Friday, September 30, 2011

Kid in a candy shop…

I have been lamenting the upcoming move of our local JoAnn’s store.  It’s been so close and so convenient it will seem nothing short of tragic to have to make the trek (ok…it’s not actually that far of a drive…) over to the mall to get a fabric fix.

Of course, in the midst of all the sadness, something wonderful is coming out of the whole affair: liquidation sales!!  After marking down all patterns to 1.99 for the past week (I picked up a couple Burda and Vogue ones at that price since even on sale they never drop that low), I got an email last night from a ward friend mentioning that all patterns (except for Simplicity) had been lowered further to $0.25.


I probably don’t need to say that we were, of course, standing there ready to walk in when they opened the doors at 9:00 this morning.  I had expected wild stampeding crowds, but, surprisingly, we had the pattern drawers to ourselves for the first half an hour. By the time the post-preschool-drop-off crowds (including a good ward friend: yay for patterns PLUS friend-time!!)--showed up a little after 9:30 we were most of the way through.

We were working through the drawers so quickly it was hard to process everything there was to see so I didn’t actually get a great feel for what we’d found until we got home and started spreading things out.  We spent just under $20 dollars (self-imposed budget so I didn’t walk out of there with EVERY pattern) and picked up over 70 patterns.  When they rang us up the “You Saved” part of the display read $975.

So if you’ve ever wondered what a thousand dollars worth of patterns looks like, here they are:

Kids patterns.  We already have a lot of kids patterns so I tried to find things that had something unique about them that we didn't already have in our pile of pretty little dress patterns.  I also looked for more things in the girls/childrens sizes rather than the toddler/baby stuff we've focused on up until now.  (Not to say there weren't still some baby things we couldn't in good conscience walk away from for a quarter!)  Surprise score?  A pattern for girls slips.

Mom patterns.  I don't make a lot of things for me, but maybe this will be a good excuse to do more.   I also picked up another copy of my favorite skirt pattern since the envelope I've used before is sized a little...too optimistically...for my actual waistline.  (P.S.  the "nun" patter you can only see part of also has a really neat pioneer pattern in it...just in case you were wondering...)

OK.  Maybe this is weird.  I also picked up a bunch of formal/wedding stuff. With three girls I figure having a few of these might come in handy eventually between proms and weddings and all of that.  I'm sure styles will come and go over the next two decades, but who knows what might come back around by then...right?  I figured it was especially worth it to pick up anything that had a modest option although I did also grab a few that weren't completely modest but seemed to have some interesting design options that could possibly be incorporated into something else. 

Finally, I grabbed just a couple of crafty things.  I don't do a lot of craft stuff from patterns (I tell myself it's because there are so many tutorials on line for free, but it might also be that I just don't do enough crafty stuff period...hmmm) but I figured I could splurge and spend $1.25 on that sort of stuff.  


Well, now that I feel something like a lottery-winner gabbing about my good-fortune, let me know if there's a pattern you'd ever like to borrow.  There's no way that even in several life-times of sewing I'll ever get through all of them, so it would be great to share.
Pattern fun for everyone!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Oh Boy, We've Got Joy! (Joy School Year 2 Begins)

Only four days after soaking up Florida sun we did a dramatic dive into fall-mode over here with the return of Joy School.  We had such a great time last year with the other moms and kids in the group we’ve been really excited to do it all again.  We were especially excited to get to host the first week at our house.  And, needless to say, Amber is beyond ecstatic that she gets to be a full-fledged joy school student this year instead of just a tag-along on our weeks to teach.


In the Year 2 curriculum there is an added “Kindergarten Readiness” module for each class period.  While most of the focus is still values-based (Joy of Order, Joy of Kindness and Sharing, Joy of Goal-Striving, etc.) there is now also 30-minutes focused on academic skills.  We’ve also enrolled Robyn in a local preschool one morning a week to help prepare for full-day kindergarten next year. 

Joy Schoolers working on a project using the first letters of their names.

Every morning when kids first arrive at Joy School they “open their window" on the Joy School school house.  (It’s also one of the primary methods for motivating behavior at Joy School: kids will do almost anything to prevent having the teacher close their window during class!)  Last year we made the house out of foam board and velcro.  It worked ok, but it didn’t leave much room for adaptability when we had new additions half-way through the year and it was pretty thoroughly trashed by the end.  Considering how many potential years of Joy School we still have ahead of us I started trying to think of a way to do the school house that would be more flexible with changing classes and stand a chance of lasting more than one semester.  In the end I used fabric to come up with this:


New pictures can easily be slid into the pockets and the button openings don’t have the obnoxious habit of suddenly popping closed the way the Velcro ones did last year.  The windows that have Joy Boy and Joy Girl in them could also be replaced with kids if we had a larger class at some point.  I actually made up two of them since we split the joy school most weeks and I guess now we’ll wait and see how they work out.  If nothing else it was a fun project to puzzle out and a good excuse to use up some of my fabric scraps. 

Fall in Joy School also means a trip to the apple orchard.  While last year was a soggy experience tramping through chilly rain and huge mud puddles, this year the weather was great and made for a perfect morning at the farm.  It’s hard to say who had a better time: the kids with their little draw-string bags running around with their friends or the moms and their big apple bags chatting and musing over which apples were best for pies and other projects.



In the end, this is how most of our apples met their fate:


And a few more to get us through the season…


They’ve also been great to mix into oatmeal.  I love that when the weather starts getting cooler oatmeal starts to taste really good in the morning again.  Katie agrees.


While the kids have been focusing on starting their formal education, Bryan has been celebrating the end of that very long road.  Last Friday Lockheed Martin hosted a formal dinner and ceremony to recognize the graduates of its Engineering Leadership Development Program (the program included completing his master's degree, working different rotations within the company, and participating in several grueling projects/competitions) and Bryan couldn’t have been happier to officially be finished. 


Anyhow, here’s to a new school year and all the adventures that await!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fisk Family Florida Fun!

In 2008 when Bryan started the ELDP (Engineering Leadership Development Program) we decided that when he graduated we would celebrate with a trip to Disneyworld.  About the same time, we also decided to get rid of our cable and DVR and started tagging that money for our future vacation.  A little over three years later and it all actually happened: Bryan finished his program (!!!!) and we saved up enough to drive down to Florida.

Considering how many times we managed to misplace the camera on this adventure (really it’s amazing we didn’t lose the kids because I’m pretty sure every other single thing that we brought disappeared at some point at least temporarily!), I’m surprised at how many pictures we took.  Even weeding out the worst, there are still nearly 50 pictures in this post.  Definitely a blog entry only for die-hard Disney fans and folks interested in a serious Fisk-Fix. 

With that warning, here is a pictorial travelogue of our week down south:


We broke up the drive into three days, stopping at Bryan’s folks in Maryland and then at Bryan’s sister in South Carolina.  Honestly, as much fun as Disney was, some of the best parts of the trip were just being in the car together eating crackers and listening to nearly every Disney soundtrack in the county library system. 


This was also the trip where Katie discovered she loves all-things-citrus.  That she devoured oranges in the car wasn’t such a shocker, but when she started gnawing on lemon slices with obvious delight at a restaurant with Bryan’s folks we were pretty floored.  At least she should be safe from scurvy…


Bryan being our happy chauffer.


Staying with the Savages in South Carolina was a blast.  Robyn and Amber adore their cousin Maddy…which is perfect because we adore Maddy’s parents.  Even though we were there less than 24 hours, we had a great time checking out Jenn’s new kitchen makeover, going swimming at their community pool, staying up too late chatting, eating way too much super delicious food, and even visiting their ward and enjoying a great Sunday School lesson by Jenn.  They may end up regretting hosting us because someday we might just show up wanting to stay a week or more! 


Robyn and Amber had never seen a jacuzzi until they got to go in the one at their cousin’s house.  You should have seen their looks of amazement when the bubbles started growing…and then their looks of panic when they couldn’t find a way to wash the bubbles off without getting covered in more bubbles!  Good times!


Sunday morning we looked over on the side of our bed at the Savage’s and discovered Katie busily humming away on Aunt Jennifer’s vintage toy typewriter.  I sense a tell-all in the works… 


More driving.  Sunday afternoon was our last day in the car and it was the one where things started getting really funny.  What is Amber doing in this picture you ask?   Talking on her “Pookie Phone.”  Pookie is the name of her stuffed hamster, and, let me tell you, Verizon has nothing compared to hamster coverage.


When I saw this picture it took me a while to figure out what the heck was going on in it.  I finally realized that, no, it wasn’t a revival meeting I somehow missed, it’s bubble popping!  The air conditioning vents did a great job shooting bubbles from the front clear to the back of the van.


Finally in Florida, we started things off easy with a day at Aquatica, SeaWorld’s water park.


It was a PERFECT way to get things started with tons of fun things for even little kids to do.  Some of our favorite things were the “lazy rivers.”  One you rode on tubes and got to go past a couple large tanks with tropical fish in them.  The other had miniature “rapids” in it.  Nothing too intense—the girls were able to come along in life vests—but it was enough to make going around in circles surprisingly fun. 



There were also two wave pools with nice sandy beaches to play in.


Another kiddie area.  You can probably guess from the sky that this was taken a few minutes before we got totally drenched by an afternoon rainstorm, but we were already wet and about ready to be done anyway, so it was all good. 


After the waterpark we checked into our hotel for the week (we spent Sunday night at Bryan’s aunt’s home near Orlando) and headed to Downtown Disney.  I wish I had been videotaping as we walked through the big Disney store there, because that’s where we arranged to meet up with Grandma, Dah-Dee-Doh, and Auntie Lynda.  The girls didn’t know they were coming and were pretty flabbergasted to run into them all of a sudden. 


When we started planning our trip we had no idea that my parents were independently looking at doing a trip to Florida this September as well.  When we realized we had parallel plans we decided to meet up for one of the days at Disney and for our day at the beach.  Of course, if I’d realized they were bringing this creepy monkey doll from my past with them we may have changed those plans.  And if Katie hadn’t latched onto him so quickly when my parents pulled him out of a mystery bag Mr. Monkey might be at the bottom of one of Disney’s lagoons this very second…


OK.  Now to get down to business with some pictures from Disney.  Here’s Amber waiting in line at the monorail station.


Obligatory group shot in front of the castle. 


Picture from our first ride on Dumbo.  Since we went the week of labor day most families around the country were busy diving into a new school year, leaving us with a nearly deserted Disney to enjoy with almost no lines. 


Katie’s anxious first ride on the carousel. 


Escaping a rainy morning by riding It’s A Small World.  Multiple times.  This was probably Katie’s favorite ride at the park.


Grandma and Dah-Dee-Doh were nice enough to take the girls on the Buzz Lightyear ride so Bryan and I could sneak off and try Space Mountain. 


Sweet?  Meeting Chip and Dale.  Less sweet?  The girls distress when our kitty left a dead chipmunk at our door this week.  “Was it Chip or Dale, Mom?  What color was its nose?  Red or black?”  :(


Grandma got to meet the chipmunks too.  (I think the sleeping toddler was just an excuse :)


Amber practicing to sign autographs as a princess someday.


The one princess the girls really really wanted to meet was Rapunzel.  It was really fun to go to Disneyworld while the girls were still at an age where they can completely believe in the magic.  Robyn was so excited to tell Rapunzel that she’s growing her hair out just like her and Amber was in heaven when Rapunzel was willing to watch her dance for a minute.


A whole group picture while waiting for the fireworks. 


For Day 2 at the Magic Kingdom we took the ferry across instead of the monorail.


Another ride on Dumbo.  Amazingly, the lines were even shorter the second day. 


Time to meet the princesses.  At Disneyworld there’s an attraction where you can go meet three princesses in one room.  Even better, you can fastpass it and guarantee a short wait. 




Personally, though, I was more excited at our chance stumble into Mary Poppins than I was about any of the princesses.  Meeting her was supercalifragilistic!


Stopping to enjoy a sort of flash-mob performance by the mainstreet dancers.


Bryan being less-excited about the mainstreet dancers than I was.  *I* thought they were a fun surprise.


The flying carpets ride.  This is hands-down the ride we went on the most.  Similar to Dumbo, but located in Adventureland, we went on this over and over and over.  This is probably the only ride I couldn’t think hard and come up with how many times we were on it.  It was a lot. 


Our once trepid Katie bloomed into an extremely confident merry-go-round-rider by the end of the second day.



Teacups!  This was another one the girls wanted repeat rides on.  I think this picture was taken moments before Bryan send us swirling fast enough that I’m half-convinced my stomach is still back in Florida somewhere.


Katie completely absorbed watching the afternoon parade.


Enjoying our big Disney world treat: pineapple-orange Dole-whips in the afternoon.  Yum!!!! 


Meeting the main mouse himself.  This was the last thing we did in the parks.  Robyn loved it.  Amber ended up overwhelmed, but still bragged to Daddy about how Minnie gave her a kiss before we left. 


Robyn noticing that at Disney even the rain drops make Mickey Mouse ears when they land in puddles.   Who knew?


My parents went to Universal while we were doing Day 2 at Disney, but afterwards they treated us to dinner at Chilis.  The girls must have stored up their silliness for this meal, because they were really in a funny mood.  It’s probably good we were so far away from everyone else that we know…


For our last day in Florida we decided to calm things down with a trip to Cocoa Beach.  We had originally hoped to catch a rocket launch while we were there, but it was scrubbed at the last hour.  Fortunately, Bryan (who stayed in Florida an extra week for work) was able to go and watch it when it finally did take off on Saturday.

Even without a rocket launch, it was a perfect day at the beach.  The waves were huge (Hurricane Katia was just a few hundred miles off the coast churning things up), the water was warm, and we had lots of the shore to ourselves.


Feeding popcorn to the seagulls with Dah-Dee-Doh.  Wish I’d gotten a picture of Bryan chasing away the seagulls whenever they came too close to our seashore picnic. 


We saw this image as part of a sky-writing message while we were in Florida and it seems to sum up the week for us.  By the end we were exhausted (I lost five pounds over the week!), but happy.  As much fun as the parks were, what really made the trip was just being able to spend a week being goofy together and getting to see so much family.  Even if there hadn’t been a mouse-eared logo involved, I’m pretty sure anywhere we could all be together, especially without the constant hum of day-to-day distractions, would have qualified as the “happiest place on earth.”