Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

October 31, 2011

Once again, the Halloween spirit transformed our house into the creepiest place in the neighborhood. Amazingly, the transformation took place in literally a day this year. I was out of town for Family Weekend at San Diego State, and Doug's work schedule kept him away most days until after dark. While I was away on the day before Halloween, Doug dragged out all the bins full of spiderwebs and tombstones and the creepy once-a-year inhabitants of our yard and created the atmosphere our neighbors have come to expect. We didn't get home until very late on the day before Halloween, and by that time, nearly all was ready. On the day of Halloween, while he and I put last minute finishing touches on the yard, the kids got to work gutting their pumpkins and creating their jack-o-lantern masterpieces.
The newest inhabitant of our yard this year.
Last year's star attraction was just as awful and creepy this year.
The full effect in the daytime.
Eric, resident ghost who actually stays around until after Christmas in our yard. (He is the greeter of Halloween, and the Ghost of Christmas Past, festooned in a Santa hat as soon as Thanksgiving has passed.)
My punk rockers, complete with purple hair. Notice the extra-special sullen look? They practice those looks sporadically throughout the year so as to enhance the costumes.

Personally, I find it just a tad disturbing how well Danielle managed to pull off this punk rock princess look. On the one hand, I thought, "That's awesome!" On the other hand, I was thinking, "Oh man--I could be in trouble if she decides she looks awesome!"

The zombie Justin rattling his cage.

Danielle's jack-o-lantern.
The Caretaker is something of a celebrity in the neighborhood. Kids come back again each year, looking for him. Those who aren't too scared to get close are welcome to take a picture with him.

Zombie Justin says hello to Zoe. She didn't seem particularly thrilled.

San Diego Visit to Sea World

October 31, 2011

Family Weekend at SDSU

October 31, 2011

I've been looking forward to this weekend for a long time now--Family Weekend at San Diego State! I took Nicholas and Danielle down with me and we had a nice long visit with Bree. It was the first time brother and sis got to see her dorm room and the rest of the campus. We left after school on Friday and got to our hotel pretty late. After having breakfast at the hotel's diner, we met up with Bree at SDSU. We got to meet several of her good friends and had a chance to just sit, chat, and catch up with each other.

One of the things Bree was looking forward to was having lunch at Pick Up Stix--her favorite food place--so that was our first stop when we headed off campus. Naturally, we found our way to Target shortly thereafter, because even in a different city, Target calls out to the Lutjens girls. (Nicholas, to his credit, was a good sport about our shopping venture. Just point him toward the video game section, and he's good.) We tried on lots of clothes, Danielle, Bree, and me, and got Bree some new baking supplies and a few groceries. (Bree is the resident 'baker mom' for her dorm, so she's always in the market for baking supplies.) Bree's good friend Aaron, whose parents were also visiting for Family Weekend, also happened to be at Target, so I got to meet all of them as well. Aaron is another one of Bree's new school friends that seems like a great kid--they seem to really enjoy each others' company and have a lot in common. It really makes me happy to know that Bree continues to surround herself with the kinds of friends who are positive, encouraging, and motivated people, just like she did in high school. The people you spend your time with really help you shape your outlook and your attitude, and Bree's always been really astute about that.

We continued our shopping day by searching out a thrift store (we're looking for a costume for the play Danielle's in) and a Halloween store (Nicholas still hadn't found a Halloween costume). We were planning on spending the rest of our evening at Sea World, but after doing a little fact-checking, we discovered that since they are no longer on summer hours, Sea World closes at 7:30. We decided it made more sense to postpone Sea World until the next day, because it would give us more time to run around there. Instead, we continued with the shopping and eating theme. All of the kids were really interested in going to Horton Plaza, a really whimsical and unique-looking outdoor mall, which kind of reminds me of a cross between something out of Alice in Wonderland and Dr. Seuss. We ate our dinner there at a wonderful little crepes place, and did some window shopping before the mall closed down for the night. By that time, it was time to drop Bree back home at her dorm room, and Nicholas and Danielle and I retired to the hotel room and curled up to watch a movie before turning in for the night.

The next day, we picked up Bree and Aaron, who joined us for an early lunch at a little Mexican restaurant near the campus. After lunch, I took all three of the kids to Sea World. Although they've been fairly recently with their dad, it had been a very long time since I had been to Sea World with them. They got to show me all the updates and additions, and of course, show me all their favorite attractions. I let them lead the way and tell me what all they wanted to do while we were there. It was a great afternoon!

Too soon, we had to deliver Bree back to life at college--her home away from home. She had baking to do and meetings to attend, and we had to get back on the road. Big hugs, big kisses, and we were off, and I was already counting days until our next visit. It was a long drive back home, but the kids were both in a good mood, and we split the drive into two shorter drives by stopping for a long leisurely dinner with Lisa on the way. This way, we actually got two visits in on one trip--with two of our favorite people! All in all, it was a wonderful weekend: )

Horton Plaza

All of us at lunch on Sunday.

Aaron and Brianna

Bree's lovely roomate Anna.

Danielle's Fall Choir Concert

October 31, 2011

It's that time of the year again--Fall Choir Concert time! Alta Sierra and Buchanan put on a joint concert to show off the festival songs they've all been working on. I love that Danielle gets so much joy out of singing and performing on stage. Also, this year Danielle went looking for sponsors, and Auntie Cheryl and Uncle Gary sponsored her for all of the choir shows this year, so their names and the restaurant's name are listed in the program in support of Miss D. It made her so proud to see that--gotta love family and extended family!

Nerd Dress Up Day

October 31, 2011

Last week Danielle's school had "theme" days in honor of Red Ribbon Week. On Nerd Day (I'm still not sure exactly how this was supposed to promote an Anti-Drug platform) Danielle decided to go all out. She put together her own outfit, complete with suspenders she fashioned out of duct tape.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Grove

October 31, 2011

Being a big ol' fraidy cat, I have avoided Hobbs Grove (recently renamed The Grove) for many years. Just the thought of going out of my way to get scared--paying someone money to scare me--was something I couldn't really wrap my brain around. The Grove has three parts, none of which were particularly appealing to me: The Haunted Hayride, The Haunted Forest, and The Haunted House. In all of these scenarios, creepy crawlies, zombies, mutants, and crazed creatures abound, lurking behind bushes and around corners. No cute black kitties with adorable witch hats set on their fuzzy little heads at jaunty angles. No welcoming and smiling jack-o-lanterns. Just sinister and ominously festooned folks whose only goal is to make you scream.

No thanks. Well, no thanks until this year. Perhaps I've become a little less fraidy-catty since I married Mr. Halloween. He positively revels in this time of year. Perhaps it's just because I wanted to make my daughter happy--the absolute least timid of all my kids. She'd been begging to go for years now, but I always thought she was too young. (It's hard to wrap my mind around the fact that the girl is going to be thirteen this month!) Then there was my oldest, a fellow fraidy cat, who went out to Hobbs Grove last year--and made it back relatively unscathed. Whatever the reason, I had a little bit of a change of heart. A little bit. I felt I might be able to manage the Haunted Hayride, but the Forest and the House, which both have reputations for being much scarier, were still too far out of my comfort range. Even Nicholas agreed to join us for the Hayride (he's more like me when it comes to scariness), although at the last minute, he backed out on me. I didn't hold it against him though. In my mind, he was exercising good judgment.

So off we went, me with a great deal of trepidation and Doug and Danielle with a grand sense of adventure and excitement. My plan was to go on the hayride with them first, and then sit and wait in the kiddie pumpkin patch while they went off to the two scarier attractions. What I discovered on the Hayride was two-fold: First--if you scream, you become a magnet for all the other creepy-crawlies to come after. An easy target, so to speak. Second--those creepy-crawlies don't just run up alongside the wagon. They will jump right in beside you. It's possible that my screaming my little fool head off was a great source of amusement for everyone else in the wagon, but most especially for my husband and my darling daughter, who laughed at me hysterically.

This is where I hung out instead of wandering the way-too-dark-and-sinister Haunted Forest with Doug and Danielle.I'm not sure what this guy was. Danielle thought he was a grandfatherly-type bunny. I thought the glowing red eyes and somewhat cloven hooves were a little darker than her interpretation, but for the sake of not having nightmares (me, not her), I decided we'd go with her interpretation.

In the kiddie area (where I spent a little time), there was a sandbox-type area. Instead of sand, it was filled with dried corn kernels. I can't imagine how many ears of corn it took to fill it up! It was pretty cool, although it was a little disturbing to think how many hungry people could have been fed with all that corn. The first picture is Danielle's foot sticking up out of the corn. She thought it looked like a severed foot. That girl has a strange sense of humor....

In the end, with Doug encouraging and Danielle outright cajoling me, they convinced me that I'd be alright going through the Haunted House. Having to walk into rooms where I didn't know what to expect, other than to be sure something was going to jump out at me, was nerve-wracking. Blood, gore, suspense, shock--what was I thinking? I had told Doug I only thought I could go if he let me hold his hand, and by the end I think I had nearly broken his fingers. We got out alive, but I was definitely concerned some of those images would come back to haunt me. Danielle, on the other hand, had a big grin on her face when we were done. If I'd let her, she'd have probably asked to bring the gory fellow creeping up on her in this picture home as a dinner guest.
As for me, I'm glad I went, and I'm glad we all had such a good time. Next year, though, I'm probably going to stick to the Hayride. That's definitely more my speed.