Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lakeside

How have I lived here since 1999 and never gone to Lakeside? More importantly, how have I had children for 9 years and never gone to Kiddie Land at Lakeside? Lakeside Kiddie Land is the PERFECT place to take little ones.

We finally visited Lakeside because my sister Melissa and brother-in-law Brian (and their two girls, Abigail and Olivia) came to stay with us for a few days. We were following through on the promise to take the kids to an amusement park since our trip to the carnival in Saratoga fell through. So Aaron and I took the day off work on Friday and we loaded up all the kids for our day of fun.

We were a little unsure of things when we first pulled in. Things look a bit rundown. The parking lot is dirt with a little broken asphalt. But the parking is free, so that's a nice bonus. We went to Kiddie Land and discovered that it's old enough to have plenty of mature trees around - that means there is SHADE around some of the rides. That's a wonderful thing on a hot summer afternoon.

Many of the rides are older, a little run down, and not top-of-the-line technology, but the kids totally didn't care! They ran from ride to ride, loving every minute. I loved the fact that even our littlest kids (Rylen, 2 years, and Olivia, 18 months or so) could ride almost every ride. The ride operators would help them climb in and out and strap them in - or let mom or dad load them in. The rides are all meant for little ones, so parents don't have to ride with them. The ride operators will even run the ride if there's only one kid. Several times one of the kids got to be the only person on a ride. They felt pretty special that the ride would go just for them. The ride operators will also STOP the rides for any child who gets scared and needs to get off. No one has to just suffer through the rest of the ride; they get to get off the ride, and then they'll finish the ride for everyone else. A lot of the ride operators were teenagers who would probably rather be doing a lot of things other than running carnival rides for little kids, but they were really well trained and the customer service was wonderful.

There are tame rides for the timid kids and more adventurous rides (roller coaster and mini tower drop) for the little adrenaline junkies. There are quite a few rides - enough that in 5 hours our kids never got bored with the selection. But they're all pretty closely spaced. Parents can choose a central spot to sit and watch the kids happily run from ride to ride on their own. As someone with tendencies toward helicopter parenting, that was a great thing. I could let the kids have freedom to explore on their own, but still keep an eye on them.

And the prices were incredible. $2.50 for gate entrance (whether you're going to ride any rides or not) is pretty reasonable. And then the rides are only 50 cents each, or you can get an unlimited rides pass for only $7 (or maybe $9). I can't remember the price exactly, but it's so much cheaper than I expect from an amusement park! It was WAY less expensive than the sketchy carnival the kids wanted to visit.

At one point, everyone was hot and hungry, so we went looking for snacks. We were dismayed to learn that the snack booth was cash only, because we only had $20 cash between us all. At usual amusement park snack prices, that would have probably netted us 2 drinks and a popcorn to share. Turns out that Lakeside food prices are incredibly reasonable, too. Our $20 got us 10 Icees and 4 boxes of popcorn - enough to refresh everyone for the next round of rides.

I can't say enough about how much I loved Kiddie Land. It is going to be my new go-to treat for the kids. The rest of the park looked fun, too, though we didn't have a chance to explore much of it. (The bigger rides didn't open until 6:00, by which time we'd been at the park with 6 small children for over 5 hours. It was time to go.) Next time, we're going to have to make time to check out the big rides, too!
Rylen LOVED the racecars. He went on the ride 5 times in a row at one point.

All of the kids loved the flying planes. The parents wished those guns were shooting water instead of just pretend. That would have been a great way to cool off!

Haley started off only wanting the tame rides. By the end, she was riding not only the little kid roller coaster, but made a quick trip into the main park to ride the two BIG roller coasters with Uncle Brian! Preston and Brekken wanted the adrenaline rides right from the start - big surprise. They were disappointed that they were just 1 inch too short for the big coasters.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Reunion Adventure: 2013 Edition, part 2

My co-workers immortalized the occasion on my
whiteboard when they head that the COV was dead.

The Crappy Old Van was dead. It was sitting in a rest area in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Wyoming while we were back at my sister's house in Saratoga.

Aaron and Brian went back to the rest area the next morning to meet the tow truck and had the COV towed to Laramie (about 50 miles and $200 away). When the mechanic examined the COV, Aaron learned that it would cost nearly $800 just to fix the immediate problems... and then there would likely be engine damage to be fixed as well. But they couldn't even estimate that until they fixed the radiator. Oh, and it looked like the catalytic converter might be blown as well.

That was the last straw. We were unwilling to put another dime into the COV. So while I sat in Saratoga with my sister and the kids, Aaron and Brian went car shopping. I was a little worried about having no input on the decision, but really, there wasn't another option. So I just had to have faith that they would pick a good one. As it turned out, they did! A good car at a good price and excellent loan terms. I couldn't be happier with it!

 

 It's so pretty! And it runs so well! Here's a brief comparison of the old van and the new:



Crappy Old Van
Pretty New Van
Engine runs

X
Accelerates without choking and dying in the intersection or onramp

X
Sits quietly at stoplights without jerking like it’s having a seizure

X
Radio/CD player works

X
Cigarette lighters (for charging electronics) work

X
DVD player works

X
All doors open AND close

X
Cruise control functions

X
Spacious seating

X
Automatic sliding doors

X
Lots of cargo area

X
All windshield wipers work

X
Air conditioning!

X
Interior gauges provide accurate information instead of randomly guessing at things like time, temperature, speed, and fuel level

X
Cup holders hold drinks instead of tipping them onto the floor

X


As you can see, the Pretty New Van is far superior in every way. Such an improvement! I wasn't ready to take on a car payment just yet, but since it had to happen, it really turned out pretty well overall.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Reunion Adventure: 2013 Edition, part 1

So every year I come back from my family reunion with stories to tell - usually involving rain, hail, thundersnow and other weather-related disasters. Because that's a lot of what usually happens at our family reunion. And this year, we had none of that. We had lovely weather. We really had an uneventful and enjoyable trip... for the most part. I even said to my mother: "I don't even have anything to blog about from this trip!" I forgot that you have to be careful what you wish for...

We headed out on July 3... we waited until Aaron got off work because the air conditioning in the van had broken yet again. I'd taken it in to have it looked at, but they said it would cost almost $600 to fix it. We just weren't willing to spend that kind of money on the Crappy Old Van (COV). So instead, we planned to drive at night when possible and bought these:


They actually work really well. We used them in the COV and felt pretty comfortable in spite of the lack of AC.

We drove to my sister Melissa's house in Saratoga, WY - about halfway between our house and my parents' house, so it makes a perfect stopping point to break up the trip. We stayed there Wednesday night (more like Thursday morning, since I think we arrived at 2 a.m.) and went out to play for the 4th of July on Thursday. We missed the community breakfast and the parade because everyone was too slow to get moving. But we were in time for the community BBQ lunch! Except it was cancelled. But no matter. We loaded up the kids and went to a wonderful park by the river. We bought pizza and ate it for lunch at the park. It was great!

Haley's big obsession was with the carnival that was in town. She REALLY wanted to go to the carnival. We kept postponing because it was just so hot. We knew it was out in the open with no shade at the carnival. So we convinced her we would go home, have some dinner, and then go to the carnival. That plan worked perfectly - right up to the moment we pulled into the parking lot and the clouds opened up with pouring rain! Haley was devastated, but I was actually a bit relieved. On checking the prices (by running through the rain to the ticket booth) I discovered that it was REALLY pricey... and there were really only 2 or 3 rides that our kids would have been able to try anyway. Uncle Brian (my brother-in-law, not my identically named brother who is also Uncle Brian - very confusing for the children, who occasionally tell people that my sister is married to my brother) instead made a deal with Haley that he and Melissa would come down to visit us and we'd all go to an amusement park together. And we went home and watched some fireworks from the playroom window (it was still raining, after all).

The next day we headed for Utah. Brian had to work, so my sister packed up her two girls and caravanned with us. Which we were glad of when we got a flat tire along the way. In the end, not a big deal, though, and pretty easily fixed.

We spent a couple of days at the Reunion and had a wonderful time. Almost all of my brothers and sisters were there and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. I'm not sure what the official tally of attendees was this year, but it's often around 200. The weather stayed pleasant - not too hot, not too cold, and no rain/hail/etc. during lunch! I did manage to pick up a rather spectacular sunburn. I was able to see my grandparents, who are so special to me. I don't get to see them often enough and they're getting so frail. I worry about them a lot. Grandma has had a few strokes and Grandpa has cancer. They're just not in good health anymore. When it was time for Grandma and Grandpa to leave, Grandpa made a point of talking with each of us and saying a few words. He was pretty intense about it. I hope I'm wrong, but it felt like a goodbye.

And then we headed back to Saratoga. We stayed the night there and headed home the next morning for a nice, easy trip to Denver. We love being able to stop over halfway now, because it just makes the kids so much less restless when we're able to break up the time in the car.

Our nice, easy trip to Denver came to an abrupt halt about 90 minutes into the trip. The COV couldn't climb hills anymore. It was struggling to stay above 50 m.p.h. - which is a problem on I-80. Luckily, Aaron managed to make it to an exit - and even better, an exit with a rest area! As we pulled into the rest area, the COV suddenly died completely. Despite losing the power steering, Aaron managed to coast into a parking spot where, with a dramatic bang and clouds of steam and antifreeze, something under the hood exploded! The COV was dead.

Fortunately, we have roadside assistance. Unfortunately, turns out that this is one of the few rest areas in Wyoming that does not offer free wi-fi. And there's no cell reception. And the payphone was broken. And the onsite caretaker was not willing to let us use her landline. But there were several very kind people stopped at the rest area who tried to help us diagnose/fix the problem, tried to let us use their cellphones (they had no service either), and even gave the kids bubbles to play with to entertain them. Really, there are MUCH worse places we could have been stuck.

A kind couple took my sister's phone number and drove away, promising to call Melissa and tell her where we were. Melissa got the call and came to the rescue with her sister-in-law, who helped us load all our luggage and children into her minivan and took us back to Melissa's house to regroup.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Breaking Up is Hard to Do



I haven’t blogged much lately. That’s not really because nothing is going on. It’s more because I just can’t find the voice to write about it in an upbeat tone. And I don’t want every post on my blog to be whiny and sad… even though that’s mostly what my life feels like right now.

As most of you know, I’ve been going through some struggles at work. There are good days and bad days… more bad than good right now. You know the saying “It can’t hurt to ask”? Yeah, it turns out it actually CAN hurt to ask. I asked for some changes at work and not only did they turn down my request, but they actually took away some perks I had previously enjoyed. (Thus the reason I will be in the office today and tomorrow instead of going to the dentist to get that broken tooth fixed. I’ve apparently lost the flexibility to fit in appointments like that.) I don’t know if they’re punishing me for asking or what, but it makes me wish I hadn’t asked in the first place.

Yet I just can’t find it in me to cut that final cord and leave. It occurred to me as I was obsessing over it all (yet again) this morning that this feels a lot like trying to end a bad relationship. Inside you know that you should go, but there are just so many justifications for staying. All the classic ones that you see in articles aimed at women in a bad relationship:

I won’t find anyone better. / I don’t want to be alone.
Oh, the pessimism that kicks in when I start to browse the job openings. Instead of thinking about how great that new opportunity could be, I find myself thinking: “What makes you think this job will be any better than the one you have?” Since I can’t see the future, I worry that I’ll jump ship only to discover it’s actually no better. Or that it’s even worse. I start to think that it’s safer to just stick with what I already know. At least it’s a paycheck. And Heaven knows I can’t go without a paycheck. What if I go to another job and then something happens to that job and I’m unemployed? I can’t afford to be unemployed.

He needs me.
I’m a sucker for this one. I overvalue myself. I become convinced that things will fall apart without me to take care of things. In reality, I’m sure they could get someone else in here to do my job and never even miss me. But I have this sense of responsibility that tells me I can’t leave when they need me to finish projects X, Y, and Z.

He’ll change.
I think is really what keeps me hanging in at my current job. I just keep hoping that things will change. When upper management makes promises about making this a more employee-friendly workplace and hanging on to valuable employees, I want to believe them! I really want to believe that they’re going to change. So I hang on, waiting for the changes that were promised. And then I slowly grow disillusioned again when the changes fall by the wayside – again.

I construct elaborate scenarios in my head wherein certain executives realize the error of their ways and don’t want to lose me. If this was a boyfriend I’d be dreaming of flowers and jewelry and protestations of undying love. Instead, in my fantasies they come to me offering perks and bonuses if only I’ll stay. Yet just like a bad boyfriend, I need at accept that I can’t change the corporate culture. If it’s not good for me, I need to let go.

He loves me.
They tell me over and over that I’m a valuable employee. That they need me. That they wouldn’t be as successful without me. Who can resist that kind of gratifying and flattering praise? Of course, if they really loved me, perhaps they would be more concerned with my needs. It’s hard to believe the words when their actions say just the opposite.

I love him.
I do. I love this company. I LOVE the cause and the clients and the reason this company exists. I believe in the mission. And I remember the good times. When I started here everything was so wonderful. I worked 60 hour weeks every week to ensure that everything was ready on schedule or ahead of schedule. I felt appreciated. I loved what I was doing. I loved the people I worked with.

And as time has gone by, we’ve grown apart. I’m not as willing to work the extra hours for no recognition (actually, I still do it; I’m just bitter about it). I’m not as blind to the faults. And the company isn’t as appreciative or friendly.

But I still love the mission. I still love most of the people I work with. I still love this cause and this company… but I don’t think they really love me. And I think I deserve to go somewhere that I can be loved (you know, in a businesslike, corporate-appropriate way).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Company!

We have company coming to visit!

On one hand, I am terribly excited. Because we never get company! And it's about time we repayed my sister's hospitality for the several times we've stayed with her recently. And hoepfully fun with company will help pull me out of this depressed funk that I am in.

And on the other hand... panic! My house is not clean enough for company! If you know me at all, you know that I can kick off an anxiety attack just by thinking about letting someone in to see my cluttered house. Oh sure, you could try - as my husband does - to be all logical and point out that my sister doesn't care if my house is a mess. To remind me that we have 4 kids and I work all the time. To reassure me that it doesn't matter.

To this I say, BAH! Your logic has no effect on me! I know all of these things and yet I will still freak out over it. It's probably a good thing that they will be here in just two days so that I don't have much time to stress over it. :) In a very short time they will be here already and I can quit freaking out and start having fun!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Silly Songs

I was reading a post from a blogger I read (Binkies and Briefcases) and she mentioned a silly song she sings to her kids about diaper changes.

I sing a lot of silly songs to the kids. Most of them I just make up on the spot and forget about just as quickly, but I do have a couple of standards that I have been singing during diaper changes for many years now...

There's Super Pooper (sung to the tune of Super Trouper, by ABBA)...



Super pooper, I don't want to change you.
Wow this smells so bad.
Why don't you find your dad?
Can't wait 'til you're potty trained!




And then there's the I Dreamed a Dream song from Les Miserables...

I dreamed a dream in time gone by,
When hopes were high and life worth living.
I dreamed the diapers would stay dry...
I dreamed they never needed changing...
 
But the baby poops at night.
In the morning... afternoon-time.
And it tears my hopes apart.
For the diaper must be cha-a-a-a-anged!



Finally, for those times that the child decides he does not WANT to be changed and goes Running Away (sung to the tune of Rawhide theme song)...

Running, running, running
Why do you keep running?
Why must you go running - Away?
 
Don't try to get away here
You're going to have to stay here
Soon you'll be nice and clean and dry
 
I've got the diaper sitting here
There's wipes and ointment waiting here
They're ready to clean up your little hide
 
Over here, over there,
run away, come over here,
grab him quick, run away,
Stop that!
 
Over here, over there,
run away, come over here,
grab him quick, run away,
Stop that!
 
It's diaper time, RIGHT NOW!