Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happy Birthday Harry!

My love for Harry Potter is of the lasting kind. It was slow in the beginning, gradual in the increase, and has been growing steadily ever since. When the books first came out, I had no interest at all. I'm not really into 'fantasy' novels, per se, and these really held no appeal to me at all. I waited about five years before jumping on the bandwagon. Then I decided that since I was going to be a teacher, I'd better see what all the fuss was about. I read The Philosopher's Stone and was interested. I decided to keep going with book two, and was intrigued. Then I read book three, and I was hooked. I devoured books four and five (in all their lengthy glory) in a weekend or so, and then waited. I waited almost two years for Half Blood Prince come out, and was delighted when (my then fiance) Neil bought it for me as a surprise. The winter after we got married, we read through the first six books aloud, on road trips and by lamplight in our cozy living room. By the time The Deathly Hallows was published in 2007, (although we were an old married couple who had to set our alarms to go and pick up our pre-ordered copy) we were there at midnight to get it, and we read the entire thing aloud over the weekend.

As for the movies, they've been a little slower in the loving for me. I can't help being frustrated at all the things that are changed, the important parts that are left out, or the moments that are just not quite right. But over the years I've learned to like them for what they are, to enjoy and appreciate them, and to await each release anxiously. But it wasn't until a few weeks ago, that I realized just how much I really love them too. July 15th. It ends here. And it made me really sad!

But, by the gracious generosity of our two favorite newlyweds, who gave up a night alone in their cute new apartment, in order to sleep over here and 'babysit' two sleeping boys, we were able to go to the midnight showing of the last movie...and it was awesome! We made Gryffindor shirts for the whole family, (which washed off after one wearing...dratted iron-on transfers!) we plotted a week-long marathon of re-watching the old movies (although we didn't quite get through them...or really much of them at all...) and we cooked and ate lots of Harry Potter themed food from our 'Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook'. We made pumpkin pasties, treacle tart (Harry's favorite!), meat pies, chocolate trifle and butterbeer (Mmm...SO good!). We stayed up about five hours past our bedtime to see it first, with all the other crazies...and it was awesome!

Some shots of our theme food!We can't wait to do a marathon this winter...! One week, eight movies, lots of food...who's in?!

Here are our little Gryffindors, sporting their (one-time-use) t-shirts. Too bad we didn't get a picture of the big one before he ate his chocolate trifle!

Neil and Beth...all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in our Gryffindor apparel at the midnight showing!

Wonderful friends who made this possible. Thank you Anna and Kevin! We love you guys!! (Geesh...the least I could have done was to snap one non-blurry picture of you two...! So sorry!!)

Because we've been so busy, this blog post kind of fell by the wayside. But I didn't want to skip it, so I kept it in my pocket for today...Harry's birthday. So to the Boy who Lived, Happy Birthday! Harry, Ron, Hermione and all the rest...thanks for the memories.

'We defended the Stone, we found the Chamber, we freed the Prisoner, we were chosen by the Goblet, we fought alongside the Order, we learned from the Prince, we mastered the Hallows.'

Thursday, July 28, 2011

NOT Singin' in the Rain...

Well, it happened last night, as it does at least once a year in Dubuque. The ol' basement flooded. Not too shocking, since the area got anywhere from eleven to fifteen inches of rain in about ten hours, but it still took us by surprise, since they were only forecasting one inch. It was just the storm that never left, and it poured on us all night long, without ever really moving away. We had rivers of water gushing down our street...manhole covers were popped off, cones were floating was ridiculous. The city was awesome, and they were out pumping the sewers all night long, but they just couldn't keep up with the rain. Our back flow valve was closed through the entire storm, indicating that the sewage was trying to make its way in...and while we are VERY thankful that we didn't get any sewage in (kudos to you back-flow valve!) it does make it difficult to get the water out when the drain is closed! Our valiant little sump pump couldn't keep up either, although it did its best, and it wasn't until we went to Lowe's at 6am to buy a second pump that the water really started going down.

We were fortunate enough this time to get everything moved out or up before the water came in, so we ended up with very little damage, and very little mess. We still got in about eight inches of water though, at its highest, and time will tell if any of our appliances are ruined this time around. For now, I've unloaded the freezer in case it is fried (learned that lesson the hard way last year!) and we have the dehumidifier working overtime to dry things out. But mostly we're just waiting to see how much more rain is on its way. Because, believe it or not, there is more on the way. Iain has been repeatedly singing "Rain, rain, go away" all morning, and I echo his sentiments heartily. Thankfully, both boys slept right through all the hullabaloo last night; tornado warnings, thunder and lightening, trucks pumping, rain beating down, Mom and Dad (mostly Dad) doing their best to quell the rising waters...none of it phased them. Today Iain is happy to splash in the puddles in the basement in his rubber boots, he thinks it's swell that all his basement toys are moved upstairs temporarily, and he loves to see all the big trucks working out the window.

For those of you who are not "lucky" enough to live in the Midwest, here are some links to photos and video of what's been going on here in the Tri-State area.

Here is a video of the flooding downtown, quite near to my old apartment. We walk this route every day...needless to say we took a "rain check" today!
These photos are from East Dubuque, right across the river. People were evacuated last night, and they actually had cars floating away in the rivers of water.
This album is from all around the Tri States and gives a good feel for the scope of what went on here last night.

All day we've been hearing of flooded basements, flooded streets, ruined stores and businesses, damage and destruction. When I see what my near neighbors are experiencing, it makes me realize that I don't really have too much to complain about. But this annual flood thing does get a little wearying, and the thought of doing it all again tonight really does feel like more than we can handle! Prayers are appreciated, for us..for the entire neighborhood, city, state, region. I know we are far from the worst off in this situation.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Singin' In the Rain

Recipe for a Rockin' Weekend:

Begin with a six hour road trip. Sans kids. (A million thank-yous, Stu and Becky! You are wonderful!) Interesting conversation, good music, large iced coffees and how the time flies.

Reunite three best buds, who see each other rarely, and haven't been together in a year and a half. Add in three wives who have a great time together as well. Attempt (fifty-thousand times) to snap a picture documenting the six of you in one place at one time.
Sleep in (much longer than usual), due to staying up (much later than usual) laughing, talking and reminiscing over snacks and drinks. Find a small town breakfast joint, which caters to your late rising and serves breakfast 'til noon.

Head downtown and check into a sweet hotel with your grateful you don't have any kids with you, because there would surely be no room for a pack 'n' play in this room...let alone two!

Find an awesome British pub, appropriately named "Brit's"! Enjoy British fare such as fries and curry sauce, fish and chips, sausage rolls, tanroori chicken wraps, deviled eggs wrapped in breaded sausage, good English cider and good English beer.

Play a round of lawn bowling on their amazing rooftop green! Don't be tossers though...roll your bowls! And of course..."let" the girls win!

Bus-it to the concert you've come for, the one you've had tickets for since 2009, the one that was postponed for over a year...the one you've all been dying to see...! Be thankful that the heat has subsided and the rain has held off! Enjoy Interpol (as much as you can when you're waiting for U2) and then wait, wait, wait some more for the band to come on.

Watch U2 give the performance of a lifetime, accompanied by 60 000 of your closest friends. Favorite moments include: Impromptu crowd chorus of "Stand By Me" and the small sprinkle of rain as Bono sings Mysterious Ways which leads him to ad lib some "Rain" based lyrics. Be thankful again that the storm missed us and think it's kinda great to be at an outdoor show in a gentle summer drizzle.

Ooh and ahh over the Aquatennial fireworks show that is conveniently taking place just behind the band as they are singing "Stuck in a Moment" with the Edge playing his guitar all acoustic-y and tender! See it down there in the corner! A.mazing!
Shake your head and smile as the occasional drizzle of rain becomes a downpour, and the downpour becomes a deluge. See the dots on the screen that look like lights? Those are actually raindrops. Or more appropriately sheets of rain. Continue to sing, cheer, jump, laugh and clap through almost two hours of pouring rain. Breathe a sigh of relief that the occasional lightening strikes don't hit "the claw", give kudos to the band for not missing a note, dropping an instrument, slipping and falling or losing heart as they play through the downpour. Smile at Bono's sporadic inclusion of "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head", "Purple Rain" and "Singin' in the Rain".

Realize that you literally wouldn't be any wetter if you'd jumped in a lake, but still think it's pretty great. (Although your shoes are getting heavy and you kinda have to pee) Decide a quick stop at the hotel to shower and change is probably in order before any dinner plans can be carried out!
Omit from memory (as no pictures exist to document) the next several hours. Or, if it's all part of the experience, recall that you (and at least half of the 60 000 concert goers) need to bus-it home on the FOUR city buses that the Minneapolis Transit Authority has deemed adequate for such an event. Wait in line for over an hour, with sodden shoes and soaking clothes. Lament that you didn't pee before you left the stadium. Cheer with relief as you finally board the bus, only to sit in one place for nearly two more hours as the bus attempts to navigate the gridlock produced by the other (non-busing) half of the 60 000 concert-goers. Sit on the bus in full-on air conditioning until your fingers go numb and your lips turn blue and you want to cry. Just when you think you won't make it, and you'll have to get off and walk the six or so miles back to the hotel, the bus driver will turn off the air for a while, or the bus will move, an inch or so, and renew your faith that you will get home alive eventually. And remember. You still have to pee. Get off the bus a few stops early to pee in an alley. Sigh. Walk the rest of the way with saggy shorts, soaking shoes and tired limbs. Downgrade the night's plan for fun from "Let's go to a pub for food and drinks" to "Let's get pizza in our jammies after we take hot showers" to "Forget it...let's all just go to bed". Fall asleep singing "Singin' in the Rain". Know somehow that 60 000 other people in the city are doing the same thing, and that somehow makes it worth it, and is all part of the experience.

Sleep in, go out for a hearty breakfast/lunch, since everyone is starving from their long and arduous night, and reminisce about the events until it's time to go home. Realize that for sure, this is the stuff that memories are made of. Hit up Barnes and Noble for some "A Billion Thank-Yous" gifts for your amazing sitters, some "Welcome Home Mommy and Daddy" gifts for your boys, and an awesome quiz booklet to amuse you all on the way home.

Arrive home exhausted, happy to see the kiddos, ready to jump back into the parenting role, and with a pocket-full of memories to last a lifetime. Realize the U2 really is the greatest band ever, and that their fans are one of a kind. For a great review of the show check this out, and for a video to see just how rainy it really was, look at this or this. Or just google "U2 show Minneapolis rain" and you'll get about a zillion hits!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Here's What the Twins are up to Today!

It's finally not ridiculously hot outside! Hallelujah! After the snuggle-bugs finished their playtime, they were gracious enough to take LOOONG naps. And I got to take the crazies outside and do what we've been dying to do all week! Yay!

Full House!

We've had a great time watching Courtney and Cal for the past couple of days! Here's what we've learned from our time with four children:

  1. The mall (and its play area!) is a great place to go on a hot day to let kiddos get their energy out.
  2. If you do will get stares from passers-by, as they ogle you and your "two sets of twins"!
  3. It's extremely difficult to get two toddlers in the same frame, let alone still long enough to snap a non-blurry picture.
  4. Given the choice, Iain will choose the blue car, and Courtney the pink.
  5. Everything DOES take twice as long with twice as many!
  6. Little Caesar's $5 money ever spent!
  7. Even a family vehicle like the Pilot will feel a bit like a clown car when you're cramming six people (and four car seats!) into it!
  8. There's no quiet like the quiet when you've just put four kids to bed!
  9. When you're sleeping peacefully with four kids under your wing, the one who will wake you up at 2am is the cat. Grr.
  10. If we ever have a girl, I will need some serious "hairdo" lessons.
  11. Play doh and paint will keep kids entertained (and constrained!) for a long time!
  12. It is possible to have four kids napping simultaneously for several hours a day!
  13. Flora Pool closes at 5:30pm, NOT 5pm. Darnit!
  14. Eagle Point Park's splash pad is an acceptable "pool" substitute. In the kids' minds at least.
  15. If there's concrete to fall on, Iain will fall on it.
  16. McDonald's sells socks!
  17. A grown-up CAN fit all the way to the top of the Play Place jungle gym!
  18. Iain and Courtney are really FUN!
  19. Liam and Calvin are really GOOD.
  20. We're so lucky to have family who are up for these kinds of crazy schemes!
Here are the photos!
Can't wait to do it again soon!