The Munchkins

Life with identical twins

Butcher Jones trail

My girls aren’t the best hikers. The hike we went on last year ended with me piggy backing one then the other back to the car. Not so fun, so this year we headed out in the morning and chose a hike around a lake (Saguaro) that wasn’t very long. It was the perfect hike! We hiked out 20 minutes, stopping for water breaks along the way and some snacks, then turned around and hiked back. Delaney even saw a snake on the trail! The scenery was gorgeous, with the mountains in the background and the lake in front of us. Highly recommend this trail!

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Go jump in a lake

It got really hot on Wednesday, so we took the pontoon out for an evening cruise after dinner and headed towards a spot on the lake that we knew was over 20 feet deep. A perfect swimming hole. I’d already showered so I was out for swimming, but my dad jumped in with the girls. At first they swam with life jackets, but they’re strong swimmers so I let them take them off and they did jumps off the side of the boat. They had so much fun we did it again the next night!

We also took a ton of slo mo videos which I will not bore you with again here, but were so crazy fun to do. The girls were so happy and had so much fun jumping and doing cannon balls and just giggling in the lake, this was absolutely the highlight of the week for me.

Three stooges.

Annie knows who gives out the best snacks on the boat.

Check out that smile!

I should probably darken this up a bit and make it into more of a silhouette, but what can I tell you how happy I was when I looked at the back of my camera and saw this? I just kept snapping as the girls ran off the pontoon and jumped in, and I caught the sunlight just right here. Love. this.

This was Caden’s version of the Statue of Liberty.

Delaney doing a cannon ball.

It was also our annual “Put the dogs in their lifejackets and make them swim in the water so they know what to do if they go overboard” drill. Midas was THRILLED.

Lark sat on top of Midas for the rest of the cruise.

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NYC – Cookie Do & Bronx Zoo

Tuesday! Cookie Dough! I have no idea how I found this place, but somewhere along the line I pinned it when I realized they had gluten free/dairy free cookie dough as well. So yes, it really is unbaked cookie dough. They use pasteurized eggs so you won’t get sick. It’s in Greenwich Village and very popular, so we got there just before they opened. It was the perfect 10 minute walk from our apartment. Oh! And! We saw them shooting a tv show as we walked, that was very cool.

The girls both got the Unicorn flavor, although neither of them loved it.

Since we may never get back here, I told both of them to get two flavors to try. It was definitely more than we could eat, but we took it back to the apartment and had it for dessert that night. My mom got a salty/sweet flavor which she really liked, and I liked both of my flavors (regular choc chip cookie dough, and a pb choc chip flavor). Everyone that works there is super nice and they make the experience really fun!

I love the Village and really wanted the girls to see NYU and Washington Square Park. Unfortunately, it was drizzling but we did wander through the park and they played on the playground for a bit before we headed back. We had lunch at the apartment, then headed to the subway for the 43 minute trip up to the Bronx Zoo. This was easily the longest subway ride any of us had been on and it went by surprisingly fast! We even were above ground for a good portion of it which was cool as well.

The Bronx Zoo! This was Caden’s one request and I’m so glad we did it. The grounds are lush! It was raining but that really didn’t matter because of all of the trees.

We headed into the Bird building right away to avoid the rain and were all pleasantly surprised by all of the gorgeous birds! I will spare you the 50+ pictures my kids took of them (didn’t bring the big camera along due to rain) but we were fascinated. The zoo did a really amazing job with the enclosures. There were gorgeous paintings and lots of trees and rocks for the birds to hang out on.

Both lions were sleeping, but doesn’t he look like a curled up kitty?

I love zoos, but goodness with all of the walking. We were exhausted by this point, so we headed over and grabbed a snack so we could rest a bit. There were peacocks everywhere throughout the zoo! They must get along with every animal because we saw them in 90% of the enclosures. This guy was just wandering the zoo, and came over by everyone eating. Some kids were chasing him so I stepped in, and he followed us to our table.

If you are in New York and have the time to hit up this zoo, we all highly recommend it. It was an absolutely gorgeous zoo, and they do a fabulous job with all of the animals. Every animal has a big enclosure and plenty of room to roam and play. The one bummer was that because it was middle of the week, a lot of the shops and extra things were closed. Would be fun to get back on a sunny day!

After our subway ride back, we had intended to go to Chelsea Market for dinner, but on the walk there we passed a chicken place that had intrigued me when we passed it earlier. Dirty Chicken! The food was delicious, and everyone was happy. The girls got soup and mashed potatoes, my mom got fried chicken and I had rotisserie chicken. They even served alcohol (rose cider for the win!).

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NYC – 9/11, Grand Central, Library

Because of the dinner fiasco Sunday evening, I tried to plan a little better for Monday. We walked a ton on Sunday, so we were hoping to walk a little less, and get back to the neighborhood in time for dinner, then watch a movie before bed (Ironman for the win!). Luckily, we had walked past a mexican restaurant that fit the dinner bill perfectly on Saturday. The promise of guacamole kept us going throughout the day!

First up, 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

The museum was incredibly well done. My mom and I worried that the girls wouldn’t understand the gravity of 9/11 while going through the museum, but they do such an amazing job that that wasn’t an issue at all. I assumed there would be pictures and memorabilia, but I was not prepared for the recordings. Listening to the voicemails people left for loved ones was overwhelming, and felt intensely personal. The girls listened to everything, I only listened to some. It was a heavy experience for everyone and I’m so glad we went.

After we headed to Wall St to catch the subway. I really wanted to find the Fearless Girl statue but I’ll be honest, I was tired and I wasn’t up to googling and mapping and figuring out how to get there. And I was hungry. So we headed to another one of my favorite places – Grand Central Station – for lunch.

My next genius idea was to head to the library! The girls love reading, and I’d never been to the New York Public Library so this was the perfect pit stop. We ate some treats in Bryant Park, then found the children’s section (which was right inside the door, clearly we weren’t the first people to do this) for a little down time. The girls found graphic novels to read, mom and I hit the couch for a little rest.

Can you spy them on the steps?

After we headed back to Times Square to catch the subway I’m guessing? And then walked to Dos Caminos for dinner? No, I think went to the apartment first? Either way, highly recommend Dos Caminos. Everyone loved their food, and the guac was worth it.

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NYC – Central Park

Apologies in advance for the picture overload, but Saturday was our only sunny day and we spent it in Central Park, so I have zillion pictures.

After trekking through Belvedere Castle, we wandered down towards the boat house for a little snack. There were a ton of people renting boats! It was a miracle there were no accidents out there. After our fries and ice cream, we headed over to the Bethesda Fountain. This is one of my favorite places for people watching in Central Park. We sat down by the fountain and proceeded to take a million pictures, most of them goofy. The girls don’t necessarily get the whole people watching thing and we needed a break, so I handed over my camera and let them snap away.

After the fountain we headed down the walk, intending to head towards the southern end of the park. But, there were portrait artists everywhere and Delaney really wanted her portrait drawn. One guy waved us over but as I looked at his drawings I realized I did not want to pay for that, so I snagged the girls quickly and found a different guy (who was of course directly across from the first guy, Caden was beyond embarassed but I did not care). He said it would only take 10 minutes, but it was just about an hour to draw both girls. It looks amazing though! He did a fantastic job. We wandered up and down and checked out all of the art, watched the guy do a sand drawing, and ogled the wedding parties having their pictures taken. Also a solid people watching spot.

By this time we were tired and hungry, so we headed back to the apartment to find dinner. Eating dinner was definitely more difficult with kids. Not every restaurant has kids menus, and I was not having my kids order expensive entrees. Saturday we went to a neighborhood spot called Corner Bistro that luckily served burgers, fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with bacon. There was a hangry moment where I thought we might lose Caden, but the bacon came through for her and she now has a new favorite sandwich.

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The Floor!

Is done! And the room is finished except I didn’t hang any pictures, just in case we rearrange.

Thursday. My dad came up around noon. The night before the girls and I had moved as much out of the room as we could. My dad and I moved the big stuff to one side, tore that carpet out, then moved it to the other side, and tore the rest out. Then we tackled my bedroom the same way. I was also trying to work, so in between I would run upstairs and do some testing, reply to emails, then run back when he needed me. It was chaotic.

About 3:00 we went to Menards to pick up the flooring and the paint. I knew I wanted to repaint, but I didn’t think we would have time. I’m so glad my dad pushed to paint Thursday. It’s so much easier painting when you don’t have to worry about getting anything on the floor! I know some people like to go with lighter colors in basements to lighten them up, but I’m a huge fan of darker colors. I think it warms things up and makes it cozier. I painted the basement Mega Greige by Sherwin Williams and I love it! The paint color made a HUGE difference in the way the basement feels. I knew I wanted a darker greige (I wanted something a little warmer than what I have upstairs) and had done some research on pinterest, but had never actually seen the color in person until we got it on the walls. Dodged a bullet there! We finished up about 7:00. Long day.

I give the girls a mental health day each school year where they can pick a day and stay home. Delaney decided to cash hers in on Friday. I tried to talk her out of it because why not pick a day when you can watch tv all day? But she wanted to help her Grampy. Best decision ever! She was a workhorse! She totally understood how things needed to go together and was the perfect coworker for my dad.

Delaney and my dad started putting the flooring down while I painted trim outside. Delaney came up a few times saying it wasn’t going well and I started to get nervous. Finally I went downstairs to see how bad things were.

The flooring I bought was cheap, and we weren’t sure how much that was playing into things and how much an old house with walls that aren’t straight was. I did some googling and found that people had issues installing Tarkett floors, so we were just about to take it back and get a different floor when I did some more googling so we could watch installation videos. My dad tried it one more time with a different approach and things worked better. This is the only laminate floor I’ve installed, but my dad said it was awful and much more difficult than other floors. So don’t go with Tarkett. My parents would highly recommend Pergo floors. They are very snap and go. All of that said, going with laminate flooring is by far cheaper than replacing the carpet over and over. With dogs and kids, it’s also so much easier to clean. When we pulled up the carpet, there was a ton of dust and crap underneath that they had never picked up. It can’t be good to be breathing all of either!

My mom came up Friday late morning and cleaned my house. That was fabulous. It was due for a deep cleaning and my mom was up for the task. Thanks Mom!

Delaney worked hard until about 2:00 when I took over. To install the floor you lock it in, then use a hammer and block to get things tight. I looked at my dad and said “How on earth did Delaney do this?” It was a lot of work! She was even installing pieces by herself on Saturday! Caden tried helping when she got home from school, but this type of thing is not her jam, and she retreated to her hammock swing to read. We worked until about 5:30, finishing up the living room.

Saturday Delaney and my dad laid the floor in my bedroom. It’s a much smaller room and they were almost finished by the time I had to run the girls to ballet. When we got back, it was done! The rest of the day was spent laying down the trim and the finishing pieces. That stuff took forever. Lots of cutting, cleaning, filling nail holes, and more cleaning. We worked until 5:30 and then headed out for dinner.

When we moved in we tried to be thoughtful, but the layout didn’t work. We rearranged things so that as you come down the stairs and turn the corner, all of the girls’ stuff is there. They don’t love coming down to the basement, so I wanted their toys/art/craft things close to the stairs. They’ve spent a little time organizing, and are excited about their new spot.

We centered the tv on the wall, and then moved the couch over so it was centered on the tv. One of the things I hated before was that nothing lined up! The couch wasn’t centered on the tv, and it just felt weird. So even though the couch hangs off the wall a bit, it works much better.

When you came down the stairs and rounded the corner, the first thing you used to see were the dog crates. It made the basement look so junky. Now they are tucked into the back corner, all lined up. The dogs aren’t quite used to it yet, but they’ll figure it out soon enough.

With the dogs, the basement smelled. We didn’t spend much time down there, and I was embarrassed to even have people over to show them my house because of it. We love our upstairs living room and that will still likely be the place we spend the most time, but now at least I’m not embarrassed of my house. It’s like a weight has been lifted! I’m hoping to do more entertaining this summer and show it off!

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Home and Butterflies

We’re home! We flew back Friday night. Our flight wasn’t until 6:20pm which gave me plenty of time to pack, as well as go for one last walk and swim. Getting home Friday also gave us the weekend to unpack and Christmasfy our house. The tree is up, the house is decorated, and we have two bags of decorations that just don’t work in this house for Goodwill. We also made it to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! LOVED IT. What an amazing movie. J.K. Rowling is an astounding storyteller. Delaney’s face was lit up through the whole movie. I was a little worried about Caden, but it was mostly loud. I kept telling her it was like the Avengers, and that seemed to help.

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Monday was supposed to be rainy, so we headed to the Butterfly Garden and aquarium. Both are relatively new, and were only 25 minutes away. The butterfly garden was very similar to the one at Como Zoo from this summer, but much much bigger and with a lot more butterflies. As soon as we walked in they started landing on Caden, me, and my mom.

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It was crazy! One of the big blue butterflies landed briefly in my hair. I tried to remain calm but it was a very bat in your hair kind of feeling. Luckily, he moved on quickly.

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We wandered all around the garden, but the butterflies wouldn’t land on Delaney. We finally realized it was likely her black t-shirt. Who knew? She was heartbroken, and having been through this before, I did not want to leave without her getting to experience this. We wandered away from the others, stood by the spots they were feeding, nothing. A few circled her, but she got nervous and flinched and they flew off. I went to find Caden and of course, that is when one landed on her! Luckily my parents were there and saw, as did she. That and a little food, and she was good to go for the day. (I was ready to lie at this point, she was so close to tears.)

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They loved my mom. She probably had 10 butterflies land on her.

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Unfortunately, these are the only photos I got at the aquarium. It was too dark! Even with my ISO bumped all the way up. The premise was that you followed a drop of water through the rivers (upstairs was all of the fish and animals you would find in rivers), and the main floor was the fish and animals from the ocean. Lots of great exhibits!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving! I have to say, our change of location to Arizona worked out very well this year. I could definitely see this being our yearly tradition. We got a gorgeous, though windy, day with lots of sunshine. My mom and Sue divided up the dishes so no one had to cook like crazy.

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We had appetizers on Sue & Mike’s deck, since their outdoor area was sheltered from the wind.

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After eating we rested, then hit the pool for some swimming. There was no one there! We thought there might be a few other families that would swim between meals, but we had the pool to ourselves. The girls even got to go in the hot tub (can’t when other people are around because it’s against the rules).

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And my mom caught a little nap while we swam. For two minutes until she realized Sue was sitting in the corner.

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Grand Canyon – Day 2

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Grand Canyon is about 4 hours away from where my parents live in Arizona. At the end of the first night we were debating whether or not you could drive up, see the canyon, then drive back all in the same day. You could do it, but it was really nice being able to see everything again in the different lighting. We all agreed that just one day wouldn’t be enough time there.

On Saturday we made dinner reservations at El Tovar, which is the nice hotel that has an excelelnt restaurant. 8:00pm was the earliest time they had, but after hiking for two hours, we knew no one would make it that late. We cancelled and went there for breakfast instead. It worked our perfectly. We got there early and were able to get a table by the windows with a view of the canyon. The food was amazing! Everyone loved their food. I would definitely recommend it! Also, all of the restaurants were super accommodating for the gluten free or vegan people. They had gluten free bread, muffins, bagels, and they were knowledgeable. It was really nice. One guy went completely out of his way to make sure I knew what my options were.

I really wanted to see a sunset and a sunrise. Unfortunately, the way the village is situated, it’s hard to see either. You have to hike out a ways one way or the other to have a clear view. We decided to just get up and see what we could see. While we couldn’t see the actual sunrise, the colors were spectacular.

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This looking glass was so cool. If you put it in the groove and lifted it up, it would zero in on a landmark. Each groove listed the landmark that you could see. We spent a solid 15 minutes here on Saturday looking through it, then another 15 minutes on Sunday. I loved the simplicity of it!

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After breakfast we hiked down the canyon a bit on the Bright Angel Trail. My dad tried, but he didn’t make it far. My mom went on a little further with us, then stopped and waited. The girls and I went a bit farther, and that was when Delaney started talking about wanting to go all the way down. You could see people farther down the trail, and she was really intrigued by the idea of spending the night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Someday!

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I bought Delaney a $10 pair of binoculars on Saturday. On Sunday my mom bought another pair because no one wanted to listen to them fight over them.

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It was supposed to be really cold Sunday morning, but the cloud cover from Saturday kept it fairly warm. It was brisk when we first started hiking, but we all quickly shed our layers. I love this picture but why on earth didn’t I take my sweatshirt off!

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I took a few different shots of my parents for their Christmas card. I’m lobbying hard for this one.

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Everyone! My dad took a ton of pictures for other people, so we finally asked someone to get ours. Love this.

We drove through Sedona on the way home. The drive was beautiful, and we stopped in town to get a snack and wander around a bit. It started raining and with Caden’s cast, we had to get back to the car, otherwise I think we would have stayed for longer. There were a lot of cute restaurants and we wished we had timed it so that we were driving through closer to dinner time. We had hoped to get out and hike and take pictures of the red rocks, but the rain was really coming down with no signs of stopping, so we headed home.

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Hiking the Falls

While Friday was beautiful weather, Saturday was forecast to be rainy. Friday afternoon we contemplated heading up to Gooseberry Falls, but decided we wanted to enjoy the day in Duluth. We knew it might mean hiking the falls in the rain, but we were willing to take the chance.

We started the morning at the Lester River falls. They are small waterfalls just on the edge of Duluth. They were a perfect start with a nice trail that ran along the river. We wandered back and forth a bit and tried to get a family picture. Focus fail, but we’re all in the shot!

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The rain had held off until this point, so we were hopeful, but by the time we got to Two Harbors it was raining hard. We had packed rain gear, but waited until the rain lightened up a bit before heading to the falls. We just hit the closest waterfall since we knew it wasn’t the day to do much hiking. But! The waterfall we saw was gorgeous! It didn’t disappoint.

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