Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Schwartz's vs Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies

I may be the only person in the world who feels this way but I was a little "meh" about the aquarium that everyone told us was amazing.  I think part of the reason is because I'm not familiar with aquariums.  I'm familiar with zoos where I can walk around at a leisurely pace and visit different areas and take my own path.  I thought an aquarium was just a fish zoo and it would be the same type thing.  But this was a crowded tourist attraction where you follow the particular path they have created for you.  So I got a little claustrophobic and had to skip out on the first corridor and rushed Sarah down the hall to try to get some breathing room and didn't even try to go into the packed shark education exhibit.  But despite my anxiety Sarah had a GREAT time, Cody had a great time, and Chris felt like we got our money's worth even though he clearly married a whack-a-do.

The aquarium was beautiful though.  They did a great job.  I could just watch fish tanks forever and Sarah was no different.  I was a terrible mom and totally just stood back and let her invade people's personal space so she could put her face as close to the glass as she wanted.

My favorite part was the shark tunnel.  One it was just cool to see all the sharks swimming around you like that.  But I really liked that you stood on a moving sidewalk and rode through the exhibit in your own personal space without having to wait in line to get close to the glass.  I again was an awesome parent and put Sarah up on the ledge and let her walk along while holding my hand.

There was just something so beautiful about the shark tunnel.  But what I could have stood in front of for hours was the Coral Reef Tank.  It was just gorgeous.  I tired to get a picture of the kids looking at it wide eyed but I'm not really sure about how to make lighting adjustments with my DSLR so the pictures where you could see it was a fish tank were blurry and then the other ones it was just a dark room with my kids and their reflections off the glass.  Bummer.  

Eventually we made it into the discovery room Chris helped Sarah pet a horseshoe crab.  He asked me if I wanted to pet them too but those things just looked freaky.  

And they had lots of these cute tanks that the kids could crawl under and pop up into.  Sarah loved them.

Look a whole tank of Nemos!

And Cody found Nemo too!  He loved watching all the movement in the tanks.

They also had this neat Penguin Playhouse.  It was a tunnel that let you crawl through the penguin habitat.  So you could see the penguins swimming around you and then pop up in the rocks where more of them were hanging around.   

Random picture of the jelly fish tank.  I really enjoyed how the tanks were lit so the different fish really popped. 

Did you ever have a bad summer job?  Because I think this one really takes the cake.  These poor girls have to swim in the sting ray tank as mermaids for the mermaid show.  They did not look excited at all as the scooted into the chilly water to swim with the things that killed Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter.  Then they had to shimmy in front of the glass in the underwater viewing area of the cafe.  I really don't now how much you would have to pay me to do that.  I don't think you actually could.  I can't stand getting into oceans and lakes because I hate it when nature brushes past me.  Bluh!  

We finished our morning outing with walk down the main strip looking for the great German place we ate 6 or 7 years ago when we were here.  We didn't find it.  Instead we went to some place that had decent food but horrible service.  Then on our way out we glanced across the street and saw The Village where the German place was located.  Oh well.  And walked down by the Pigeon River to snap a quick pic with daddy and the kids on the way back to the car.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Schwartz's vs the Smiths

I am a Smith.  There's no two ways around it.  After many years, I feel like I have acclimated well into the Schwartz family but there is no denying how Smith I am.  And this past week I was able to spend time amongst my people.  Our family is large and it started 60 years ago when this lovely couple got married.
 Grandma and Grandpa have 5 kids, 14 grandkids, and 21 great-grandkids (but I could be wrong on that number).  So that's 38 BEFORE you start counting spouses and most of us grandkids are  just now starting families and there are 5 who aren't even married yet. (I think there is an even 60 of us when you count spouses.)  I would bet when all is said and done grandma and grandpa will have at least 30 great-grandkids.  

So what does it mean to be a Smith?

It means lots of snacking.  Snacking is an art form for us Smiths and we always offer a wide variety of salty and sweet snacks.

And while I couldn't find a picture of this, it means a mountain of Red Solo Cups.  Though, while there are plenty to be sure and you actually could get a new one to do so is absolutely blasphemous.  It is Smith law that thine name shalt be written upon one solo cup in sharpie and this is the cup which thou shalt use for the entirety of the visit.  Thou shalt also at least once a day play the eternal game of Where Did I Set my Cup down.  To play this thou shalt turn other people's cups around to ensure they are not erroneously drinking from thine cup.  Solo cups have even been known to be sent through the dishwasher lest someone should sin and get a new one.  In fact, and I am not exaggerating at all, one Christmas we visited FL and my name was of course placed upon a cup.  Six months later I happened to be in FL again and at dinner my place was set with my cup from CHRISTMAS.  I'm not even kidding.  And the second trip wasn't planned at Christmas time.  I think they were actually saving it for when and if we came again some other Christmas.  

Being a Smith means every night ends with ice cream.
Some how the ice cream assignment was missed in the reunion planning stage.  Luckily Uncle Allan was late getting in to Gatlinburg, just about the time we were searching for ice cream in fact.  And because every good Smith knows you can't go to bed before you have a bowl he stopped and brought an appropriate assortment.  

Being a Smith means having only one volume--loud.  We have lots to say and we all must say it at the same time.  It especially means that in order to talk to the person next to you you need to yell.  Adding any additional people to the house will increase the volume exponentially.  And we wouldn't have it any other way.

To truly be a Smith, you must love games.  All kinds of games, card games, board games, word games, Wii games, puzzles.  I think the game of choice below is Apples to Apples.  
However, the official Smith family game is Oh Heck.  There are certain rules to playing Oh Heck with the Smiths.  First, no one under the age of 18 is allowed.  This was an important rule, see above for the grandkid count, as it kept the kids away from the table so the adults could chat and play.  Second, you absolutely cannot lead Trump, or grandma will kill you.  Also, spouses aren't supposed to sit beside each other or accusations of cheating will arise.  
I believe there were 19 of us playing Oh Heck.  We had to break it into 2 groups but probably should have broken it into 3.

But most importantly being a Smith means knowing and being grateful that our family is forever.  On the last night in the cabin Grandpa called everyone together and shared his testimony and a few words with us.  We have scattered far across the US and not everyone could make it this time but he reminded us that as long as we are all true and faithful we will have an eternity to be together.  While I hope this wasn't the last time our family has gathered in this life I am thankful for the restoration of the gospel and the power of the priesthood which has sealed our family together for time and all eternity.  Heaven just wouldn't be the same without each and every one of my loud and crazy family members.  I'm thankful for my grandpa's grandpa who joined the church and raised righteous children.  I am thankful for my grandmother who got her hands on a copy of the Book of Mormon one evening and couldn't put it down.  Who then married my grandfather and raised 5 strong and faithful children.  I'm thankful for my wonderful parents who taught me the gospel and were there when I was sealed to Chris for all eternity.  And I'm thankful that my children are sealed to me.  I hope and pray they develop strong testimonies and are one day sealed to their spouses.

When I think of Heaven, this is what I see.
(Of course in addition to the cousins who couldn't make it and Emily and David who stayed behind at the cabin to watch Cody for me.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Schwartz's vs Cody's 9 Months Old

Cody, you are 9 months old now.  Here's how you've grown.

* You didn't take a nap today and are currently climbing up my leg right now so this will probably be an inaccurate and slightly skewed interpretation of your month's accomplishments. 
* You have 2 bottom teeth and 3.5 top teeth.  The 3 top teeth all cut at the same time but this last one was behind.  It busted through the gums a few days ago but isn't completely down yet.  (Hence the half tooth count.)
* You have an interesting mix of maneuvers that get you around.  Your main mode of transportation is the belly scoot/seal slide still, but you have been mixing in some knee crawling and a one footed tripod thing.  However, we do see more attempts at knee crawling so I'm sure by next month's report the seal scoot will be a thing of the past.
* You are pulling up to stand.
* You are a climber.  We have to keep you away from the stairs.  
* You are pretty good about experimenting with food and we're better about giving you table food at dinner time as well.  We've learned you definitely prefer meat and this month you've tried taco meat, barbque, grilled chicken, as well as potato salad and animal crackers.  You still don't seem to like canned vegetables like your sister and you turn your nose up at green beans and carrots your sister's 2 favorite veggies.
* Life is good for you as the second child.  You already recognize and know what ice cream is and get it any time we go to chickfila.  You beat the table with excitement when you see it arrive and not-very-patiently await for the spoon to head your direction.
* I think you're pretty tall for your age, but still skinny.  We're heading to the dr on Thursday to find out your official stats.
* You have a tuft of fluffy who-hair on the crown of you head.  It tickles my nose when you cuddle with me.  I love it.
* You don't really like green vegetable purees.  So you eat mostly orange things.  I think it's making you a little yellow.  
* You LOVE the cat.  You squeal with delight when she enters the room and make a b-line for her.  You pull out chunks of her hair but she's fairly patient with you.  She hasn't hissed or bit you yet but she does swat and nip at you.
* You are still terrible at naps and we just can't quite figure out a good nap time/schedule for you.  Sometimes you take a 2 hour nap in the morning most days it's just a 40 minute nap.  Some days you take a 2.5 hour nap in the afternoon other days like today it's under an hour.  
* You like to be swaddled to help you calm down and relax for bedtime but you quickly unravel yourself in your sleep.
* You like to be rocked to sleep for nap time but you don't need daddy to rock you to sleep at bed time.  (This probably has more to do with mommy then you.)
* You grind your teeth right now.  It drives me NUTS!  I hate it!  It's the worse sound in the world and I can't wait for you to out grow that.
* You are beautiful.  You have the brightest blue eyes and they are alight all the time taking in the world around you.  
* You are busy busy busy and will only sit still for about 3 minutes to nurse.  So it's time to make the switch.  I think we're both finally ready.  You like the freedom that a bottle gives you at when you feel like cooperating I've seen you down 8 ounces in 10 minutes.  I hoped that you would keep your morning nursing so we could get our cuddle on, but this week you've been pushing off and away from that too.  There is just too much for you to see and do in this world to snuggle with your mommy.
* You smile at everything.  It seems like everything in your little world brings you joy.  But that's not to say you don't have your fair share of meltdowns and screaming fits.  At times they can be quite comical since you will drag yourself to the middle of the floor and then lay your head down and cry.  It seems you can be a little melodramatic too.
* You are our little buckaroo and we love you!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Schwartz's vs Father's Day 2012

My dear wonderful husband here we are at another father's day and again I just can't thank you enough for being the man of my dreams.  I am so thankful to be married to you and to have you be the father of my children.  They couldn't ask for a better dad than you.  You truly love them with all your heart and it shows.  Sarah can't wait for you to come home every day and excitedly yells, "daddy daddy daddy!" as she runs to the garage door to meet and greet you.  And Cody is just your little buckaroo.  He's happiest when you are holding him.

I am so amazed by your patience and love.  Even after working and going to school all day the first thing you want to do when you get home is take Cody and play with Sarah.  So many little projects fall by the wayside at our home because you'd rather be playing with the kids then mowing the yard and fixing trivial things.  And I love you for that.  I'd rather the grass be a little tall and Sarah have the chance to go for a walk with her daddy then have a clean cut yard and a daughter who never gets to spend time with you.  I absolutely love that there is no question about it, your children and family come first.

I'm thankful for all the hard work you do for our family.  I know you just recently completed another course map and felt a little overwhelmed that after going to school for 7 years you realized you have another 4 to go.  I know it's hard but we are so proud of you and so grateful for the sacrifices you are making to secure an education and better advancement opportunities at work.  It will all be worth it when it's over and Sarah and Cody will never remember this time.  They'll only have happy memories of you at all of their soccer games and field trips and career days.

You are by far the best friend and partner in the world.  Thank you for all the support and love you give me.

Happy Father's Day!

The Schwartz's vs "Saturday, in the Park"

I was super lucky to score Chris an amazing Father's Day present this year.  He is a huge 80s music fan and the group Chicago was playing at the Memphis Botanical Garden's Live in the Garden concert series Saturday night.  It's a great venue and a cool concert series.  Most people buy lawn tickets and bring chairs and picnics.  Hard core picnics.  We saw people with serious off road wagons they were pulling in with coolers full of things.  Then there's a section of expensive table seats.  And in front of that is a section of even more expensive VIP tables.

Thursday, while Chris was helping out at Girls Camp, Draper's Catering of Memphis posted a contest on Facebook to win some tickets to the concert.   I had been struggling to figure out what I could get Chris for Father's Day this year so this was perfect!  The contest was the first 4 people to post a picture from an event that Draper's catered would win a pair of lawn tickets.  Then the best picture posted would win a pair of VIP tickets.  Draper's catered our wedding reception 8 years ago.  Our pictures from the reception are mostly snap shots so I knew I had no chance of winning those VIP tickets, but I really wanted win the lawn tickets by posting first.  I was at Chick-fila with the kids when the contest went up so I scooped them up, rushed home, turned on Sesame Street for them and started digging through the wedding memento box looking for a picture that had the cake, food, or a server in it (per contest rules).

Being from the pre-digital age, this was the best I could find.  So I quickly scanned it in, posted it, and apologized for the poor quality.  It was the best I had.  But hey, it's got the cake, in the background you can see the buffet table with the beautiful ice sculpture Drapers made, and Russell Hubbard the lead server at the reception.  Then I waited.  From my end, it looked like I was the first to post, but I know from an auction site I follow on FB you can't always trust what you see because some people have different privacy settings where others can't see their posts.  Finally around 9 pm on Friday night Draper's Catering  announced the winners.  I could not believe it when they said I won!  I won the VIP passes for Chris for Father's Day!  I think they must have taken pity on my poor pre-digital entry.  

Katherine and Ryan Draper showing off their All Access Passes

The concert was amazing!  The whole experience was just so freaking cool!  I think that's the best way to describe it.  And Chris loved it!  He had a huge smile the whole time.  I was just awe stuck and felt like a celebrity living the life of luxury.  First we got waved through the closed parking lot to the close reserved Encore parking area with our pass.  Then we entered through the special VIP gate and received our wrist bands and were shown to our table about 50 feet from the stage.  

Our amazing hosts Cathy and Gary Draper
We chatted with the owners of Draper's Catering.  These are two of the nicest people you will ever meet.  If you live in the Memphis area and ever need any catering done you have got to check out Draper's!  It's absolutely the best!  The people are all so wonderful, nice, and detail oriented and the food is absolutely amazing.  Oh, and speaking of the food with our VIP wristbands we were allowed in the party tent catered by Drapers of course.  It was so good!  Look at that spread!  I'm not ashamed to admit I filled up and devoured two plates of this yummy goodness.  There were the best chicken wings I've ever had, sausage, cheese, fruit, fruit, and more fruit, two different types of yummy dips with breads and chips to go with it, and build your own bar-b-que nachos with pork or chicken.  Then there were cookies for desert.  Yum!  And look at the amazing fruit carvings.  I didn't catch the name of the artist but his work was beautiful and the freshly carved fruit smelled great.  He was sitting on the porch of the tent carving a few other things so it was neat to see him work.

As we enjoyed our meal we chatted with a few of the other guests at the table.  We met a great woman and photographer, Dorothy, who owns PBD studios.  As we were laughing and talking I was admiring her camera and put together that she's the woman who always takes the amazing pictures of various Draper's events.  I was lamenting that Chris and I were so excited to get out for such a great date that we both ran out of the house (Cody was crying when we were leaving) and in the rush neither of us remembered our cell phones.  It wasn't wanting to check in with the sitter that we were upset about, I was upset we wouldn't have any pictures to blog.  Ha!  So Dorothy was nice enough to snap a picture of Chris and me.  I borrowed the rest of the pictures from her FB page.  I hope she doesn't mind!

The concert was fantastic!  They put on a great show and even though I only really knew about 3 or 4 of their songs which I air mic sung along proudly to, the rest were so good I was tapping my foot and nodding my head to the beat.  I was impressed with how large the band was.  They had 3 horn players, 1 guitarist, 1 bassist, 2 percussionists, and a keyboard player.  By far, my favorite was the trombone player who seemed intent on making the trombone seem sexy.  That man was pelvic thrusting to every horn slide.  It was hilarious!  

We had a wonderful time.  I'm so grateful that we got the opportunity to go.  Chris loved every minute of it.  I think he enjoyed his Father's Day gift.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Schwartz's vs Officer West and Zeus

I took the kids to story hour at the library yesterday because the special guest speaker was the K9 officers of the Millington Police Department.  I thought Sarah would be excited to pet the police puppy.  But as the question and answer session went longer and longer I realized Sarah didn't really care about the officer, she was more interested in her friend Jacob.  She kept making googly eyes at him, poking him, smiling at him.  I knew what she was doing.  It was the same thing I use to do to Chris when I was an immature teen that wanted his attention.  Not cool Sarah.  You're too young for that!

But I enjoyed listening to the officer.  Zeus, the narcotic dog that was there, was born and trained in the Netherlands, and originally worked for the Air Force.  Fun fact I learned, Zeus costs the tax payer nothing.  Nothing!  Officer West explained that drug dealers actually pay for Zeus.  Whenever money is seized it goes into an account used to pay for drug enforcement.  So that was neat.

Sarah enjoyed petting Zeus and thanked him for his service after she was done.  My favorite thing is that Zeus has his own badge.  Look how cute that is!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Schwartz's vs Swimming Breakthrough

Sarah loves to go swimming.  But what that really means is she loves to go to the outdoor pool at the Y where the water at its height hits chest level on her in the toddler area.  Anytime we have taken her to swim in the indoor pool she has screamed bloody murder at the top of her lungs.  Rather embarrassing when you consider how echo-y indoor pool areas are.  The lifeguard always looks at us with a mix of annoyance and pity.

A couple of months back we went swimming with Sarah's best friend Jessie and her mom.  Jessie is a pro and really not afraid of anything.  So she swims around happily wearing her Puddle Jumper.  Meanwhile, Sarah was screaming and trying to convince Jessie there were snakes in the water.

Anyway, fast forward to summer and the outdoor pool opens and all our problems were solved because she has no problems outside.  But then we were invited to Aunt Melissa's parent's house to swim on Memorial Day.  Ugh.  Man, I did NOT want to take my freak of nature over to that house to have her scream and act crazy in front of my in law's in laws.  I'd rather keep our embarrassing outings within our own immediate family.  However, Sarah LOVES her boys.  She'd pretty much jump off a cliff if she saw 'Nays and Haw-nins do it first.  So Chris and I went to Walmart to find a Puddle Jumper for Sarah.  I made a big deal about how she was going to swim like Jessie and let her pick out which design she wanted.  We tried it on in the store and I gave her a lot of praise for what a big girl she is.

Then we got to Aunt Melissa's parents house and it was time for the moment of truth.  She was a little uneasy at first but Uncle Adam coaxed her in and somehow got her to let go of him.  And there she was swimming like a big girl with her boys.  She was so happy!  She even got in and out of the pool using the ladder all by herself.  She had a great time.  Unfortunately, Aunt Melissa is holding those photos hostage so I can't post those.

But I can post these.  We crashed the Sheppards house this past Friday when I called to invite Melissa and the boys to come swimming at the Y and she said, "Oh no....we're about to head to my parents house to swim."  Then she very tensely said, "You wouldn't want to come there, would you."  You know those invites, the ones you don't really want the person to say yes to.  Ha!  She got more then she bargained for when I said, "We sure would!  We'll pack up right now.  See you in a few."  Sarah just has so much fun swimming with her boys.  It was a lot of fun for everyone!

I think Chris likes swimming with the boys more too!  He was having a great time having splash fights and teaching the boys how to do "depth charges".  Then when Uncle Adam got off worked and joined us we played Sharks and Minnows.

Sarah enjoys riding on the boats as she calls them.

Since the boys were wearing goggles Sarah wanted to wear some too.  Luckily Chris had a pair of children's goggles that he has worn multiple times because he didn't realize they were kids goggles.  And it wasn't until this time that we figured it out.  He put them on Sarah and we laughed hysterically and how crazy it was that he use to wear those to swim laps!
Goggle indents and blue lips

I'm really thankful that Chris's brother and family live in town so Sarah can enjoy moments like these with her cousins.  My family never lived near our cousins growing up.  In fact, I have cousins I've never met or haven't seen in over 20 years.  I don't feel like I was deprived or anything but I do see how having her 4Hs so close for play dates has enriched her life immensely so far.  It does at times make me miss my brother and sister and their families.  Especially since Cody won't get as much Henry time as I'd like for our little "twins" to have.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Schwartz's vs the Giraffe Feeding Experience

I know I've mentioned recently how the zoo just put in a deck on the back of the giraffe pen where you can pay $5 to feed the giraffes.  Today the weather was just beautiful so we headed to the zoo to walk around and Chris was nice enough to indulge me and brought some cash with us so we could do it.  Sarah was so excited!  She LOVES giraffes.  When you ask her what animals she wants to see the first one she always mentions are the giraffes.  They start letting people up in small groups at 11, so we hoped in line around 10:40 and waited.  It was so worth it!
Cody waiting in line for our turn to feed the giraffes.

Sarah did such a great job waiting for her turn.  And she was so excited.  She is smiling so big her mouth is wide open.  I wish you could just zoom in and see the pure joy on her face.  

They give you 3 lettuce leaves which they break into smaller pieces.  So I think you get to feed them nine bites of food.  Sarah was a pro at it.  She was absolutely fearless.  She walked right up and held the lettuce piece out and shoved it in the giraffe's long tongue.  She didn't squeal or back away or anything when she got slobbered all over.  She was so excited.  She kept telling me that the giraffe was really hungry.  "Yook mommy!  I feed the giraffe!  I feed him leaves.  He's really really hungry!"

The zoo keep suggested we turn and hold the leaf closer to us so the giraffe would lean in more and we could get a better picture.  Watch our faces in these pictures here:

Sarah's hand looks like it's completely in the giraffe's mouth and she doesn't care!  Such a brave girl.  Then the zoo keep suggested a more daring pose for mommy.

I think I made a friend for life.

Can't wait until the next time we go to the zoo.  It'll be Chris turn to help Sarah feed the giraffe's and I'll take the pictures.