

Playing around after the race. Racing down the hill.

Yes, that is Buddy the Elf. Yes, I did ask to take a picture with him. No, Charlotte would not go anywhere close to him.
My new favorite family picture! I only wish I would've waited to make our Christmas card until after we took this one!
Happy Santa Run to all and to all a goodnight!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Nutcracker Sweet

Although I may not resemble one now, there was a time in my life when I was a ballerina. I know. Really and truly. And, though running has completely co-opted my physical activity allotment now (as well as any turn-out I once had), I do still hold a very dear spot in my heart for my dancing days. And, nothing brings those memories flooding back like Christmastime and The Nutcracker Ballet.

See, I performed in The Nutcracker Ballet for the Dance Theater of Fayetteville for something like five years straight. I cannot hear the opening strains of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite without pointing my toes or fighting the urge to whip out a couple tour jetes across the kitchen floor.

So, you can imagine how excited I have been to share my love for this ballet with Molly and Charlotte. The problem was, I wasn't sure how well they would be able to handle sitting through an entire 2-hour performance. I knew I would be entranced by the beauty and dancing, but a 2- and 5-year-old? No guarantees that would turn out well.

Then, I came across this ad for a Nutcracker Ballet Tea Party thrown by the Arts and Recreation Foundation of Overland Park and Friends of Overland Park Arts. It was a shortened version of the ballet, performed by ballet students, aimed at children, and complete with an actual tea party. Problem solved!

The girls love playing tea party, and I could test out how they would do with a shortened performance. I convinced a couple other moms of girls that they should do it too, so we filled up a table in no time.

I have never been so proud of how well-behaved my girls acted. I'm not going to pretend that they are angels, and regular readers know that isn't the case, but on this day, they were fabulous. We got all dressed up for the big event. It was an excuse to wear their holiday dresses another time. The ballroom was beautifully decorated, and the girls sat in their seats and couldn't get over the excitement of it all. I'm pretty sure both my girls ate about four cookies a piece, but since it was a special occasion, I didn't worry about it.

Melese, Avery and Molly checking out the spread.

Of course, Charlotte's mouth if full of cookie.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cheese + Penguins = Bad Mom?

On Saturday, Cory got tickets to the final K-State football game of the regular season in Manhattan. For some reason, he really enjoys going to these games, so he left us Lafferty Ladies to fend for ourselves. Yep, it was a Lively Lafferty Lady solo evening adventure.

The last couple days in KC have been absolutely beautiful, weather-wise. And, because as you all know, I very rarely cook, I decided to take the girls out of the house and to their favorite place to eat: Noodles. We are just sitting, minding our own business and enjoying dinner when a cute little old lady comes up to tell me how cute the girls are. I thank her, smile and continue eating.

Then, another woman comes up. "Your girls are so cute."
"Thanks," I said.
"Are you girls eating mac and cheese?" she asked, looking at Molly and Charlotte.
"Yes," I answered (the girls usually don't talk to people we don't know), "we love mac and cheese in our house."
"I'm a daycare provider, and my kids just don't like mac and cheese."
"Really?" I ask politely.
"Well, I think the problem is that I cook everything really healthy for them. I always make everything with really healthy whole grains and no additives, plus lots of vegetables and proteins. So, I just think they don't like the taste of something unhealthy like mac and cheese."

Um. Ok. As my children are gobbling down the cheese and butter ooey gooey goodness of Noodles mac and cheese. Talk about making this non-cooking mom feel like crap.

At that point, I kind of mumbled something like, "wow, huh, interesting," or something to that extent. And, then she finally walked away. I'm not sure if she was trying to say something about what my girls were eating, or if she was just making conversation, but either way, I was done. Thanks, lady.

Once we finished our delicious, but apparently completely unhealthy mac and cheese, I decided we needed to do something fun to make up for feeling like a bad mom. Plus, I wanted to take advantage of the 60 degree weather on December 1st. I had several ideas about what to do.

I have been really wanting to take the girls ice skating and thought it would be a great night to try it. But, I'd of course want to take pictures of the experience (I have a really cute scrapbook kit for skating!). And, I couldn't figure out a good way to help both Molly and Charlotte on their first times on skates and be able to take adorable pictures, too. I could just picture all three of us falling on our butts, and me dropping my really expensive, really nice new camera. I didn't see it ending well.

I also thought about driving around to look at Christmas lights, but that wasn't exactly taking advantage of the weather. We can ride in the car just as easily when it's 60 degrees as when it is 20 degrees.

Then, I came up with a plan: the Penguin House! For those of you not in the know, the Penguin House is actually "Paulie's Penguin House." It is a house completely decorated in inflatable penguins, polar bears, Santas and other polar animals. I mean, completely decorated. On the house, on the fence, in the yard, on the roof. Everywhere. You park your car and can actually walk through the yard to look at all the different inflatables. Plus, it's just a family that decorates their house. It's completely free, but they take donations for the Leukemia Society. It's just a really cute thing to do. Especially on a 60-degree night in December.

So, we headed over, and the girls were so excited. Cory had taken them last year on a day when I was sick, so I didn't go, but I know it wasn't as nice of weather as we were getting. I didn't even have coats on the girls, plus I was sweating in my sweater and vest. Crazy. Anyway, we got over and started exploring.

Charlotte is in LOVE with polar bears.

Posing with another polar bear.
Then, they found the snow. Ok, so it wasn't real snow. They have this bubble-soap-snow-machine that makes this snow-like bubble substance and sends it flying down through the air every couple minutes. It took everything I had to get Molly out of that after she discovered it.

Luckily, we were on our own for the evening, and it was beautiful out - I let them play pretty much as long as they wanted. I mean, I had already been called out for being a bad mom that night, I might as well just let my kids play to their hearts' content in weird bubble stuff at a strange house covered in inflatables, right?

I just can't stop laughing at Charlotte's face in this picture.

Posing with the snow in front of an igloo - with no coat!

Her shirt kind of says it all: "Snow much fun"

In front of just one of the many displays of penguins.

The kid was having a  ball.

"Mom, can I bring it home?"

In the snow storm!

It ended up being a great evening for us Lafferty Ladies, despite being abandoned for a football game and being called out for my kids' food choices. We ran into an old friend while we were playing in the snow at the penguin house, and then after it all, we came home and watched "Madagascar Christmas." Yep, nothing like rotting their brains with TV right after rotting their stomachs with mac and cheese.

Go ahead. You can nominate me now for Mother of the Year.

Lafferty Ladies

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Birthday cards through coercion

My birthday was this week. I turned the big 32. Ok, so that number doesn't exactly deserve a special "big" before it. In fact, there's really nothing special about 32 at all. When you're a kid, every birthday is exciting. And it seemed like FOREVER until the next one came along.

The cruel irony of adulthood is that your birthdays seem to get closer and closer, when really you'd prefer them to be spread further and further apart.  After 21, then 30, the years just blur together. Sometimes, it even takes a while to remember just how old you are when someone asks.

But, don't get me wrong. I love to celebrate my birthdays. I enjoy getting to do things I want and eat where I like. I've always been a bit sensitive about my birthday. As any person with a birthday near a holiday will attest, birthdays can get overlooked in favor of whatever national holiday is going on around the same time. For me, it is Thanksgiving. Because Thanksgiving moves, my birthday is sometimes on the actual day, and sometimes as much as six days later, as it was this year. The years it falls on Thanksgiving or the day after are the worst.

This year, however, I had a great birthday. Cory took the day off work. I went on a long morning run, then he brought me Starbucks. We went to Einstein's for breakfast, then he took Charlotte to her music class so I could go home and take a nap. In the afternoon, I got a pedicure, then we drove to Lawrence for dinner at McAlister's. We even topped off the night with a cupcake from Smallcakes. Yup, I did indeed eat my way through my birthday. (Thus the need for the long morning run.)

With Charlotte on my actual birthday.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Come ... as a child

Some things you just know. You don't know when you learned them or how you learned them. They've just been in your head since childhood. It can be years before you need to pull these things out, but when you do, voila they are there.

But, when you become a parent, no one tells you that you are now responsible for instilling and teaching those things into your child. They don't come out knowing this stuff you've always known. They don't know that if you let go of a cup, it will drop to the floor. They don't know that if you touch a hot iron, it will burn your fingers. They don't come out of the womb knowing the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

And, it's not until you need them to know something that you've always known, that you realize you are the one who is supposed to teach them that.

So it happened a little over a week ago to me. I got a call from someone at my church. Our church has been making really cool videos since we got a new pastor. They were making a new one for the Advent season, and needed a little girl to sing "Jesus Loves Me."

"Would Molly be able to do this?" they asked. "Sure," I replied. "She'd love to."

First mistake: Assuming Molly would be thrilled. When I picked her up from school that afternoon, I told her about going up to church to sing on the video. "No, I don't want to do that!" she said rather emphatically. "I'm a horrible singer."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Getting my kicks ...

A few months ago, I saw something come across my news feed on Facebook. It was advertising for the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I ran the marathon of this in 2010, but, I was not up to running a marathon this year. What I was up for was the special edition Half Fanatic medal the race was offering.

Look at that!
That's right, bling specifically designated for Half Fanatics. Now, if you remember, I earned my spot in the Half Fanatics back in April. But, other than knowing that I was a Half Fanatic, nothing really changed in terms of my running.

Until now. I was so excited about this. Back when I ran the race in 2010, it was a really well-run, well-organized race. I know, you're probably thinking, Tulsa? Really? But, I had a good time (despite dealing with sick children all weekend) when I did it. So, I put the word out to see if anyone would want to come to Tulsa with the goal of getting the Half Fanatic medal. I knew I could count on Anne and Kelli to agree to a girls' trip with the sole goal of this medal.

We had one small problem, though. Kelli had already signed up to run a 50K on Saturday (Route 66 was on Sunday). 50K, in case you're wondering, is 31 miles. Yes, I did not miss a decimal point. It is thirty-one miles. But, she still wanted to run for the Half Fanatic medal.

The logistics got a little tricky because of this. We had to get to the expo by 6pm on Saturday night to pick up our packets, but there was no way Kelli could finish her run and meet us to drive down to Tulsa and make it by 6pm.

So, Anne and I left in the morning with plans to pick up Kelli's packet for her while Kelli hopped a flight after she finished running her 50K. I know, I was also surprised that you could fly from KC to Tulsa. Although, you do apparently have to go through Dallas/Ft. Worth to do it.

To get the weekend off on the right foot (the caffeinated one), we started the road trip with a trip to Starbucks. The drive to Tulsa is not exactly exciting, if you can imagine, so we needed all the help we could get to make it.

Thanks to our delicious drinks, Anne and I did make it to Tulsa by noon. Turned out to be perfect timing for a lunch trip to my favorite place: McAlister's Deli. Yum.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A very special Veterans Day

It's kind of appropriate that Veterans Day lands in November. A lot of people use the whole month leading up to Thanksgiving as a way of taking stock of the things for which they are thankful. Growing up as an Army brat, I don't think I've ever taken for granted the people who've served in our military, but it is nice to have a day set aside especially to say thanks.

Well, last week, Molly's school sent home a flyer announcing the upcoming Veterans Day assembly. The school was putting together a slideshow for the assembly and needed people to send in pictures of any relatives who are veterans or who currently serve in the military. Then, it said that they would love for Veterans to come to the assembly to speak.

My dad is retired from the Army now, but still works full time, so he couldn't come. But, my grandpa is retired from the Marines, and I thought maybe he would like to come.

So, I went out to visit him last week to ask him about coming. When Charlotte and I got there, I asked him if he thought he might be able to do it.

"Well, I'm going to a Veteran's luncheon at JCCC, but that's not until noon, so I should be able to come," he replied. Apparently, you gotta book early to fit in the plethora of Veterans Day activities.

Then, I asked him if he had a picture for the slideshow the school was making. "I don't know. It's been 40 years, you know," he told me with a grin. Then, he disappeared for about 20 minutes. Next thing I knew, he was coming downstairs with a big album of pictures. It was this whole treasure trove of history. We looked through it together, and he told me stories about every different picture.

I took a couple pictures of the pictures, but I want to get back out there to get them all copied (with his memories about them). I know, at my age, it's pretty rare to have a grandpa still around, so I felt incredibly  lucky to have the chance to sit next to him on the couch as he shared his memories of receiving a Bronze Star for serving in the forward infantry in Korea, or of being sent to Nagasaki three weeks after the atomic bomb went off in WWII, or the fact that he was smoking cigarettes in some of the pictures because, "they were free. They sent them to us, so we smoked them."

Picture from an article about my Grandpa after he was awarded the Bronze Star.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Basketball: up close and ageless

I'm  not a huge football fan. I'm just not.

It may stem from never having a great team to cheer for. KU football has never been awesome, and then you have the Kansas City Chiefs. Please. The Chiefs are literally the worst team in the NFL. Without good teams to cheer for, I just have never been transformed into a football fan. Cory has his K-State football team, and I don't begrudge them any wins, I just have very little interest in watching it.

I don't even watch the Superbowl unless we happen to be at a party with delicious snacks to eat. (FYI, delicious snacks include, but are not limited to chips, dips, cookies and cupcakes. Yum.) And, even then, I'm probably paying more attention to the commercials.

Buuuuuuut, if you want to talk about basketball, and specifically, KU Basketball. I'm your gal. I love it. I know it may sound cliche to say that I love KU basketball but not football, but, it's the truth. I find basketball more exciting to watch and much easier to follow. I'm not going to apologize for that.

So, when my dad called me up a couple weeks ago to tell me that he had tickets to the KU basketball game that he couldn't use, I jumped at the chance to go. Even if it was a to a pre-season exhibition game. I still love going up to Allen Fieldhouse and getting the experience of college basketball in person.

I had four tickets to the Monday night game, so Cory and I made it a date night with my friend Terah and her husband Nathan. Terah and I met at KU and always went to games together as students, so it was a fun time to reminisce.

Well, it turns out the tickets that my dad had but couldn't use were INCREDIBLE. Fourth row back, right across from the home bench. We could actually hear the words Bill Self used when he was yelling at the team. (A lot of "Wake up!") Even as a student, I was never that close to the floor.

Dang! Look how close we are!
One thing we noticed being so close: everyone else seems so young. The cheerleaders, the dancers, the players. They all look like babies up close. I sure don't really feel like I've aged all that much in the 14 years since I was a freshman living in the dorms camping out for basketball games, so I'm not sure why the students look so much younger now.

It's like the reverse of the Fast Times of Ridgemont High effect. I feel the same age, but everyone else keeps getting younger.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A wicked night

This was our family on Halloween:

Now, let me explain how I (a non-dresser-upper) ended up wearing a full face of green paint.

It all started a little over a month ago. My friend Tara threw a Wizard of Oz-themed 1st birthday party for her daughter, Priya. My girls had never seen The Wizard of Oz and to be honest, I couldn't remember the last time I had watched it, either. So, Tara invited us over for a screening of the movie in advance of the birthday party.

Charlotte, Molly, Kevi and Kiran watching intently.

I wasn't sure how the girls were going to like it. I remember being terrified of the flying monkeys when I was little. But, other than hiding for the "scary" parts, the girls actually really liked it. Molly even started dancing around like she was on the yellow brick road. And, from that, came the idea of the Halloween costume.

Molly wanted to be Glinda, the Good Witch. Because, although she is not the main character of the movie, she does have the poofiest dress and wears a crown. As a 5-year-old, it is hard to top that. Then, because the girls like to coordinate, Molly decided Charlotte should be Dorothy. And, Charlotte jumped on that bandwagon like it was made out of chocolate. She was decided.

After coming up with the idea, we needed costumes. Do you realize how frightening it is to Google "Girl Wizard of Oz Halloween Costume?" Everything that is sweet and innocent about the characters can also be made "Sexy." Personally, I didn't know that it was possible to be both the Tin Man AND sexy, but, apparently, you can. Yikes. Luckily, my sister can sew, so she was able to make the dresses for the girls' costumes. No sexy needed, thankyouverymuch.

So, how did Cory and I get involved in this, you may ask. Well, it turns out that the girls are still young enough to want to do things with their parents. Molly and Charlotte thought I needed to dress up, and they decided I should be the Bad Witch. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this decision. I'm choosing to believe it is solely because she's the only other girl in the movie. And, Cory, they decided, should be the scarecrow.

Now, this isn't to say that we were totally on board with this idea. We smiled and joked and said, "Oh, wouldn't that be funny." But, I never actually thought I would be dressing up. I don't dress up. I've never been one to do it as an adult. But, then they kept talking about it. On Halloween morning, Charlotte said, "Mommy, where is your costume?" I realized, at that point, that this was something they REALLY wanted to happen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halfway around Kansas City

As any regular reader of my blog knows, I love me some race bling. I just really enjoy getting big shiny medals placed around my neck after completing a good race. Maybe it borders on crazy, but I don't really care. It makes me happy.

I ran the Kansas City half in 2010 and 2011. Both times, while the course was fine, and I had a good time, the bling definitely left a lot to be desired. Small, plain medals. Nothing to write home about. Well, this year, the KC Marathon majorly upped it's game. It seems to be a trend in races. I know I'm not the only one who runs for medals because races keep improving their medal designs. There are even competitions for the best race medals.

So, this year, when the medal was announced, I knew I had to do the race once again. The medals were so much better. They had color, they were bigger, they had a cool design, they had a custom ribbon. All the things you want in a good medal.

Check out the difference from 2010 to 2012 (You can't really tell the size difference in these pics, but it is significant):

Many friends of mine planned to run this race. Kelli and Ally were running the full marathon, but despite Kelli's many times of asking me, I never agreed to it. I stuck with the half. Anne was going to do the full as well, but injured her IT band and ended up dropping out. Katie was running it with her friend. Kelly was pacing it. My running partner, Sarah, and I planned to run it together.

The KC Marathon had a big expo downtown where you picked up your packet before the race. Ally went on Thursday and posted a picture on Facebook. When we finished Hospital Hill in June, a photographer from the race had taken a picture while Kelli, Ally, Anne and I were posing in front of the fountains at Crown Center. Unbeknownst to us, Hospital Hill was using that picture on their marketing for next year's 40th anniversary race: "A party 40 years in the making."

How cool is this? 
We were super excited to be on a sticker with all those running legends.
We're thinking being on the marketing material should get us free entry to next year's race ...

Anyway, back to the KC Half: For the last couple weeks before the race, my runs hadn't been feeling that great. I was feeling sluggish, and my legs felt heavy. I'm not really sure what was going on, but on the morning of the race, I was a little concerned and apprehensive about how I was going to do. And, although I didn't technically have a time goal, I knew about where I would want to finish.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Goin' on a Hay Ride

Two Thursdays a month, I meet with some lovely ladies to drink wine, eat yummy food and chat about what's going on in our lives. Oh, yeah, also, we read different books about faith, spirituality and the bible and discuss those. We've named it "Faith Club," and I love those Thursday nights. Every once in a while, we make an effort to get together outside of the standard Thursday night and include spouses, significant others, and children. We started talking about doing something this fall, and the idea of a Hay Ride came up.

Ok, truth be told, I brought the idea up. I have had several other friends who have gone on these hay rides, and I thought they sounded so fun. You schedule a specific time, then meet at Shawnee Mission Park, go for an hour-long hay ride, then get to have an hour-long bonfire, complete with marshmallows and apple cider. Plus, you can bring other food if you want. And, if you know me, you know s'mores were a must. Mmmmm ... marshmallows gooeyness with chocolate sweetness and graham crunchiness. Delicious.

Anyway. So, everyone was up for it, and we scheduled the hay ride. Then, slowly, people started dropping out. Your group is supposed to have a minimum number of people, and I'd already made the deposit, so I was getting worried. But, a couple girls invited roomates and friends, and we made it just barely over the minimum. We were a go!

The girls were super excited to hear that we were going to go on a hay ride. We drove out to the park, and bundled up. It was actually a really nice night. A little chilly, but you kind of want a hay ride to be chilly, right? It helps contribute to the atmosphere.

We were the first to arrive, so we got a family picture on the hay ride.

Pretty Molly with the campfire in the background.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Omaha? Don't mind if I do.

For my entire childhood, I lived at least a half a country away from my cousins. While I grew up in North Carolina, my three cousins were growing up in Arizona. When they moved to Virginia, we moved to Kansas. Never in the same vicinity  Never anywhere close. We saw each other maybe every couple of years.

We got along great when we saw each other, but it was pretty infrequent. Laura, Jennifer and I wrote letters to each other in the typical 5th grade girl fashion, but without things like computers and Facebook, it made it hard to stay connected.

When Laura moved to Minnesota several years ago, I could hardly believe it. We were going to be so close. Only a couple states away, and only an 8-hour drive! Plus, our girls are so close in age. In fact, the difference in ages between Molly and Penelope and Charlotte is incredibly similar to what it was between me and Laura and Jennifer growing up. It's like the three of us cousins reincarnated.

All this background to say, I'm so excited that my girls get to have a close relationship with Penelope, and I get to see Laura a lot more. We have the annual Easter visits and other visits back and forth. And, for a while now, we've been talking about the idea of meeting somewhere in the middle for a weekend trip. But, nothing really came of it. Until ...

About a month or so ago, I emailed Laura and said, "Are you still interested in doing an Omaha trip? Let's do it in October." And, despite having just returned from a road trip, she agreed.

Omaha is about a 3-hour drive for us and about a 5-hour drive for them. And, Omaha has a great zoo. That was pretty much the extent of our planning. It was a very low-key, fly by the seat of our pants trip. And, in spite of that, we had a fabulous time.

We couldn't leave until Saturday morning because we'd already committed to going on a hay ride on Friday night (blog post on that later, don't you worry!). So, we roused the girls out of bed at oh-dark-30 and hopped on the highway to Omaha. We got there before 9am, so we still had the whole day ahead of us.

We met Laura, Chris and Penny at the hotel and carpooled to the zoo. All the weather forecasts showed rain all day long. We'd been worried about this, so we packed rain coats and rain boots and were assured there was lots of stuff indoors at the zoo. Turns out, all that worry was for nothing. It ended up being a gorgeous day. A little overcast but a perfect fall day for the zoo. I was, in fact, overdressed.

The first thing we did upon arrival at the zoo. Pictures on the lions.

Checking out the orangutans. I could've watched them all day, but the girls  only watched for approximately 30 seconds and were done.

Seriously, how cute is this?

Molly watching the tiger. Geesh, I'm glad there is a giant metal cage between them. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Camping sounds

Another edition of our lives in children's book form. Some details may have been changed to fit the story, and this adventure actually took place a month ago. But, well, it's a story, so enjoy:

Molly and Charlotte were sisters and the best of friends. They did everything together. They played dress up together. They played school together. They rode their bikes and scooters together. Sometimes they fought, but they loved each other and always said, "I'm sorry" and gave each other a hug.

One of the things Molly and Charlotte really loved to do was listen to their mommy and daddy read to them. One night, their daddy read a Bernstain Bears story all about camping. The girls had never been camping before, and everything in the book made it sound so fun. You get to sleep in a tent?!? OUTSIDE?!? All night?!?

Molly and Charlotte looked at each other. They both knew immediately that they wanted to go camping themselves. Molly and Charlotte spent months asking their parents if they could go camping.

"Mommy, can we go camping?" Molly would ask.
"Not tonight, sweetie, it's a school night," her mommy would reply.

"Daddy, camping?" asked Charlotte in the few words that she could say as a 2 year old.
"No, honey, we have a lot going on this weekend," her daddy would say.

A couple weeks later, Molly would try again.
"Mommy, can we go camping?" Molly would ask.
"No, not now. It's the middle of summer. It is TOO hot to go camping," her mom would say.

"Daddy, camping?" asked Charlotte again.
"Not today, Charlotte," her daddy would tell her. "Tonight, you're going to spend the night at your grandparents' house."

While the sisters loved spending the night at their grandparents' house, they still wanted to go camping.

Finally, one day, after months and months of asking, Molly and Charlotte's mommy and daddy said that this weekend would be the weekend. The weekend they could go camping. But, only if the weather was good.

The girls were so excited. They gathered their sleeping bags and their footie pajamas, and they watched the weather forecast on TV every single day. They wanted to make sure nothing would stop their camp out.

Saturday arrived. The weather wasn't too cold. The weather wasn't too hot. There was no rain in the forecast and not a cloud in the sky.

It was camping day!

Their mommy and daddy decided that they would set up their tent in the backyard instead of going to a campground like they had read about in the book. Their mommy said something about testing out how they would do. Molly wasn't worried, she knew she was going to love camping, and she was sure Charlotte would love it, too.

In the afternoon, the girls helped their daddy set up their brand-new tent in the backyard. It was really easy to set up. Molly and Charlotte played on the swings and kicked a ball around. And, the next thing they knew, the tent was standing up. It was like magic!

Other kids from the neighborhood even thought the tent was cool. Aureley and Michael came down to see what was happening in their backyard. Molly and Charlotte thought the tent was their very own playhouse.

Aureley, Molly and Charlotte waving from inside the tent.

It was so nice of Daddy to set us up our own playhouse.

This is pretty much the coolest thing ever.
They played in the tent all afternoon while their daddy cooked hot dogs on the grill. He said that all camp outs should have hot dogs. Their mommy thought all camp outs should have s'mores, but they couldn't find any marshmallows, so they couldn't have s'mores. Their mommy was sad about that.

It started to get dark, and the sisters were so excited to sleep in the tent. It was the first time they had ever asked, "Is it bedtime, yet?" Their mommy made sure they put on their warmest footie pajamas so they wouldn't get cold. They carried their blankets and sleeping bags and pillows and stuffed animals out to the tent. It was such an adventure!

Their mommy took some pictures of all of them in the tent, but then she kissed them and hugged them and told them to have a great daddy-daughter camp out adventure. Then, she went inside. Molly and Charlotte couldn't believe she wouldn't want to sleep in the tent with them, and they couldn't imagine that she would want to sleep in the house all by herself. She promised she would be fine, though.

Daddy-Daughter adventure!

"Roughing it" with blankets, pillows and multiple air mattresses.

Molly and Charlotte snuggled into their sleeping bags and closed their eyes.

All of a sudden, Molly heard a noise. Bark, bark, bark, ruff, ruff.
"What's that, Daddy?" Molly asked.
"It's just Dexter, the dog next door, barking, Molly," her daddy answered. "Go to sleep."

Then, Charlotte heard a noise. Who, who, who.
"Daddy, what's that sound?" asked Charlotte.
"It's just an owl, Charlotte," her daddy replied. "Go to sleep."

The girls rested quietly for a minute. Then, Molly heard something else. Rustle, rustle, rustle, rustle.
"What's that noise, Daddy?" Molly questioned.
"It's just the leaves on the trees blowing in the wind," said her daddy. "Go to sleep."

Charlotte heard a noise. Slam!
"What's that?" Charlotte asked.
"It's just someone shutting their car door," her daddy said. "Go to sleep."

The girls lay quietly again. Then, they both heard a noise. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz, honk-shew, honk-shew, zzzzzzzzzz.
"Daddy," they both asked, "what is that noise?"
But, their daddy didn't say anything.
"Daddy?" they asked.
"Daddy, are you awake?"

They both crawled over to their daddy's sleeping bag. And, there he was. His eyes shut tight. Sleeping. Molly told Charlotte, "That sound is Daddy's snoring!"

They looked at each other and laughed and smiled. Camping was just as much fun as they thought it would be when they first heard about it in the Berenstain Bears book.

So, Molly and Charlotte snuggled close to each other, closed their eyes and drifted to sleep. All the while, listening to the sounds of a dog barking, owls hooting, leaves rustling and their daddy's snoring.

And, even though they liked "Rock-a-bye Baby" and "Twinkle, Twinkle," Molly and Charlotte now had a new favorite lullaby: the sounds of a camping adventure with their daddy. Snoring and all.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The power of the paddle

I know a lot of my recent posts have been a little school-heavy. But, well, that's what my life is right now, and this blog is called Life makes me Laff, so ... that's what you get. And, here's another one:

Molly's school only does one fundraiser a year. They have a walk-a-thon and get pledges from people to support the kids' walking. And, from my point of view, that's awesome. That means no selling wrapping paper, coupon books or cookie dough. (Though, being a Daisy Scout, she will be selling Girl Scout Cookies. Get ready.) I'm ecstatic not to have to go around asking everyone to buy stuff, of which only a percentage actually goes to the school.

We asked some neighbors and family to pledge money a couple weeks ago, then Friday was the big walk. The walk took place during school, then in the evening they had a party at the school with a bake sale, concessions and an auction.

Oh, boy. Did we clean up good at the auction. Being first-timers to this whole shebang, we weren't really sure how much things would go for. So, Cory had an amount he was wanting to spend to get the one thing on the auction list that we really wanted: drum roll, please ...

A movie after school with Molly's teacher.

If you're thinking, "Wow, that's so cool. What a great way for Molly to get in even better with her teacher," well, then that's what I was thinking, too. We're so on the same wavelength! And, if you just thought, "Wow, Molly would probably love that," well, you're clearly not as big of a kiss-up to teachers as I am. But, the truth is, Molly would love it. We happened to run into her computer teacher out at dinner the other night, and Molly was beyond excited. She would be over the moon to actually go see a movie with her teacher.

So, that was the big plan. That was our goal. We got to school, got some hot dogs and staked a claim on a table in the auction room.

Eating hot dogs with Dad.

Molly with her classmate.

The big movie outing was the second item on the auction block. The auction started. We wait for the announcement. Our hearts start pounding, palms sweating. Would we get it? Could we get it? How high was it going to go? How much would we be willing to fight for it? You could cut the tension with a knife.

Alright, that might be a slight exaggeration. Truth be told, you could barely hear anything over the din of children and parents talking and screaming, and we weren't really nervous or sweaty, but it makes it much more dramatic to think of it the other way. So, just go with me.

The announcer called, "Movie after school with Mrs. Clutts." She opened the bidding at $10. Someone else raised her paddle. Aack, this was going to be a bidding war. "Do I hear $11?" Cory quickly raised his paddle. "I've got $11, do I have $12? $12? $12? Ok, it goes for $11 to paddle number 14."

Wait, what?

How in the world did it go that quickly? How was there not a fight to the death for the privilege of going to a movie with Molly's awesome teacher? I guess it doesn't matter. We got it. WE WON.

But, it was WAY less than we were planning on spending, and all the money does go to Molly's school, so Cory started going bidding crazy.

We ended up with "Making jewelry after school with a teacher" and "Making cookies after school with a teacher." THEN, we went into the silent auction.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's the little things

Lately, I've been having a lot of "ahhh" moments. Not to be confused with Oprah's "Ah-ha" moments, of course. I'm not claiming I'm anything like the O. 

Just little things that have made me smile or feel really blessed or just say, "ahhh, life is good." Nothing big or life-changing, but definitely moment-pausing. So, in honor of all the little things in life, here are a couple of my recent "ahhh" moments.

1. Starbucks. Despite the fact that I don't drink coffee, I've been a fan of Starbucks for about five years. (I distinctly remember my very first Chai Tea Latte, courtesy of Aunt Jan on the weekend of Molly's baptism.) But, lately, I've discovered a couple things I never knew. Did you know that you can get a Chai Tea Latte as a frozen drink? Yeah, I discovered that this summer. It's called a Chai Creme Frappucino. And, it is delicious. Then, three weeks ago, I discovered that you can get Starbucks' famous pumpkin spice added to either the Chai Creme Frappcino or my regular Chai Tea Latte. And, if you're like me, you can always get them made with soy. Mmmmmmmm ... heaven, pure heaven, I'm tellin' ya.