Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Detroit Auto Show 2013

This is the second full January we've spent in the Detroit area and of course, we had to again head to the North American Auto Show.  It's the biggest in the country and is where all the brand new models are revealed for the first time anywhere in the country.  We viewed a lot of 2015 models, most of which weren't even priced yet.  They'll be available to the public sometime around mid-year.  They don't call it the Motor City for nothing!  Over 800,000 people came in the two weeks it was in town.  To put that into perspective, the population of Pittsburgh is 300,000 people.

This year, we went with our neighbors, the Krauses.  We joked in this pic above that Sophia was taking Brady on a date.  She's 18 months older than him, so someday might end up driving him around lol.

With a Mustang engine. 

Two of the girls with the Mustang. 

Brady with the Stang. 

Brady is obsessed with all things Hot Wheels, so this car was right up his alley! 

Izzie was just along for the ride. 

Inside the Chevy Spark.  Our cars in Germany were only slightly bigger than this. 

Brady cozying up to the models over at the Jeep booth. 

Over at Kia they had one of the coaches chairs from The Voice. 

Andy had intended to use the Auto Show to get inside some of the cars he was thinking about getting, but ended up getting his new car a week prior.  He was still very happy with his choice.  I've had my eye on Suburbans for a while and that will definitely be my next car in four or five years.  All four of us adults were drooling over them and we fit four of the five kids inside the trunk for fun.  People saw the four kids running around and the baby in the stroller and asked how many kids we had.  We said only two were ours, but they were saying they had four or five grown children and the Suburban was the best car they've ever had.  I can't wait!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Carnegie Science Center

On New Year's Eve, Andy's dad took us all to the Carnegie Science Center.  Both Andy and I had gone several times growing up and I had even been when I was teaching for field trips.  Brady had never been before, but he finally seemed a good age to enjoy most of the exhibits.  Many of the exhibits change over time, but there are several that have stayed the same, year after year.

One of the exhibits that never changes is the model railroad.  It's a whole room setup, showing different seasons, rural and urban areas, and the lights dim and brighten to simulate nighttime and daytime.  The man working the controls even let Brady blow the train whistle.

There was a whole floor devoted to robots.



Playing with planets.  There is also a planetarium and we were in time to catch one of the shows, but Izzie was napping and we figured it would wake her.  At least that's something that we can do next time that will be new to Brady.

The Earthquake Cafe is a classic and kids always love it because it simulates three different earthquakes that really happened, each one having a different point rating on the Richter Scale.

Pap's faces were priceless :)

There was really only one floor where Izzie could get out and move around, so she was happy when we got there and she was freed from the stroller.

Larger than life Operation.

There's a whole section with balls that can go up vacuum chutes and conveyor belts, so Izzie had some fun in there.

The last stop was the secondary building, called Highmark Sports Works.  There are all kinds of interactive activities.  Brady wanted to do the trampoline and we got in line, but realized it would be at least 30 minutes.  We tried to get him to give up and do something else, but he was adamant that he get to do it and waited patiently.  He had a lot of fun jumping.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A New Year, New Stuff, and New Adventures Ahead!

When we moved into our new house in 2012 we had so many things that we needed or wanted since we double the living space of our largest rental over the years.  That last part of 2012, our resources went into things that were immediately needed for the new house.  We got a lawnmower and other lawn equipment, a kitchen table, and bedroom furniture (and the coordinating mattresses) for both Brady and ourselves.  We went into 2013 with hopes of Andy getting a new car, but we ended up with a new baby (whom we love very much) and new patio furniture and a grill for outside.  2014 is here and there are still many things that we need and want.

Last Saturday, Andy went to get my car serviced at the Kia dealership.  Izzie had gotten up very early with no hopes of falling back to sleep, so he took her with him (pictured at the top of the post).  When he got home, he called for me to come to the garage.  I assumed Izzie was sleeping (which she was) and he wanted me to carry her somewhere quiet to finish sleeping.  I was not prepared for what I saw.

Instead of my van in the garage, there was this silver Sorento.  Andy explained that it was a test drive for the day while they had my car. 

At Christmas, we had finished paying off my car, so it was definitely time for Andy to get a new one.  As it is, if one of us needed to take one of the kids, the other adult was stuck in the house with the other kid.  The Camaro is not car seat friendly and while some argue that it's possible, what is NOT possible is getting a rear-facing car seat in the backseat.  On top of that, the rear wheel drive deems it unsafe in my book so my kids have never been in it.  If my car needs serviced for several days, we had to ask the help of friends in dropping it off and I was then stuck in the house for several days.  It was not an ideal situation, and now that we have two kids and Brady getting older, there will be more times when we need to split up with the kids.

Andy started looking at new cars back in 2010 when we moved to Michigan the first time.  We had imagined my Saturn Vue lasting until we had a second child sometime after Germany.  He was at that point also looking at the Kia Sorrento, but every week or so would change his mind as to what car he liked.  My car was very unreliable, leaving us stranded on the side of the road in the middle of a blizzard the week Brady was due to be born, so when it started making noises again in South Carolina in early 2011, we decided to dump it before it died again and wasn't worth the trade in.  I knew I wanted my Kia van long before we bought it.  Andy happened by the Kia dealership in SC, saw they had just had a used one traded in, and jumped on the deal.  This meant his car search would be put on hold until after Germany.

He knew that this was definitely the year, so he's been searching cars for months and I had assumed he'd just get a sedan that could fit a car seat.  He really liked the hatchbacks we had in Europe and I figured he'd go for one of those.  He shocked me when he started looking at Ford Escapes.  I had never thought of him getting an SUV.  He was pretty keen on the Escape, but then started considering the equivalent GMs.  He brought the Kia home for a test drive and let me take it out as well. Being used to Kia's and larger vehicles, it was very comfortable for me.  He brought it home with both car seats, and it was plenty comfortable with even the rear-facing one.  He had been waiting for the Auto Show to scope out a car, but the deal they were offering on the Sorento was pretty good, so he decided to go out and test drive the others he was looking at and was going to make his decision.

After test driving and not liking the Escape, he made the deal on the Sorento and brought it home!  Since he needs basically a commuter car, he got it as a lease with the option to buy in three years.   Now it's time to get it its own car seat!

The next new item on our list also has a back story that goes back several years.  When we moved into our larger Oakland apartment back in Pittsburgh, we needed real couches and not the futon from my small apartment.  We went to the furniture store and picked out a nice sectional and I was thrilled with it.  I was working the day it was to be delivered and got a call from Andy.  The apartment building had a service elevator that had to be used for all moving and deliveries.  The larger piece of the sectional didn't fit in the elevator and they took the couch back to the store.  My first thought was that they could've taken it up the stairs.  Andy told me that they wouldn't carry it up stairs.  I thought that was suspicious since you'd expect them to take a bedroom set up to a second level in your home.  He hadn't thought of that and already let them go.  I made him call the store and we found out that they will only carry items up three levels and of course we lived on the fourth floor.

We measured the height of the service elevator and went back to the store where they'd offered to do an exchange.  We found one where the sofa measured that it would fit in the elevator.  I was again not there when they delivered them.  They made their way into our apartment, but I found out later that the sofa didn't fit into the elevator either and Andy had to pay the people that work in the building $20 per flight to carry it up for us.  I was kinda mad because we could've done that in the first place and ended up with the sectional I wanted from the start.  Since then, I've hated the couches we have.

Our front room (pictured here) has been unfurnished since we moved in almost 18 months ago and now has those old couches residing there.  This room served as a kind of storage area for things that didn't really have a place to go, but we didn't want to put in the basement storage room due to damper air.  This situation really bugged Andy, so he's been very impatient about getting a new couch for the family room where we spend most of our time and do all of our entertaining.

This is our family room (minus couches).   It's very open concept and due to the large patio door placement, there are only so many ways to situate the TV and couches.

We like to entertain and often have family and friends come to visit, so we wanted something large that would accommodate a lot of people.

We normally barricade Izzie in the family room, but because of the open concept, gates are impossible.  We had the car seat turned on its side between our couches and then two of our kitchen chairs laying sideways to block the other opening.  We moved the couches out last night so while waiting for the couches arrival this morning, Izzie had a lot of freedom and soaked up every minute of it.

Ta da!!!  The new couch!  We wanted a sectional all those years ago and finally got one, but way bigger (since we have much more space).  I had always assumed I didn't want leather, but after having microfiber and seeing the water marks from wiping away stains, I was ready for something that wouldn't look terrible after a spill.

As for new adventures, this is going to be a jam packed year for us and some things have already happened!  Above you can see Brady at Monster Jam.  He LOVES monster trucks and we thought this year he would be big enough to really enjoy the monster truck rally.  He was so excited and is still talking about it.

He is also big enough for his first chores.  He normally is my big helper for me during the day, but now he puts away the silverware from the dishwasher.

The rest of the year is jam packed (or at least it seems so right now).  We have something going on every weekend until mid-March.  This weekend, we are headed to the North American Auto Show here in Detroit.  We are two weeks away from Brady's birthday party, less than four weeks away from his actual birthday, five and a half weeks from Izzie's birthday, and six weeks from her party. 

Andy had some time off he had to use before April, so we decided that instead of burning it on a few three day weekends where we just hang around, to do something special on Brady's birthday.  Andy has only not been with us the full day on Brady's birthday once and that was last year.  His previous birthdays have luckily fallen on weekends.  Living in Michigan, the week of Brady's birthday (President's Day week) is mid-winter break and the schools are off for the whole week.  This isn't something we had growing up in Pennsylvania, but is so nice because it allows for travel in the winter without missing school.  Since he doesn't have school, we are surprising him with a trip to Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park in Sandusky, Ohio.  His birthday falls on a Wednesday, so Andy took off Wednesday through Friday and that's when we'll go.  I can't wait to see his face!

We will go home for Easter at the end of April, then Andy and I will head solo to DC on our anniversary so Andy can be in his best man's wedding.  Less than a week later, we are headed to California!  We booked our airfare two days ago, so it's official!  We've been planning this trip since my brother accepted to Cal Berkeley almost four years ago when Brady was three months old.  We will see my brother, Chris, graduate in Berkeley, while we explore San Francisco (none of us have been).  Then we will head down the Pacific Coast Highway to the Santa Monica Pier, spend three days in Disneyland (I haven't been in almost 20 years and a lot has changed), go south towards San Diego to do two days at Legoland (which wasn't there the last time I was in Cali), have a free day to do the beach or whatever else we want, then spend our last day at the San Diego Zoo (which I loved as a kid).  I'm so excited for this experience for my kids and Andy as well since he's never been to California.  This will be Izzie's first trip on an airplane.

We will recuperate in June, and our Virginia Beach big family vacation is already booked for July!  I am greatly reminded of the year when Brady turned 1 and we lived down South.  We traveled everywhere!  Last year was slow because we had Izzie and she was still so young, but now we are making up for it.  I'm looking forward to this summer now that Izzie's bigger because we will be at the pool every day.  We can go outside (weather permitting) and the kids can just play.  Last year, I wanted to keep Izzie inside in the AC and I had to hold her anytime we went out.  It's going to be an amazing summer!  We'll have to plan some small weekend trips here and there in the fall as well.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Crayola Experience in Easton, PA

We've been going to NYC since I was a baby (and my parents before that) to visit my grandparents.  When I was younger we went a lot, and by the time us kids were in school, we went twice a year (summer and Christmas).  Now that all of us kids are grown, distance and time off restricts our ability to travel there to visit.  That means we can only make it during Christmas break and sometimes not even then.  Right at the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, we've passed the sign for the Crayola Attractions every time.  I decided when Brady was little that we'd take him one year on our trip either to or from since it's right there and not on a highway we'd travel on if we weren't headed to NYC from Pittsburgh (coming from Detroit would take us on another highway).  I thought when he was about to turn four would be a good time and that turned out to be this year.  We were in a hurry to get there this year because we traveled the same day as the Pitt bowl game and wanted to get there in time to see it (even though we had to watch on our phones), so we decided to visit on our way back.  It's an hour and a half from NYC, so we felt it would be a good way to break up the trip home for the kids.  This way they could get out, burn off some energy, and take a good nap for a good portion of the ride back to Pittsburgh.

We waited until that morning to tell Brady that we were going because he has a hard time waiting for fun things once he knows they're going to happen.  He was thrilled and couldn't wait until we got there.  He asked if we were there yet about every five minutes on the road there.

The first activity we encountered was where you could drip melted crayon wax on a piece of paper.  Brady only needed to be shown once and then did it all by himself.

Making a car crayon mold.

The majority of one of the floors was dedicated to a really cool canal that had lock and dam systems.

We were given a certain number of tokens when we got our tickets that were good to use for certain activities.  One of them was where you name your own crayon and it prints the label for you to put on a crayon as a keepsake.  Brady did one for fun, then we named one for each of the kids to put in their memory boxes.  Another activity for the coins was making a marker, but we didn't get any pictures of that.

A room where people created figures on the computer and then it projected them onto the walls.

Life size Lite-Brite.

Izzie having some fun with the bead maze.

There was a huge wall detail all the important events in Crayola's history and one of them was when they retired eight colors for the first time in the 90s.  We took a picture of it because one of them was Maize and that's one of the colors that the University of Michigan calls their own.  Sorry Wolverine kids, you can't really color your teal blue and maize with Crayola anymore.