Friday, August 27, 2010

Tadaki has shrunk

I haven't seen Kelly since forever so I took the girls and the dog over to her place after the first day of school.

We had lot going on after the school and it was somewhat hectic getting out of the house, but once we got over there the dogs ran in a wild pack, and the girls jumped on the trampoline. I got to admire Kelly's shoes, quilts, and everything else she's done since I saw her last; basically we had much needed grown-up girl time.

The funny part was how much Kelso had grown. I got a picture of him next to Tadaki soon after we got him last October...

Then Wednesday I took a picture of them side by side again.

I thought Tadaki was SO HUGE back in October... I think he's shrunk. Kelly said he's not so broad across his chest because he doesn't pull her around as much every day as he pulled each day in training, but she assured me he's not the victim of some tragic dog shrinking disease. Kelso has just been growing like a weed. He put on 10 pounds a month for the first 5 months we had him. At 11 months I took him into the vet for a weight check and he was 80 pounds. He turned 1 year old on August 1st, and I suspect he's gained a couple of pounds since then. I understand the bigger they are, the later dogs will mature... so I'll give him a couple of months and then have him weighed again.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Day of School

Wednesday was the first day of school. Quite a day. Thing 1 has been pretty neutral about school starting up again. The only thing she was really looking forward to was seeing her 2nd grade teacher, Mr. C again. She wasn't really thinking so much about going into 3rd Grade, it didn't seem to be occupying her attention so much.

Giving the dog a hug goodbye, all ready to walk out the door to our first day of school!

We dropped off Thing 2 first, so Thing 1 could get a hug from her favorite teacher, now Thing 2's teacher.

Thing 2 has been floating so high, planning what she'll wear the first couple of days, how great it will be at recess, she is excited about school lunch, and she is deciding who is going to be interesting to meet based solely on their names, "Roger sounds interesting. And Hunter! I wonder if he hunts. I can't wait to meet them!" Going into 1st Grade from Kindergarten, and now into 2nd Grade from first, Thing 2 has been one of only a few kids (mostly boys) from her previous class that end up together. So every year is like moving to a new school, where she hardly knows anyone. There are three classes each year, you would expect that 1/3rd of her previous classmates would end up with her, but no. Only her and one other boy from their kindergarten class were in the same 1st grade class, and this year one other girl and two boys from 1st grade are in her 2nd grade class. But she was undaunted. She has Mr. C, Thing 1's favorite teacher in the world. Everything will be wonderful. She has been so excited, there was nowhere to go but down.

See that face? That is a happy girl! She is ready for school! Ready to learn! She has the world by the tail!

Thing 1 met her teacher, who will be great and I am pleased about.

When I met them after school yesterday of course I could tell immediately that Thing 2 was not happy. She was quite subdued, not normal for her. No, she did not have a good first day. But she didn't say too much. Thing 1 was her usual even-tempered self. Yes, her day was fine. The best part was reading, she was asked to bring a book from home to read and she's reading the 2nd of the "My Father's Dragon" books and loves them.

We walk in our front door and Thing 2 disappears. I found her on the family room couch crying. In a nutshell her laments are:
1) No one likes her.
2) Anyone who might like her is already paired up with someone they know from kindergarten or first grade.
3) All her friends from last year are in one of the two other 2nd grade classes.
4) Mr. C is NOT NICE. He is MEAN. He's mean? Well, maybe not mean, but he's certainly not what she expected. Sure, he told a few jokes, that was the best part of her day... but in between he was not nice.
5) She was the last one to sit down at lunch and there was no room at her assigned table. She had to carry her lunch tray around until she found Mr. C, he came to their class table and had everyone scoot together to make room for her. But she was HUMILIATED that she had to walk around carrying her tray and no one made room for her until forced to.

Horrible, horrible, horrible, it was just horrible. And she certainly didn't want to go back. Ever. And, furthermore, she has to share a locker. With whom? She doesn't know, some wild boy ran up to her and wanted to share her locker and was so excited to share her locker and since he wanted to so badly she said fine, whatever. Who is this boy? She doesn't know, can't remember his name. Horrible horrible horrible the whole day was horrible.

I held her while she cried, and told me her sort of jumbled myopic replay of some of the more painful moments of her day. While I know that just being held while she cried was mostly what she was looking for, I couldn't help trying to help just a little, and I pointed out that no one will want to play with her at recess if she's walking around moping, she should jump rope, or play hopscotch, or do something fun by her self, and maybe someone else will want to play with her. She insisted she hadn't been moping, she demonstrated her "I'm happily looking for someone to play with!" expression. So we talked about this a little, and I cited several examples from her own past about girls she had been friends with at the first part of 1st grade but things had cooled within a couple of months, and things will change, but mostly she concluded she doesn't like jumping rope or hopscotch that much, and whatever solution I tried to propose she'd just counter with the "No one likes me!" and more tears. I hate watching her face screw up and the tears squeezing out...

It just so happened that yesterday two packages arrived for the girls, one was the ants (for the ant farm we gave Thing 1 for her birthday nearly a year ago) that I finally ordered, and the other contained caterpillars (for the butterfly cage they received two Christmases ago) that I finally ordered. (On-the-ballness has never been a virtue I have been overly troubled with.) But both insect packages arrived and we got to look at the caterpillars (who will stay in their little environmentally complete cups until they go into chrysalises) and we dumped the ants into their cage. That was thrilling, the girls were very excited, and the horribleness of the day was put aside.


I should break here, and finish in another post. But I'm just going to push through.
This morning I did my best to launch the girls on a good start to their day. I had noticed as I comforted her yesterday that Thing 2 needed a bath, but we got in late last night so they HAD to have one this morning. This is usually a recipe for hurrying and rushing and me getting tense and all of us being late, but I got up early and got them in the bath early, and they were downstairs clean and dressed and ready for breakfast early. They ate quickly, and we were ready to walk out the door about 10 minutes early. I made a massive fuss about how fabulous they are, how quickly yet calmly they performed the morning routine, how speedy they were in the bath, and how amazingly early we were. We practiced our silly walks to the door. We strolled to school, examining each interesting bug and flower that we passed and still arrived several minutes early.

I am a lousy housekeeper, an unenthusiastic cook, and I fail as a gardener. I wonder why I get to be a stay at home mom, because in many ways I'm terrible at so many of the aspects involved. I have many many failings, BUT I can be a great cheerleader. (Or so I like to believe. If you disagree please keep your opinions to yourself as I need to feel like there's at least one thing at which I excel.) I did everything short of donning a miniskirt and waving pompoms. I made it very clear that they had an amazing morning under their belts.

We took the dog to school, and instead of standing up at the edge of the school ground to kiss them goodbye, I brought the dog down the stairs to the playground where the kindergarten and 1st grade kids play and wait for the bell to ring. The dog and I accompanied them down the sidewalk past the 1st grade door to the 2nd grade door, where there was a clump of kids waiting for the bell to ring so they could go in the school. I don't normally do this because I am very aware that not all little kids like dogs, and even some that do are daunted by a huge beast who can nearly look them in the eye. I took him on a short leash, with the intent of bringing our handsome, sweet, huge, furry, attention-grabbing dog to the door where perhaps some of Thing 2's classmates will see him, become interested in him and this will translate to someone becoming interested in her. Maybe they will find they have something to talk to her about, and will look upon her in a more favorable light. I am nothing if not calculating. I plan to do this until she tells me she has a friend.

So I was on pins and needles today, to see how School Day #2 went. As I was waiting for the final bell to ring, another mother whose son was a friend of Thing 2's from kindergarten walks by and says Thing 2 and her son are sharing a locker. Really? Your son, who I KNOW Thing 2 knows is the pushy mystery boy who insisted they be locker buddies, whose name she completely forgot?

And Thing 2 comes bouncing over to where I always stand and announces today was great, everything is good. Did you make a friend? No, but she had a great time at recess doing the monkey bars, now she can traverse them hand over hand hanging from the bottom. Wahooo! Did you sit by anyone at lunch? Not at first, because she was toward the beginning of the line and everyone came and sat down around her when they got their food this time and school lunch was Chili with hot sauce! They have great chili! And she is one of the only ones who takes hers with hot sauce, the other kids are complete hot sauce wimps! I do not know where her hot sauce superiority stems from, but at this point I'm not going to argue with her that liking or not liking hot sauce doesn't make you a better or worse person. I'm just thrilled she's thrilled. Mr. C was much better today, he was hilarious and she has math homework, just one page and she knows how to do it and is excited to demonstrate her knowledge and this was a great day! I told her I had just talked to her locker buddy's mom, and was surprised she hadn't told me it was her friend from kindergarten. She said oh, yeah, she'd just spaced off his name. It's fine.

I should know better than to worry too much about her. As low as she will be one day, she'll probably be that high or higher the next. I hope I can help her navigate her roller coaster.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pat and Luke Road Trip

Two of the most fabulous people on earth spent the weekend with us. They're on a visit from their native land of Britain, not just any Britain, but Great Britain. Pat is keeping a blog with photos and videos. We had a really marvelous time with them, they are gracious and funny and great company, the only problem was that they didn't stay longer.

We took them to the Gilgal Sculpture garden. I've lived here most of my life and never seen this before. Of course there was lots of conversation about how absurd everything was, especially the crazy brick pants those pioneers wore.

We took them to the Olympic Park.
I took this picture of Thing 2 just before the gate opened and she and I went down the zip line. She was excited but a little scared. The first time. 2nd time it was all fun.

You had to be over 100 pounds to ride the big zip line, and the girls are too small. So bless Pat's heart he stayed down and played with them while Luke, Hubby, and I took the big zip line. Luke lagged at the beginning, but he beat me at the end.

Luke rode everything but the bobsled, and Pat rode the bobsled. We got to watch the bobsled before we went down it.

I wanted to video the bobsled ride too, but no, there's way too much shaking going on for that. I barely survived the ride, gripping the sides for dear life and hoping my whole body didn't just spontaneously disintegrate. But we were fast, boy howdy. We had the best time of the day (so far).

Luke enjoyed Kelso, I think he misses Charley. Kelso slept by Luke's bed while he was here.

Thing 1 and 2 just enjoyed having someone else to horse around with.

The girls were very disappointed to see them go. Luke had been suggesting to Pat that he (Luke) stay on, so he could see Disneyland, Arches, basically everything else they haven't been able to pack into this trip. The girls are still working on their abilities to discern when they're being teased or not and they took this talk seriously. When we were reviewing what would happen the next day as we were tucking them in last night Thing 2 conspiritoraly told us that Luke is actually staying on, hadn't we heard? She was very upset when we assured her they were both leaving today. We completely foiled her plans to adopt Luke as her big brother.

Just before they got on their bike and rode away, off toward that horizon...

It could be argued that now it's our turn to go back to England to visit them. Either way, we look forward to their next visit.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One reason to live in the mountains

I was just reading a blog about a beetle and thought I'd mention the HUGE FREAKING beetle that climbed on my back while in the pool in Orlando.
I felt something on my back, thought it was my swimsuit ties, and ignored it... but then I felt it move... and looked on my shoulder to see this.

No kidding, the thing was a good two inches long, not counting the huge pinchers off its front end. It would help if there was a hand in the photo so you could see how big these things get. If I hadn't been standing in the swimming pool I would have tried to capture it for science, but I was feeling a little vulnerable. I brushed it off my back without screaming (my superhero training took over) and it started swimming toward Thing 2. I warned her off, she scooted out of its reach and it turned back to me. It started swimming toward me, or whoever else was closest. It was totally creepy.

It finally gave up and swam into the drain ledge around the pool. I got the attention of a pool guy who came with a net. But he couldn't get the net into the ledge to get at the bug. I had to scoop it out from the drain ledge using my bare hand and my superhero skills, which are what kept me from fleeing to the other side of the pool bellowing in horror. The pool guy caught it with his net. I might add he never got closer than the other end of a five foot pole from the thing.

I googled "giant water insect Florida probiscus" and found that it is called a giant water bug. They don't have these kinda things where I live.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dolphin, not Swan

We're back! And we had a great time!

Hubby was there for the Agile 2010 conference, not that it matters for my part of the story, but the conference went well for him.

First of all, turns out we were at the Disney Dolphin, not the Swan. While we're talking about this let me state that The Dolphin is not really a dolphin. It has spikes and scales and is rather un-dolphin like. Hubby thought it's more like a sturgeon.

I was told it is a Dolphin Fish, as opposed to a Dolphin. Though a Dolphin Fish has a big fin up its back... Okay it doesn't look like either a dolphin or a sturgeon but when you say Dolphin, you don't think of that freaky big headed thing, you think of Flipper. A mammal. Smooth, squeaky clean, jumping ahead of the spray from a ship.

I think the Disney Swan and Sturgeon kind of has a nice ring to it, and certainly fits their motif better. Anyway, the Swan and Sturgeon (aka Dolphin) hotels are practically twin hotels separated by a lake and a walkway. They sort of share 5 swimming pools. The difference is at the Dolphin we were closer to the interesting pools. The pool next to the Swan is a big square pool - the one I put in my last post. The Dolphin had one of those, then a large 3 foot deep kid pool, then a volleyball pool, the waterfall pool (also pictured in my previous post) with a slide going into it, and another little pool on the other side. They're all connected by sidewalks, but the elevators right outside our room dropped us down to right by the kid pool and waterfall pool we were interested in, and it all worked beautifully.

Hubby got us a room upgrade, so we had a great big room. Sort of. The hotel room layout left us scratching our heads - so much space that could have been utilized so much more effectively. There was a big wide hallway down the side of the room... just a weird layout but it was bigger than the usual hotel room. The 2nd bed was a small uncomfortable fold-out couch which the two girls shared the first night. Since Thing 2 is a kicker and sleeps really hot and Thing 1 is always freezing, (and there was a perfect nook for it in that big room) we got a roll away bed in the corner the next night. The girls were enchanted with that and they swapped who got to sleep on the roll-away for the rest of our stay.

Hubby knows so many more people at these conferences than he knows in our home town so this was a real social event for him. Standing in line to check in or go to a restaurant or get on the bus and he has people saying hello and talking shop. I'd send him for a yogurt and not seem him for an hour. There's lots of networking with other computer conference buddies. He did blow off quite a bit of the conference to be with us, though.

A guy named David who Hubby works with sometimes has a 7 1/2 year old we'll call Thing A. David was coming to the conference and his wife is out of the country so he contacted us a couple weeks before to see if I would watch his munchkin at the conference while he was busy doing conference stuff. So my girls had someone to play with.

All six of us spent the day on Sunday at Magic Kingdom. My girls are old hands at Disney and were very excited to just fast pass Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain, which in DisneyWorld are very conveniently located right next to each other. Thing A and her dad have never really been to a Disney park before, and she wasn't sure about some of the rides. So we split up by families and Hubby and I took our little Disney veterans on everything we could fast pass. It was all in all a good day at the Magic Kingdom.

The other big Disney day was Tuesday. In evaluating our past DisneyWorld experience we had seen that there were just a few things at the three other parks besides Magic Kingdom that really held the girls' interest. So we figured maybe we could get a park hopper and do all three of the other parks in one day. Thing A came with us while her daddy stayed at the conference. We hit the Animal Adventure to do the Safari Ride, which last time we were there was amazing, this time there weren't too many animals around.

Thing 2 had been looking forward to having her face painted.

Thing A and Thing 2 with their face paint.

We saw quite a few animals, the most memorable was this mother and baby gorilla.

We were at Animal Adventure park for 3-4 hours, then hopped a bus to the Hollywood Studios park. The only thing there for the girls, really, was the Honey I Shrunk The Kids playground and a Toy Story ride. The girls all thought the playground was great, and we let them run around there for an hour. I stayed at the playground while Hubby walked over to fast pass the Toy Story ride, and found that they weren't Fast Passing, and the line wait was an hour and a half the first time he checked, and between an hour and two hours the subsequent times he checked. No Thanks. We gathered up the kids and took them to Epcot.

The Honey I Shrunk The Kids Playground

I hadn't given Epcot enough credit. We could have spent a lot more time there. Last time it seemed that Epcot was just about food and shopping from different countries, and we spent the whole time looking for the two or three rides that are there. But this time we went through Spaceship Earth, and didn't have time for all the other things to see in the front circle, before you even get back to the countries. As expected, we ran out of time. The girls wanted to shop in Japan for Pokemon stuff, and we promised them dinner in Mexico. We hit it all kind of quick, and didn't even get over to the Aquarium part, which we've seen before and is very neat. We ended up meeting David back at the hotel at 10:30 at night or so. 3 parks with 3 little girls in 12 hours. As we rode the bus back to the hotel Thing 2 told me, "Today's been a LARGE day."

At Epcot they give the kids a paper mask on a stick that they can color. At every country there is someone from that country at a desk who will stamp the kids' masks and put a hang tag on it representing their country. The kids think this is really cool.

The girls liked Japan.

The other days we mostly spent at the pool, or letting the girls play at the hotel room. They like to get me out of their hair when they're doing their pretend play, but with me there in the room with them they were a little inhibited.
I took the girls to a restaurant that had the kids menus on viewmasters. What a clever idea!

The last night we were there David and Thing A were going to a restaurant over in the Swan where they have Disney characters come around to the tables to say hello. We joined them and saw Pluto and Goofy. The girls were tickled pink.

We were scheduled to come home Saturday evening, tonight. However, on Thursday night as we were assessing what to do with our last day we looked at reviews for Universal Studios and saw that apparently the whole world is visiting Universal Studios to see Harry Potterville. There were reports of 2 hour lines for rides, and huge lines just to get into the shops. Since we hate lines so bad, and based on our experience with Disney's Hollywood Studios that there are more shows there than rides, we decided we'll wait until the kids are a little older to do that. We could have done a Cirque du Soleil show at Downtown Disney on Friday night. David and Thing A saw one and said it was wonderful. Then Hubby told me he was leaving home on a 6:00 a.m. flight Sunday morning, and had a boatload of stuff to do to get ready for that. So instead of getting home at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday and having him pull another all-nighter on Saturday, we decided to end our fun a day early. After Hubby went to the closing keynote speech on Friday morning he called Delta and found they could get us on a plane that evening.

The girls were very disappointed to hear they wouldn't have another day at the hotel pool, but we placated them with a couple hours at the pool with Daddy while I stayed in the room and packed us up. We were out by 2:00 p.m., which meant we didn't have to pay for the hotel that night, and we caught our plane to make it back last night.

Did I mention the rainstorms every afternoon while we were in Orlando? Anything from a good sprinkle to a real gullywasher would hit at least once each day, if not two or three times a day while we were there. As we were boarding the plane they said there was a micro storm burst coming in and if we didn't get out ahead of it we'd be stuck there for a while. Apparently we made it out just in time, and landed early back home. We quickly got in and unloaded the car, fed the last two living crickets to the gecko (who did just fine and is still fat tailed and happy), and got the kids in their pajamas. As we were brushing the girls' teeth the doorbell rang and who should be standing on our doorstep but my sister, with Kelso and her dogs. She and her darling husband drove the hour and 45 minutes down to drop off the dog, then they hugged everyone and turned around to drive an hour and 45 minutes back to their house. That's a three and a half hour drive for them, just because they're sweet, completely saving us a trip to go get him. Above and beyond!

Hubby started printing last night and has had the printer going most of the morning today. I doubt if he would have gotten much sleep at all if we hadn't have come home a day early. I'm sad to have missed a day of playing, but all in all this was better. The girls are upstairs happily pretending in their room, the dog is asleep at my feet, I can blog and run some laundry, and the gecko will have dinner today. Hubby can help me move the old TV out of the new Toy Room in preparation for the friends from out of town who will get here at the end of the week, in addition to getting ready for his next trip. It's good to be home.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Orlando Bound

We leave for Florida in the morning. Hubby has a conference in Orlando and when he first suggested the girls and I come too I told him no thanks, we've done DisneyWorld twice already (for someone who lives a 5 hour plane ride away and has 7 and 8 year old kids that's saying a lot, I think), and sure, DisneyWorld is fine, but for the age of our kids I kind of prefer DisneyLand... and we've been-there-done-that more than a lot of people who live in California, I think. Save up those frequent flier miles for something cool. (Wow, how blase am I?) Then he told me the conference is at the Disney Swan. What?? (We don't stay at the Swan. Too pricey for us little po' folks.) And of course the conference pays for the hotel room. WHAT? So instead of trying to keep the kids from tearing apart a swanky hotel room or watching them paddle in the gorgeous empty pristine boring pool miles from anything but the nearest golf course and $8.00 bagel I get to lounge by a DISNEY pool with slides and waterfalls and a Disney park or Downtown Disney only a bus ride away? Well, that's completely different!

Tomorrow this will be us!!!

Uh oh... that looks like a plain boring square conference hotel pool to me. We'll have to see if there's not something more interesting around somewhere. We stayed at the Port Orleans before and that pool doesn't look much better from the internet, but it had a section of slides and squirty things for the kiddies off to the right out of the picture, I think.
Oh, here is what we saw, there are slides and waterfalls off behind this thing in the Port Orleans pool.

A second search found a more fun looking picture of the Swan pool. It looks like there is at least a waterfall somewhere, obviously there's more than one pool. And the Swan pool comes with that fun person to throw my kids into the air. Oh, yes, this will work!

The other time we stayed at a DisneyWorld property hotel we moved from the boring conference hotel to the Disney hotel just long enough to go to the parks, then we flew home. We didn't plan time in at Disney to just swim, we bought a four day pass, went to the parks every day, and it was always too late at the end of the day to let the kids play in the Disney pool. We just walked by it, listening to the other children having fun. My kids had to go to the PARKS. I am the mean mommy who dragged her crying little girls past the pool, as they stretched their little hands out to it, "But MOMMY! We want to SWIM! We want to play in the water! We wa-"
"NO! NO! We have TICKETS! You will GO to the PARK and you will RIDE the RIDES and you will BE HAPPY ABOUT IT!!!" That was me before. But this time, this time we may go to a park or two in between pool days, if we feel like it, but we have at least three days, maybe more, while daddy is conferencing. That's three or four full days we will be those folks sitting by the pool. Or I will be, anyway, while the kids swim. I think I better throw an extra novel into my suitcase. And another bottle of waterproof sunscreen. And a hat.

The dog will be staying at my fabulous sister's Dog Resort, playing with his doggy cousins for the week we're gone. I lost my good pre-trip packing days by driving him up to my sister's on Wednesday and stayed over Thursday to do some stuff at my mom's, then got back really late on Thursday and packed today. Today I washed every stitch of dirty clothing in the house, took the kids to their final swimming lesson, ran to the grocery store, and DID NOT get the battery replaced in either of my water proof watches, which torques my hide. Wah.

Hubby got home about 9:00 tonight from 4 days in New Jersey. We're almost completely packed and I've got to go to bed, there are just those nagging little things that I know I've forgotten... The plane leaves at 10:00 tomorrow morning so I won't have much time to figure it out. Hubby's probably going to pull an all-nighter getting ready for the conference... there just aren't enough hours in the day to be him. I keep thinking of that old movie where Michael Keaton cloned himself...