Thursday, July 31, 2008

Summer Blogging

It is summer and the weather has been lovely. I mean it. Perfect temperatures, nice breezes, truly lovely.

So my blogging has been left on the back burner a bit. And my commenting too.

Today, we are taking a break from the Fun in the Sun adventures. Today, I am jotting down funny things I want to remember about the boys.

When we were out of town last weekend, we stopped in a part of town known for people looking the part of hippies. Who knows if they live the part too, I don't know them that well. Ducky was trying to explain what hippies were and how we knew when we saw one. Note to self... Do not tell boys what hippies are and then leave the windows down. Every time they saw someone they thought fit the description they would yell "There's one." About every person that walked by. A more careful explanation by me helped narrow it down. The funny part, they didn't call them hippies, they called them whippies. "There's a whippy, there's a girl whippy. Mommy, there is a kid whippy!" There were whippies everywhere. It is a wonder they didn't get whippylash from looking for them.

SweetE likes a certain kind of granola in the morning for breakfast, with milk. He tells me he wants the "tookie kind." I will be really sad when he starts pronouncing things properly.

I am gathering all the stuff for the boys favorites books. When I asked sweetE who his favorite friend is, he said sweetP. Ahhhh. In case anyone is wondering what these are, and want to borrow the idea, here it is. I make little scrapbooks that document the things the boys like each year. Topics include color, food, friend, game, adventure, animal, etc. I was finding that I was forgetting so many of the little details of their lives. The ones that I wish I knew about myself when I was little. The boys love them and will get them down and look through them.

SweetP has been challenging lately. He has a poker face when it comes to lying. Not so long ago honesty was important to him. Not so much anymore. He is a good liar and that is scary. This morning he told me that he did his reading. He gets up before me and since I had a mega migraine yesterday I slept later. He is supposed to read for 30 minutes every day. I want him to do this before he gets any screen time. This morning there were quite a few clues that he didn't really do it. So now I am going to have to make him do it with me. It bothers me that I don't feel like I can trust him anymore. There have been other things too, and when you catch him in it, he will say that he doesn't want to get in trouble. I need to think of a way that the consequences of lying are worse than the consequences of fessing up.

I am happy to announce that Velcro was deemed healthy at the vet today. He is coming up on his twelfth birthday this year and I am not ready for him to have health problems. He also went to the groomer and he smells good and is so soft.

There was some other stuff I wanted to jot down, but I have forgotten it already. I had a good memory once, long, long ago.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fun in the Sun - Part Three - San Diego Zoo

*Warning, long post ahead. Have a beverage handy. And I started this last Friday before we went out of town for the weekend. If only I could really go back in time.*

Today's adventure was the San Diego Zoo. I had been watching the panda cam for the week before we left. The boys had just watched Kung Fu Panda. We were ready to see some Panda.

We got to the zoo with no problems, thanks to Dashboard Doris. It was strange to drive through neighborhoods to get there. But we parked and headed for the entrance. We found member services and waited to get our tickets. Tickets, what tickets, you don't have any tickets. The staff of the zoo were very helpful, making phone calls, checking everywhere, but not handing over any tickets. We had to go talk to the shuttle people when they showed up. They wouldn't give us any tickets. After an hour, I got a bit fed up and we decided to go buy new tickets and worry about a refund later. We had been on the phone with our friend the travel agent about 4 times in the hour. All the while, sweetE wanted to go home.

We perused our map and decided to go left. What is the first exhibit we encounter? The snakes. I hate snakes. So I graciously offer to let the boys go there while I check out the gift shops. I do regret not seeing the blue poison dart frog, but not enough that I would risk a visual encounter with a snake. We moved on to turtles and lizards and crocodiles. There was an interesting blue and red lizard that caught my attention. I am used to lizards being much more drab. The turtles were huge and I felt so bad for them in their dusty pens. I have always thought that turtles need ponds or oceans or water of some amount.

After consulting the map, we decide to ride the skyway to the top of the park and work our way back. Doesn't hurt that one of the first exhibits on the way back is the Pandas. Can you tell I was excited about the pandas? SweetE loves the ride on the skyway and my main job is keep him from standing up to see better. It was fun, but surprisingly chilly. We also hadn't realized how the zoo went uphill as you moved towards the back. So yeah to walking downhill.

We are zoo members at our local zoo and decided to stop and see how their polar bear exhibit compared. We like ours better so we strolled on to the next stop. We stopped and checked out the flamingos, they are more orange than pink.

As we walked our way to the panda exhibit, we had to keep moving off to the side to let double decker buses go past. They detracted a lot from the atmosphere of the zoo. Between the rumble of the engine, the smell of the exhaust and the threat of getting smooshed, I think the buses are a bad idea.

We found the pandas and the line that went with them. The boys were hungry, remember the one hour delay getting in, so we stopped for lunch. Lunch with my children is always an adventure. SweetP has got to be the pickiest eater I know. He makes me look like an adventurous eater, and I am pretty picky. So we took the plunge and hoped that there would be something on the menu that he would eat. (We can't just let him go hungry if he doesn't like the food, he will throw up. So we have to make sure that he eats.) He recently discovered that nachos are good. Just chips and cheese, thank you. We got everybody fed, checked out the gift shop, bought a Christmas ornament and got in line.

We're gonna see the pandas, we're gonna see the pandas. I had been looking forward to this for weeks. After a reasonable wait, we were in. The zoo employee or volunteer was speaking into the microphone in a hushed voice. Telling us about the pandas. The first panda was asleep in the corner, hard to see. But Zhen-Zhen and her mom were much more visible. Her mom was eating bamboo, behind a log, and looked so cuddly you wanted to give her a squeeze. Zhen-Zhen was asleep in the tree. Proves that babies and small children can sleep anywhere. She is the one in the picture. Her mom-mom wandered off to the water and then to the back of the enclosure. I managed to not get a single good picture of her. I have fallen in love with Zhen-Zhen. At the end of the day sweetE decided his souvenir would be a small stuffed Zhen-Zhen. He has slept with her every night since.

After we left the pandas, we wandered off to find the gorillas. We found them surrounded by a crowd. This is when being small comes in handy, the boys and I wiggled our way to the front. And we were rewarded with a show. One of the gorillas got up on the wrong side of the mat this morning. He (had to be a boy, we girls don't act like this) was picking on the other gorillas, wrestling with them. Then we would hit the glass and run off and try to look impressive. I'm adding gorillas to my list of creatures to avoid in person. Fascinating but powerful.

By this time, the boys were running out of steam. SweetE really wanted to go home. SweetP was working up some serious whining. We slowly worked our way to the meerkats (mostly because there was a bathroom there) and on to the kangaroos. I was disappointed that they didn't have big kangaroos, just tree kangaroos. We saw a real camel, their humps are much pointier than I had imagined.

Last stop before the gift shop, the koalas. I was ready to grab one and take it home. They looked like they would just snuggle in and hang out. SweetP and I fell in love right there. It was hard to get a good picture of them because they hug the tree. But, my goodness, they are cute.

At the realization that the next stop was the gift shop, sweetE perked up. I asked each of them what their favorite animal was. I was going to get stuff for their favorites books while we were at the gift shop. SweetE said tigers (I was surprised, but okay) and sweetP said koalas. The zoo has two gift shops by the exit. One for kids and one for grownups. We perused the kid one first. The boys each picked an item and Ducky went off to pay. I took sweetE over to find items for their books. I found postcards and stickers with their animals on them. Yeah!

We headed home with Dashboard Doris giving directions. One wrong turn because she gave the order too late, but she recalculated and we were able to find our way back. SweetE was asleep before we made it out of the parking lot.

Back at the hotel, Ducky and sweetP went swimming and I read a book while sweetE napped. We walked to the beach before dinner and Ducky and sweetP waded in the surf. Warm water is an odd sensation when you are from up north. SweetE was reluctant to get near the water. But got brave and got close. Unfortunately, when he realized the wave was going to catch him, he turned to run. He tripped over his own feet and down he went. The wave got him and soaked him. SweetE does not like to be wet or dirty and now he was both.

New mission, find dry clothes so we can have dinner. We stopped at a t-shirt shop and I ran in and asked if they had little kid clothes. Lucky me, they did. We got him a new sweatshirt and pair of swim trunks. He was happy, we were happy and we were off to get dinner.

If you eat at Luigi's at the Beach, and you order a calzone, make sure someone else is going to help you eat it. It is the size of a regulation football. I only ate about 15% of it. We ended the night by wandering back to the hotel and getting boys ready for bed. We had another big day ahead of us. Seaworld.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fun in the Sun - Part Two - Legoland

"The day" dawned and sweetP was up with the sun. I believe he could have been ready to go in two minutes flat. This is my child that on a normal day takes intense coaxing and threatening to get out of bed and get going. Just like his mother. I was cursing the hotel bed that required Dramamine to quell the sea-sickness. But we got up, got dressed and headed to Legoland via IHOP. You can't properly do an amusement park without a good breakfast.

We were off and running with the help of our GPS that was referred to as Dashboard Doris (a la ExpatKat). She was a great help, but she was a bit of a last minute gal. She liked to give directions once you almost in the intersection. But as the official family navigator, I made sure we were in the correct lane and ready for our next turn.

Until we were practically at the gate, we seemed to be kind of in the boonies. And then there it was. The boys could barely contain themselves. Except sweetE who said, "I want to go home." Poor kid. Our tickets were supposed to be at Guest Services. Dropped off there by our travel agents contact in San Diego. So we waited in line and talked to an employee who could find no record of our tickets. But Legoland is a magical place and rather than take forever to work it out, got some info from us and gave us tickets. Yeah, Legoland!

Ducky realized as soon as we walked in the gate that he had forgotten a very important item, a hat. He is very pale and is not known for vast quantities of hair on his head. He is not bald, just thin, quite thin. When he gets sunburned he gets ill, so a hat is a must for him. We had sunscreened at the car, but he needs all the protection he can get.

First stop, gift shop. He picks out a hat that screams "tourist!" and promises it to sweetP after the day is over. The boys want to pick out toys to bring home as souvenirs. So we have to explain that you stop and buy those things right before you leave so we don't have to carry them around all day. Except that is very hard to understand when you are not quite four and still want to be at home. And if you can't be at home, you want a toy from the biggest Lego store you have ever seen.

With maps in hand, we head off to find fun. SweetE is still not sure he doesn't want to be at home, but he is warming up to this place. We walk past the safari and this dinosaur. We mosey to the water works and sweetE says he wants to ride the safari. We head back to the cute little jeeps that drive a loop that goes past all kinds of animals all made out of Legos. We get in line and wait for about 45 minutes. SweetP is grouchy because this is a baby ride and sweetE can't wait. He has finally found his vacation spirit. When it is finally our turn, the person working the ride tells us that this is one of the few rides that has a line this long. Thank goodness. I might get grouchy if all day is spent in line. It is nice, tame ride and sweetE is ready for more. He wants to go again. Yikes.

In true parenting fashion, we persuade him to move on so we can try something else. The day continues with one fun ride or adventure after another. Before we decided this vacation we researched how much sweetE would be able to do based on his age and height. He could do all but about 6 things. We decide the line for the sky ride is too long and we will try again later. And then we arrive at the Volvo driving school. Both boys get to drive real (pint size) cars. And get their drivers licenses. The wait is only about 5 minutes or less. Yippee!

SweetE goes two or three times before sweetP gets done. He has a grin from ear to ear. Both boys get their drivers licenses and we remind them that they are only good in Legoland. I am happy to report that they will be good drivers someday.

The boys rode their first roller coaster and we have the commemorative photo to prove it. We rode the Dragon, their signature ride. Ducky and I loved it, but we knew we loved roller coasters. SweetE loved it and came out bouncing. SweetP thought he was "going to die." The photo shows three happy people and one very grumpy one. SweetE is my roller coaster buddy.

SweetP found rides that he liked as well. The ones that you could squirt water were good, the little log ride was good and the Bionicle version of the tea cups was good. Poor Ducky agreed to do the spinning ride with him and turned a little green. SweetE was sad that he wasn't big enough to go, but secretly I was glad. It gave me an excuse to not ride it.

We explored Miniland and took the boat tour. We had a blast. SweetE and I rode the Dragon about four more times. The boys picked souvenirs on the way out. We never did ride the sky ride, the line was still too long. But the boys drove a few more times. We are still hearing about Legoland every day.

SweetE fell asleep on the way home. Dashboard Doris directed us back safely. We collapsed back in our hotel room. We played musical beds. I slept with sweetE so I could get some decent sleep. Without good sleep I would get a migraine for sure. I missed out on our two days at the lake last year because I had a migraine that kept me in bed the whole time, in a dark and dusty cabin.

Tomorrow, the San Diego Zoo.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fun in the Sun - Part One

It all started back in February. We decided the boys were old enough to go to Legoland. SweetE would be big enough to enjoy it and sweetP would be confident enough to enjoy it. So we asked our friend who happens to be a travel agent to make it all happen. I was in the midst of my challenging year and didn't have time to take care of the details. My job was to approve of it.

So it was all squared away well before gas prices went through the roof and travel prices with it. But, the weekend before we left I noticed a snag. We were scheduled to go to Legoland, San Diego Zoo and Sea World. And we had transfers to all these places so we didn't need to worry. What we hadn't noticed was the pick up times. So we called the shuttle company to try to change our pick up times. And we found an even bigger snag. Not only were they totally inflexible, they also had us scheduled to be picked up from each place at about 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Which is a bit of a problem when they aren't dropping you off until noon. I had no intention of paying $200 in entrance fees to hang out for 4 or 5 hours. Especially when I have waited 13 years for a vacation.

So we called our friend (on Sunday) and decided to cancel the shuttle service and rent a car instead. I hop online and voila, one car rental, with two car seats and a navigation system. We were packed and ready to go. The boys had new rolling carry on luggage. They had been practicing pulling it up and down the hall for two weeks. Velcro was in the capable hands of the boy across the street. With the more capable eyes of his parents on him to make sure he did a good job.

Monday morning dawned, our vacation was set to start. SweetP popped out of bed the moment I kissed him. He jumped up with an enthusiasm I have rarely seen. He was throwing on clothes like he needed to be out the door in mere minutes. If only I could get him to do that on school days. The next hour was filled with bouncing boys and last minute details. A miracle occurred, we were out the door and in the car on time.

It was smooth sailing the rest of the day. We breezed through security, we had checked in online the night before. We only had carry on bags. We settled in at the gate and watched the planes. The boys made last minute bathroom breaks. I should have made a last minute bathroom break. And we boarded the plane. Both boys had a window seat. SweetE could have used a booster to fit in the seat better and see out the window better, but live and learn.

As we started to pull away from the gate, sweetE (next to me) started to cry. "I want to go home." He has rarely left home, usually only to go visit grandparents. I envisioned an inconsolable boy crying next to me about wanting to go home. But with a few gentle reminders of the adventures ahead he calmed down before we even made it to the runway. Before we knew it we were in the air and we settled in for our flight. The boys played their Nintendo DS's once electronic devices could be used.

We landed and set off to find the rental car. We got the car, got the car seats, got the seats installed, learned how to use the navigation system and headed off to find the hotel. The rest of the day was spent relaxing around the hotel, doing a little exploring, and getting to bed early. The next day was Legoland.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The History of My Travels

I started a post on my San Diego trip yesterday and it just never happened. I realized that a peek into my traveling past will illuminate my thoughts on vacations.

Growing up my family did not travel. There was one trip to the beach. We would go to visit grandparents and aunts and uncles in neighboring states. Our main type of travel was to every horse camp within a 50 mile radius of where we lived. Many of them multiple times. I did not get on an airplane until I was 21. I have not left the country except three times, all three just squeaking into Canada for part of a day.

To this day, I do not like horses and I only tolerate camping. So I was always in awe of people that traveled. I vowed to travel when I grew up.

Before we left for this recent trip, Ducky and I were debating when our last vacation trip was. I define travel in three categories, vacation, visiting and camping.

Visiting is when you travel somewhere to visit someone. You are seeing relatives or friends. You generally stay at their house. You feel indebted to them and therefore tread carefully while there. You operate on their schedule and feel like you have a chaperone. I realize that not all house guests feel this way. Sometimes people treat your house as their own hotel and that works for some hosts. But I am not one of those people in either category. So while visiting is fun and rewarding in its own way, it doesn't have the same feel as a vacation. Visiting has allowed me to see Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Michigan and LA. All of those visits had great memories. But they also had significant constraints.

A vacation is where you travel somewhere far enough away that you don't still feel like you are in your backyard. There are no visits planned other than maybe meeting someone for a meal. You are free to chose the activities and places that you want to experience. You don't always feel like you need to be on your best behavior. You can take a nap in the middle of the afternoon and not worry about anyone else's schedule. I have now had three vacations in my life. The first, my honeymoon in 1993. We went up to the Puget Sound area and Victoria, B.C. It was the ultimate vacation on a budget. We had no money and didn't realize that wasn't going to change for a very long time. Our second was in college two years later, 1995, to San Francisco. We mistakenly assumed that once we got out of college we would have enough money to do some real traveling. But that we should take advantage of the fact that now we had time. So we charged ourselves a vacation. It was fun, we decided each day what we wanted to do and then off we went.

Thirteen years later, we finally go on vacation again. All that money we thought we would have after graduation? Spent on grad school and student loans. We have two mortgages, one for our home and one for our educations. So here I am all these years later still in awe of people that get to travel, watching my friends take yearly vacations. But we are working on finding ways to travel more, remodel the house, pay off student loans and save for retirement.

The last category is camping. It is too much work and I don't like to be dirty. So we have camping equipment, but we haven't really used it since sweetP was one. We took him camping. He loved it, but it took us two months to get him sleeping through the night again.

Tomorrow I will begin to share the grand adventure that was San Diego.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Home, Sweet Home

We just got back from a week in San Diego. Many adventures to share, after a good nights sleep in my own bed.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My Little Homebody

I have come to the conclusion that sweetE is a hard core homebody. I believe he has inherited his hermit tendencies from me. Ducky cannot understand how I can hole up in the house all day. Or go days without going outside. But I do. And I appear to be passing that on.

We will be out running errands or playing in the park and before long I hear "Mommy, can we go home now." Wait five minutes and then it repeats. When asked if he wants to go to x, y or z, he replies, "I want to stay home." And I don't blame him because half the time I agree.

I blame part of my hermit tendencies to growing up on a farm. If you ventured outside, you got put to work. It was dirty and often you had to deal with animal poop. So I stayed inside as much as I could. Usually with my nose stuck in a book. Imagining my life far, far away with better scenery and different people. I think I just got used to it.

Ducky said that as a kid his mom would just send him out to play. His first question when he gets home, "Have you been outside yet?" Most of the time we can answer yes. We just might not have been out there very long.

In another year or two I imagine we will be out there more. There will be some real shade in the backyard and that will make it much more appealing.

In the meantime, "Can we go home now?"

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Going Green

Ducky and I both like the idea of being green. We have been making small steps in that direction for a while.

Today we did our first solar project. We have solar garden lights, but I don't count those too much. We had a solar powered attic fan installed. In about 15 minutes. It was the fastest project start to finish that we have ever accomplished. Our contribution, schedule the appointment and write the check.

We live without whole house air conditioning. We don't need it that often. We generally keep a window unit in the family room downstairs and a portable unit upstairs. Between those two and about six fans, the house stays pretty comfortable. The addition of the attic fan should help keep the attic and the upstairs cooler.

Eventually we want to add solar panels to the roof. In the meantime we are looking at more ways to make the inside of our house green too. We love the cork floors we installed last year. We are also looking into rain barrels. But they can't be ugly.

I'll keep you posted on how well the attic fan works.