Susie's Leaning Tower of Chocolate

Hi, I'm Susie. You can find out all about me, or just read my journal.

[No comments] Date Night: John and I went on a date on Saturday night. My babysitter went to BYU, so we're going to the opposite end of the spectrum with an almost-13 year old who lives nearby.

We missed some of our pre-planned, pre-paid dates from the summer, so I took the money from two of the months and we did the activity for the other month - Cheesecake Factory, and picking out an anniversary gift for each other at Target with $5 gift cards. John bought me some delicious fancy chocolate, and I got him a pair of snazzy socks for work.

All this took much less time than anticipated, so we went to the pool and put our feet in the kiddie pool and just talked.

Monday: We had a busy day today. I made some peanut butter chocolate chip muffins last night so Dalton would have a happy breakfast to see him off to school. I set my alarm for 6:30 because I started working again today. Hopefully just half an hour or so a day. I read scriptures and washed my face while the computer turned on. Then I did 20 minutes of work and had plenty of time to get ready, get Maggie and Sienna ready, and play with the girls for a while.

Sienna and I played at the park for a few minutes with a friend after dropping Maggie off. Then we went to Walmart and Costco, and even delivered some groceries to a friend before picking Dalton up. After lunch, Sienna took a nap and a friend came over to be babysat/play with Dalton. The boys played very well together until we went to get Maggie. Maggie did some homework and we sat around playing until time for dinner - ward FHE in the park. I finished the tutu for Sienna's Halloween costume, and refereed fights.

FHE at the park was great. We had some good food and talked with friends and Sienna ran wild. Then we came home and got kids in bed. I'm going to bed early so I can keep up my work-before-the-kids-get-up routine.

Phrase of the Week: Sienna is at that phase where she learns a new word of phrase and uses it over and over. First it was "Where'd it go?", then it was "Me!" raising her hand up high.

Now she says, "I did it!" It's just "did it!" and it's so adorable to see that big proud smile on her face when she buckles her own seatbelt, or cleans something up.

A Bug's Beep: The kids watched at least part of A Bug's Life every day this week. this morning we were in California Adventure at opening. Sienna and I got in line for Fastpasses for Radiator Springs Racers, then went to A Bug's Land. We went on Flik's Flyers. By ourselves. Then we went on the Ladybug Boogie with two other people, who were going on it a second time. Then we went to Heimlich's Chew Chew Train and rode it, by ourselves, three times in a row. Sienna was loving it, since we have seen the show so much this week.

After lunch, John suggested seeing the It's Tough to Be a Bug show, so we did that. Poor Dalton got frightened when the room filled with fog and spiders descended from the ceiling, but Sienna was loving all her bug friends, including Hopper. She just pointed around excitedly.

Lil Gymnast: Today was Sienna's first day of parent-tot gymnastics class. It was darling. There were three other little toddler girls. They crawled and climbed and slid over an obstacle course, jumped on the trampoline, hung from the bars, raced on the floor (the point of which was to get them away from mom - hurray!) and jumped in the pit. Sienna can't jump with two feet yet - she just takes a big, giant step, and it's adorable.

I'm really excited to have this time with her every week.

School Begins: We made it to the third day of school without any tears. Dalton was very tired when he woke up this morning - his school begins at 7:55. He complained that it was "too long" and didn't want to get early, but using our good attitudes, we got him out the door with smiles. He likes his class, other than how early it is.

Maggie is enjoying second grade. She has two friends from Primary right at her table and her teacher is fantastic.

Sienna is liking her alone time with mommy. We are getting a nice schedule set up. Music Makers on Wednesday, park day on Thursday, and parent-tot gymnastics on Friday. First gymnastics class tomorrow!

Sorry, Mom: This week, for the first time in years, I cried from missing my mom so much.

Maggie and I were having quite the morning of disagreement. I thought about times that I argued with my mom and then felt so awful that I could remember arguing with her. Either because that means I have many more years of this, or because now I'm a mom and I know what it feels like to have my daughter act like an annoying brat! I wanted to tell her I was sorry, and she was right, and thanks for being my mom. And I couldn't.

One of the most helpless feelings in the world is needing to talk to someone who is dead. I cried and cried about it.

On the bright side, Maggie changed her attitude and did the dishes (after two hours of arguing).

Save $2 Now: This week I bought a gallon of whole milk for Sienna for the first time. I've been buying a half gallon of whole milk for $3.69 at Trader Joe's. The gallon was $5.99. She's finally drinking more than the half gallon in a week's time, so I figured I'd oblige her. Then, I realized she can start drinking 2% milk when she turns 2, which is in just three months.

Only three months of buying a gallon of whole milk? What? After a minute I realized it's because I'm still breastfeeding her. Wow, breastfeeding doesn't save much money once kids are off formula.

I didn't intend to be breastfeeding a toddler and honestly, it weirds me out if I think too much about it. But here we are.

Change Me: Sienna has progressed from saying "wawa" everytime she uses her diaper, to bringing me a clean one when hers is dirty. She still asks to sit on the potty all the time, but has never actually used it.

Hummus Taco: When I asked Maggie what she wanted in her taco for lunch she said, "hummus, whipped cream, cheese--" Wait, what? I knew the whipped cream was sour cream, but hummus? Turns out she meant avocado.

In Summer: This is what summer's all about. John took the morning off work and we went to DCA to celebrate our anniversary. We got to take Sienna on Ariel's Undersea Adventure ("Lala" is her favorite princess at the moment).

Sienna was napping by 12:30 and John left for work shortly after. Maggie is reading Imogen the Ice Dance Fairy and Dalton is downstairs playing with his race track. I did the laundry in peace and now for some online swimsuit shopping. Ahhh, summer!

Maggie Grows Up: Miss Margaret is at the cusp of becoming helpful and responsible. I've noticed more and more lately that she is capable to doing things like watching Sienna for a split-second. Sometimes she is more helpful than whiny. And she is over the fact that she is too big for the stroller and doesn't complain about how tired she is.

She is still our clueless, innocent little girl, but she sure is growing up fast.

Rain Shower: Dalton hates getting his hair cut, mostly because he hates the shower and I always make him shower afterwards. Since he liked the "rain shower" at our flat in London, today I just switched our shower head to "rain shower" mode for him and all was well. And if you are 3'6", that would be the same mode everyone else calls "shower." I'm not sure if that's mean mom or genius, but it worked, so no harm done.

Princess Sienna: When Sienna carried her bag of blocks around the house, I thought she wanted to play blocks (silly mommy). Turns out, she wanted the ONE princess toy we have in the house - Ariel Megabloks. I think it's time to get this girl some princess toys. She yells "let it go!" at anything that resembles a castle (temples, Disney movie credits, castles...), anything that resembles snow (fake Frozen snow, basically), and Ariel or Rapunzel (the only other princesses she recognizes, for some reason). We've been patiently waiting Frozen stuff to come down in price, and also the 20% merchandise discount we get at Disneyland. Princess toys, coming soon.

What I Like About Not Working: When Sienna gets her shoes and says "walk?" And I say "yes."

Tonight I sat down at the computer to upload our pictures and work on my personal photo blog. And I lost track of time. It was so wonderful to be doing something enjoyable and engrossing like that, just for me. Especially since my time on the computer lately has been minimal. I still need to wean a bit more off my phone, but I'm glad the computer time suck is slowing down for summer.

Grown Up Maggie-isms: Can you stop talking? I'm busy reading.

And while I was playing the piano: I don't mind if you make a mistake, just keep playing.

Rachel's Wedding: Saturday: Wedding Day! Rachel and Brett's wedding was beautiful and I think just how she wanted it to be. Maggie and I went over to start getting ready. Maggie spent most of the time looking for Tonks. We had our hair done, the boys arrived with the littlies, and we all got dressed in our fancies. Then, we walked to the bus stop and took the bus to the Hackney Town Hall. A photographer was there documenting the entire thing. The kids' were darling and Sienna only slightly misbehaved during the ceremony (crying out when the registrar asked for objections, scooting over to me in the bridesmaid line and hoping no one would notice). Rachel asked Aunt Pat to be her witness, which I thought was wonderful.

We took pictures outside, there was a cocktail reception, then a buffet dinner. The cocktail hour seemed like a good time to put Sienna down for a nap. Brett's father was resting in the office reserved for the bridal party, so I continued through the next door into the formal council room, and excellent place to nurse a baby.

Alyson held Sienna for an hour while I ate dinner (gumbo!). The kids sat with Pat and Shannon, which was perfect. Everyone had a good time that way! My kids are hilarious. Brett's dad gave an awesome speech. I gave a speech as well, which everyone said was good and made them tear up because, you know, us poor orphans. It wasn't that great, but it was something.

After dinner there was cupcakes and dancing. Maggie was so excited to learn there was dancing at the wedding, and she made great use of it. Hopefully people will send me videos I can share; she was awesome. John took the little ones home early - or tried to. He got lost in scary London, Sienna with no shoes, poor tired kids. He barely made it home before Leonard, Maggie and I.

I got lots of compliments on the kids wedding clothes which I made (Maggie Dalton Sienna). I also made my bridesmaid dress, and a dress for Rachel from the same pattern, which she wore to the friends and family dinner. I'm really pleased with how everything turned out, which is how I imagine Rachel feels about her whole lovely wedding. She was a beautiful bride and I think everything was just what she wanted.

Disneyland Paris: Sunday: We took the Eurostar to Paris and went to Walt Disney Studios Park. The best part of this day was getting a sneak peek of the new Ratatouille ride, which officially opened the day after we left. We also popped into Disneyland Paris, but Sienna was so done by this point, I had to just take her back to the hotel. We stayed at the Sequoia Lodge, with a nice Western America theme... for reals, we stayed in the Yellowstone Lodge.

Monday was our Paris tour. We stopped at the Louvre where we spent most of our time looking for a crepe stand. Then we went on a Seine river boat tour, and up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower. We were kind of bored on the river boat tour, having just seen lots of old buildings in London. This is just not our thing, especially with kids. We would have preferred walking along the river, perhaps with a picnic, but it just wasn't feasible. John took the kids to the hotel pool after the tour. They LOVED it, with a water slide and a giant yoga mat thing they could walk on the water with.

It was fun to go on the Eiffel tower with the kids. The queue for the lift back down was long, so we walked down all the stairs! Sienna even walked most of the stairs down, because she is a trooper like that. Then, we got more crepes, and some nice pictures.

Tuesday we went to Disneyland Paris to do it justice. We took advantage of 2 hours of Magic Morning. The first thing we did was go on Peter Pan. Twice in a row. With no one else anywhere nearby. Sienna cried. We did most of Fantasyland, then took turns on Space Mountain Mission 2. When the park officially opened at 10, it started raining, but we had come prepared. We took turns on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and went on the Haunted Manor ride. We explored Adventure Isle and went on Pirates. Had Mexican food (?) for lunch. Then we went back to the hotel for a nap.

We made it back to the park for the parade, and to finish up Fantasyland. Small world was fun, and we all really liked Alice's Curious Labyrinth.

Wednesday we went back to Walt Disney Studios, but we found there wasn't much to do since we didn't want to wait in line for adult coasters. We saw a couple shows, then left for lunch and more Disneyland Paris. We rode the train around, then did it's a small world and the girls rode the carousel one last time, while the boys did Pirates. We met at the stroller which had been sitting in the rain that whole time. Oops.

Then it was the train back to London for bed!

A Trip to Europe: Well, I am apparently not going to do a full travelogue on our trip to Europe, but here is a summary. Links to photo blog posts. (ETA: This turned out much longer than I anticipated and I separated Rachel's Wedding and Paris.)

Flight there: Within minutes of boarding, Dalton had charmed multiple flight attendants into fulfilling his every whim. How many flight attendants does it take to turn on Frozen? At least two. The kids watched a movie, ate dinner, then got a decent night's sleep. Sienna was a great sleeper, she slept a solid 8 hours in the bassinet.

We had great weather in London. Hardly any rain for 5 days. It rained most of the time we were in Paris, and a drizzle our last day in London, but we got all five of London's summer days.

Monday night: Arrive, fish 'n' chips with Rachel and Brett

Tuesday: St. Paul's Cathedral. We hiked to the top with Leonard. Then we met Rachel and went on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, except we did no hopping off. We rode the bus for 4 hours, saw most of the city while the kids played and Sienna took a nap. That night I met some family members at an Italian restaurant for dinner.

Wednesday: Walked across Tower Bridge with Leonard, then around the Tower of London. A much shorter bridge walk than the last one we did with Leonard (Golden Gate). I think we can call this a fun tradition now that we walked at least three famous bridges.

Wednesday afternoon was our Harry Potter studio tour with Jill, Laura, Rachel and Rachel's friend Jenn. It was awesome. There were so many props and sets and costumes, as well as outdoor sets, creature exhibits. It was really neat to see, and the kids loved it, too! We got the kids pen wands for 10 pounds and they've enjoyed playing with them.

Thursday morning: We wanted to do the zoo, but we decided to let the kids sleep in, and there wasn't time. Instead we went to the London Science Museum, which had a lot of hands on stuff the kids enjoyed.

Thursday afternoon was the wedding rehearsal at Rachel's house. Then we went to pictures>The Crown Pub for dinner with the extended family and lots of friends. It was so fun to see many Whitney and Richardson relatives come all the way to London! I nursed Sienna to sleep in the pub, which struck me as odd, but keep reading; this was not the most awkward place I nursed her this trip.

Friday: We had planned to go to Warwick Castle, but I woke up feeling very unwell and Sienna was beyond grumpy. John and Leonard took the kids and Sienna and I stayed home to rest. My cousin Alyson had spent the night, so once Sienna and I were feeling rested (and less nauseous, bleh) the three of us went for a walk in Hyde Park. We rode the carousel, peeked at Kensington Palace, and saw the LDS church.

Saturday was Rachel and Brett's Wedding.

Sunday-Wednesday was in Paris.

Wednesday night we returned back to London and stayed at the Park Plaza hotel with a great view of the London Eye. The London Eye was our Thursday morning activity. It was really neat! The capsule felt so safe and secure, the kids enjoyed running around, and of course the view. Afterwards, we met Rachel and Brett for some breakfast before we headed to the airport. It was great to see them one last time.

The flight home wasn't quite as nice as the one out. I barely got an hour sleep, and Sienna was on me most of the flight. We counted it as a nap and went to bed when we got home. Still, no screaming was involved.

Back in the Kitchen: On the menu today:

Peanut butter chocolate chip muffins (with my Maggie helper, another delicious early breakfast thanks to jetlag)
Pretzels
Peach cobbler from the last frozen peach cobbler filling
Crock pot refried beans
Tortillas (hopefully trying out my new wheat grinder since I used up all my store bought whole wheat in the pretzels)

I've missed being able to cook up food for my family the last couple of weeks. Coupled with my new found free time (no work, and the big kids at camp), a baking day seemed in order.

Plus, as long as I keep cooking, I don't have to clean the floor.

I've long said of myself that I like to cook, but I don't like having to cook. This leads me to take "days off" when I know John won't be home. I've been really lazy about making dinner for my family these last few months. Part of it is that I never know when John will be home for dinner, if at all. It always seems like on days I go through the effort of making a nice meal, the kids complain and want frozen food and John comes home late and already fed. But, here's to more real food coming out of my kitchen.

I Should Have Seen This Coming: This morning when I dropped the kids off at gymnastics camp, Maggie was identified as Dalton's sister. Which is not surprising to anyone who knows Dalton.

The Simple Life: I am not working this summer. I haven't had time to enjoy the break yet, since we've been travelling. But this week the kids have gymnastics camp for 6 hours, so I think it will hit me how much free time I have and how enjoyable to spend time with my baby!

Coming up: Baking, beach and the temple.

We actually have a lot going on this summer. I mean, the vacation already took up two weeks. Then gymnastics camp, then Hero Camp the next week. The last week of July we are planning to get Disneyland passes, plus finish up with Legoland and San Diego somewhere in there.

Then in August John's brother's family is visiting, then his mom. John has to travel two weeks that month as well.

So it's going to be plenty busy, but I still plan to have lots of time to enjoy the beach! After all, I don't have gymnastics camp.

Disney Day, Paris Style: Today started with an early wake up call. We fully enjoyed two hours of magic morning in Disneyland Paris park, much of which we were practically the only people there. We rode twice in a row on Peter Pan, which is otherwise unheard of. We tried out Space Mountain Mission 2 which has cool planet effects (and a loop and corkscrews...) Indiana jones and other new/different rides. We went back to the hotel for an afternoon nap. We got lost in Alice's Curious Labyrinth. We made use of our rain gear, untouched from five days in London.

Now at the end of the day I am listening to the sound of rain coming through our open hotel window. Accompanied by Sienna's snores, the sound is a perfect ending to a busy fun Disney day.

Sienna's Baby Blessing: I recorded Sienna's baby blessing on my phone, but never did anything with it. Here are a few notes of things John blessed her with.

patience
love and kindness as a gift to share with others
health and strength, mentally strong
desire to seek learning
sensitive to choosing things that are right because it's the right thing to do and will bring you happiness

Save Here, Splurge There: So excited for our trip to Europe! We leave tonight!

I was just thinking how blessed, lucky, we've been (and what a smart planner I've married) because we haven't had to pay for this trip out of savings. We've carefully saved and paid for things as they came up, used our tax refund and cashed my WAH money to pay for everything in advance, with cash on hand for food and transportation and souvenirs. We've really paid for everything else already! All without taking money out of savings, or missing any of our regular savings transfers.

Rachel's long engagement and my working at home sure helped there. Plenty of time to save and plan, and earn a little extra.

We love to travel and are blessed we can save hard to do so.

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