Friday, July 31, 2009

private island

If you were naming a previously uncharted island where you may or may not have happened to have hidden your secret pirate treasure, would you name it Loot Island or There is Nothing Here So You Can Leave Now Island? Just wondering.

Pook's favorite uncharted (and also undiscovered) island is the island to eventually be named Jikiniwini. Once, on a trip to Nashville, the family planned the island's culture. For example, the Official Food of Jikiniwini is... beanie weenies. Official Holiday? Halloweenie. Roll with it. Hours of fun, I promise.

The theme of camp for both boys this week was "Traveling to Exotic Lands". Today was the final day. There was a "Gallery Opening" for Pook who has been busy making treasure maps, endangered clay frogs, maracas, and his own passport. (No waiting! Make your own!) The frog is already awaiting a treatment of glue, being endangered as it is. Bug wasn't sure, day to day, what he'd done at camp. "Just playing." But today was the performance they'd actually worked towards. He, as Worker #2 was transported from his boring job "moving papers" in a time machine. He and the other Workers visited Hawaii, Jamaica, and Bermuda. He remembered all his lines, spoke loudly and clearly, and looked like he was having a good time. I can tell he regrets that he didn't get to wear fancy costumes and isn't coming home the last day with his own portfolio of art. He says he wants to try his brother's camp next year.

My week without the kids is over, and any dreams I had about lounging around in a bikini on Jikiniwini must come to an end.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

customer service?

Customer Service at AT&T just hung up on me -- on purpose-- after I had spent 45 minutes trying to change my phone service. I am not happy.

And now I've been blocked for 24 hours from using their online services because I tried too many times to get "authenticated" for a phone line that isn't in my name.

I will be sending out smoke signals to anyone who wishes to be in communication with me.

Monday, July 27, 2009

bits and pieces

My boys happily ate grits for breakfast and then pimento cheese spread later in the day. And yet they're kind of lukewarm about corn on the cob. As a good Midwestern girl, the idea of a kid not caring much for corn on the cob is crazy. What's the fate of my boys? I'm believe I'm raising Southerners.

CD's office moved, right before our trip. Instead of a 25 minute driving commute, he is now biking the three miles in about 20 minutes. I'm excited for the possibilities- he can meet me or come home for lunch, visit the kids at school and eat elementary cafeteria food with them (whoo hoo!) and generally be accessible during the day if needed. Mind you, this type of office move is completely unheard of in Atlanta. No one lives near work. They might have intended to live near work, but after finding the perfect house in walking distance, either the job or the office changes and they spend the rest of their life driving across town.

We went to hear a live bluegrass concert last night. I love that the boys enjoy bluegrass as well as so many other types of music. If it's live, they're usually happy. We took Pook to a midnight Christmas Eve service with CD's parents when he was a baby. We'd hoped he'd sleep through it, but instead, if there was music, he was alert and interested. If there was sermonizing, he babbled or got cranky. Both boys have great attention spans for music and it was nice to hear the compliments from others in the room as we left.

The end of summer is nearing. I can't deny it. I've got school supplies on a shopping list for this week. I'm pleased to say that for the first time, I think, I'm not ready. I'm enjoying summer with the kids and the idea of adding in all those stressors: waking early, Bug starting full day kindergarten, Pook starting fall baseball, doing homework, helping with the PTA... all those replace sleeping in, hanging out and swimming. Not such a good trade, I'd say. The crabbiness has been minimal and we've been having a good balance of travel, camp and play. In fact, the boys started art camp this morning (visual arts for Pook, performing arts for Bug) and I'm realizing that we have only one week left and so, so much that we wanted to do. Should I take them to The Puppetry Arts Center? To see the Atlanta Shakespeare Festival's performance of Alice in Wonderland? To Fernbank Science Museum? Back to Stone Mountain where they still want to try pedal boats? There will be time for only one more field trip next week.

Pook is eating like a mad man. I've got to buy him new shoes next week but they'll be outgrown by Thanksgiving. On the other hand, they may well be worn out by then too.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

maybe they have to like you

After we went to bed last Friday night, at the home of S&S, I told CD how nice it was to be with friends who know all your dirt and still like you. His answer, with a chuckle, was that perhaps they realize that I know all their dirt too.

From Niagara, we'd driven to Avon Lake, OH to visit my college roommate and her now-husband, also a college friend. It took me a while to wrap my head around the situation. The last time I'd seen them was at my wedding, and that had been ten years ago, without children. Now two kids were referring to my buddies as Mom and Dad. Shouldn't have been so strange for me, but it was. I suppose my mom-hood strikes others that way too.

Boxes of old photos got pulled from storage after dinner and we browsed through wonderful pictures of us with big hair, mini skirts with leggings (remember Flashdance? yikes!) and twenty extra pounds (that was me, she's never had even one). Brought back lots of memories, as did the names she remembered and the people they still have contact with. I looked at a few people through her Facebook account and fulfilled my curiosity as much as needed. We must have spent an hour trying to decide when they'd been in Atlanta and which of my homes they'd visited. The suspicion is that when S sees photos of places, she puts them in her memory under "visited". In any case, they're due for a visit here next.

Her 12yo son had to help wash dogs the next morning with his youth group, and we had a good time hanging out, eating hot dogs and watching dogs and kids play. After it we went to see their beach, just a few miles from them on Lake Erie. Again, (need I say it?) too cold. We visited a nature center and waded, threw rocks and sticks and splashed around for the rest of the afternoon. Dinner on the grill, corn on the cob, and watermelon followed by s'mores in a fire pit rounded off a perfect day.

We spent one more night in West Virginia on our way home. The New River Gorge is just too lovely to pass up and we hadn't visited on our way north. Then we sped home without breaks on Monday. The end to a wonderful week.

time warp

I'll take a break from telling about our trip to bragging about my kids. That's what the blog's for, right?

Both children have finished their summer reading contests for Barnes and Noble bookstore. I knew Pook could easily read eight books this summer; that usually takes only eight days. Since the books looked good, I figured we'd read aloud to Bug so he could participate too. Only, he began to read by himself. He doesn't like to be taught (learning things being significantly different from his desire to know things) and usually rebels when requested to do something hard (different from liking to show off that he can do hard things), so I still thought the reading would come slowly after kindergarten began. Let the teacher deal with his moods while teaching; I'll have enough trouble with him and homework. But here we are, eight books later.

The five year old's list:
  1. "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats (read to him before he started on his own)
  2. "Bears on Wheels" by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  3. "Bobby's Zoo" by Carolynn Lunn
  4. "Addition Annie" by David Gisler
  5. "Please, Wind?" by Carol Greene
  6. "Go, Dog. Go!" by P.D. Eastman
  7. "Hop on Pop" by Dr. Seuss
The eight year old's list:
  1. "Pompeii: Buried Alive" by Edith Kunhardt Davis
  2. "Sherlock Holmes & the Baker Street Irregulars" by Tracy Mack
  3. "Ben Franklin in Old Philadelphia" by Margaret Cousins
  4. "More Adventures of the Great Brain" by John D. Fitzgerald
  5. "Tut Tut" by Jon Scieszka
  6. "Cool Zone with the Great One" by Judy Bloom
  7. "The Great Brain Reforms" by John D. Fitzgerald
  8. "Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Sleeping Dog" by Donald J. Sobol
Once at the bookstore, they proudly presented their lists and each chose a brand new, free book to take home. Pook chose "Chocolate Fever" by Robert Kimmel Smith and Bug carried home "Biscuit Takes a Walk" by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and Pat Schories.

As a parent, and an avid reader (who wishes she could read more, but finds that life gets in the way) it is really wonderful to realize that your children love to read just as much as you. We've read to both of them since they came home from the hospital. (Favorite book for baby showers:
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Iza Trapani) And yet we weren't sure Bug would be a reader. Pook listened to anything we read to him. Anything. "Reader's Digest Guide to Home Repair": check. "How Things Work": check. As long as we used intonation intended for an infant, he'd listen as long as we read. No issue with attention span there; he could listen to me read longer than I could read. And, as our first child, we figured that anyone who read to their child like us could have a child like our's.

And then we had Bug. I figure we had Bug to teach us that we knew nothing. Truly, when it comes to that child, I still know next to nothing. We read aloud to him as an infant, and he screamed. Since he screamed even if we put him down, sometimes we read anyway, just for something to do. He seemed to ignore it for the first six or eight months, but we read on. He'd squirm to be put down and sometimes we read on. Then, we noticed that if we read a book the second time, he'd stop what he was doing and watch us. If we picked it up another day still, he'd crawl over to check it out. By the fourth reading, he'd want to be in our lap.

Now I'm excited to meet his kindergarten teacher. I hope that s/he appreciates his love for books and interest in knowing new things the way we do. I hope he can avoid bragging to other children who aren't yet reading. I hope he rips through the library and reads all my favorite books from childhood and lets me read many more of them aloud to him.

Love is... sharing a good book.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

out of the country, into the water

We had made reservations at a Bed and Breakfast in Niagara-ON-the-Lake (yes, they capitalize the ON) so we could get some space. Sharing a hotel room with kids is a pain. The B&B had a separate room with two twin beds and the boys enjoyed the space of sleeping alone without a brother to kick them awake in the middle of the night. Our inn keeper, Sandy, made fabulous and huge breakfasts - blueberry pancakes or eggs to order or homemade cinnamon buns AND bacon or Canadian bacon AND fresh fruit. We ate well.

Her home was six houses from a park at Lake Ontario, offering a view of Toronto and sunsets as well as a swimming spot. Again, I thought the water was too cold. Apparently I'm a wuss. I'd have gone out in her dingy but it was too windy the day we tried.

A road followed the escarpment from her home to Niagara Falls. I'd done my research for things we wanted to do, but had failed to recognize that all of them were on the US side of the falls. Canada also had a pass to a set of activities but I had my heart set on the American grouping. We'd paid our $20 to park, so decided to set off to the States on foot, across Rainbow Bridge. It was a long hike for Bug especially, but we finally picked up a trolley and arrived at the Maid of the Mist tour.

If you only pay to do one thing at Niagara, this is what I'd suggest. I'd suggest two, really, but that comes later. We donned our blue plastic trash bags and pulled the hoods tight, then marveled at the falls seen from below. The spray and splash is significant; our passports (so painstakingly earned) and the kids' birth certificates got a bit damp, but we loved every touristy minute of it.

We also enjoyed the IMAX movie which demonstrated that even if nine of sixteen people who have gone over the falls have lived, you should not test your luck. The aquarium there was a bust- small and unexciting, but since it was included in our pass, we visited briefly before walking back across the bridge to Canada and eating dinner.

The falls are lit up at 9:30 and there were to be fireworks at 10:00 but signs indicated that the walking had worn Bug out and we were already pushing his limits. He did revive to tell me about the men's room at our restaurant:

We finished our activities Thursday morning, seeing a worthless Science Discovery Center which had the potential to have been good, and taking the Cave of the Winds tour. Fabulous (on a warm day which it was) and well worth doing. We took a 17.5 story elevator down into the gorge by Bridal Veil Falls, then walked on a boardwalk up and INTO the water.

This time we were clad in yellow trash bags, but Bug still managed to be drenched at the end. It felt like an extremely powerful shower massage. I'd have kept my distance from the heaviest downpours if a woman older than my mom hadn't encouraged me- even taunted me- into going in.

The later part of the day I had reserved for a tour of one of the many wineries in the area. They were everywhere up there (along with fresh cherries!) and I really wanted visit. We missed out on a chance to tour however, (maybe for the best with tired kids) but enjoyed a tasting anyway. The boys drank the free grape juice and then managed to entertain themselves sitting on the floor playing Rock/Paper/Scissors. Gotta love 'em for that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

follow up

I never gave the answer to Bug's 20 Questions item: a flag. He had given good answers, but really left us guessing.

We're home from our vacation. And tired. I'll post more about our trip over the next few days and maybe get some photos up.

We drove from Atlanta to Summersville, WV, then made it to Pittsburgh to Sister MD and SOL's home by lunch Saturday. There was discussion of museums but the kids made our minds up by getting involved with the important task of Catching Up. They had a game going that my nephew had invented for shared use of Lego pieces. Each child took a turn setting up lego pieces and then attacking and defending the other children's "castles". They spent a lot of time in the basement playing, then more time with sword fighting outdoors (swords were pool noodle material). The weather was fabulous and we ate dinner outside in their huge backyard. The four dogs were fed bits of BBQ as rewards for remaining (or getting) quiet and not barking at the neighbors. We ate the rest!

Sunday brought on sunny perfect weather and we decided to make the trek to Ohiopyle. I volunteered to drive their youngest in our car and laughed when our chatterbox called her one too. At least she helped make the drive shorter. We rented bikes for our family and unloaded their bikes, then had some lunch. Ohiopyle had a wonderful, flat bike route right along the Youghiogheny River. Everyone but me swam in the river at our break. (Why I biked in my swim suit I don't know.) The water was so cold they each counted to three and plunged in fast so the momentum would overtake common sense. We finished the ride with a trip across a long bridge over kayaks and rafts, then with ice cream for all.

Monday had concerned us, since SOL had thought museums to all be closed on Mondays, but we lucked out and were able to go to the Carnegie Science Center. We drove down with my nephew in our car, and he joined us going on an incline up the side of one of the hills and for a picnic lunch with a view of downtown Pittsburgh and the three rivers. I must give the city credit for having remade itself into a lovely place. I liked the robot game my older neice and I played together, and an exhibit on waves that included everything from earthquakes to sound. We drove back to their home with their oldest and I had a chance to enjoy both the child and adult sides of her fifteen years. Fun age (to visit, not to live with I suspect.)

The kids, ages five to fifteen, played like cousins should. Age didn't seem to matter and they all seemed to enjoy each other. I think we could have stayed at their home without field trips and the kids would have had a great time anyway. I know they'd have had fun with more time. But, Tuesday morning we left to drive up to Canada, to visit Niagara Falls and stay at Niagara on the Lake.

more tomorrow

Friday, July 10, 2009

20 questions, 485 miles

We're on the road. In Summersville, WV to be precise. Nice hotel. Small, cold pool which seemed to work fine for the boys until they turned blue. A room with plenty of space but no way to get away from the boys while they were falling asleep except in the hall (where I am).

Today may have been our worst-- meaning longest-- drive of the trip. We didn't have anyone to meet at the end, no exciting destination to look forward to seeing. Just many hours of driving. We're a very low tech family for some reason- the boys have lived fine with little tv or computer games. We don't own and I'm not sure they've ever even used any of the small electronic games every other child owns. I've borrowed small dvd players two or three times for long drives, but hadn't even thought about it for our Indy drive. The road trip in June went so smoothly that I had high hopes for this one.

We played license plate tic-tac-toe and all won, eventually. We've seen GA, SC, NC, VA, WV, PA, NY, OH, and ON Canada, plus Pook's extra list which includes FL, TN, AL, MI, MD, and KY. We made a scavenger hunt list and gradually crossed off the yellow sports car, big bridge, road construction, brown cows, red barn, police car (seen from a distance, thank you) jet ski, pedestrian on a busy road, and much more. We have not yet seen a truck with a purple cab. You never know though; they're out there somewhere.

We guessed well beyond twenty questions for Bug. He can be "a bit inconsistent" with that game and is prone to changing his mind after we've asked 19 questions. This one stumped us, so we assumed he was either wrong about his answers or getting flaky on us again. He had an item that was "sort of" both vegetable and mineral, that was "sometimes" bigger than the car "but ours isn't" and was "sort of partly" flat and rectangular. He wasn't sure if it was useful, but claimed it wasn't a toy. We finally gave up. Do you?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

may I serve you?

Pook made lunch for me. And not just anything for his first real venture as a chef. He decided he wanted a grilled cheese sandwich. I was busy with laundry, trying to prepare for our drive to Pittsburgh (Sister MD) and to Niagara Falls. I had dropped Bug off at a playdate (great timing!) and wanted to get as much done while he was out of the house as possible. I was into the idea of finishing up odds and ends in the fridge, and cheese was one of those items, but not into the idea of making it. I suggested he do it himself.
"I don't know how!"
"Sure you do, you just don't know you know how."
I continued to fold laundry as I gave him slow, step by step instructions. Get the cheese. Get the butter, the bread, the pan....

He sliced cheese alone, laughing at himself for the sloppiness of it, but assured that it would all melt in the end. He assembled two sandwiches in a preheated pan and kept an eye on them as they cooked. I joined him only to flip them over (he probably should have done that too). Then he plated them and brought them both to the table. Visibly proud. They were properly golden brown and oozed with melted cheddar. I'm sure I was cooking some by his age, so I will encourage this again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I believe that is the sound of Facebook sucking up my time.

I resisted for so long. And today I gave up. Our friends L&P are on a five week adventure driving around the US with their kids and CD knew where they were today. Today. "Well, they're posting on Facebook". No matter how much protesting that "that isn't fair!" it didn't change the fact. I am missing out.

For the past year(s?), the more I heard about Facebook the harder I ran in the opposite direction. Trendy? Hide. "But Everyone is doing it"-- run. But run no longer. I am deep into time suckage.

I spent hours today trying to find a head shot of myself. I seem to either be behind the camera or I have bad hair. In the summer I always have bad hair and on vacations I always have bad hair and before I shower when Santa and the Easter Bunny have just visited, I have bad hair. I passed on all those photos and found one with Bug that was acceptable. I cropped just my face and tried to add it to my profile. It was not to be. I messed with it on and off all day. I'm still trying to figure out why it won't upload correctly.

All of this while, for the first time ever, I'm having to decide whether to limit screen time for my kids. Having gone without tv without any problems, they have recently discovered some online games and also been introduced to

Sunday, July 5, 2009

festivities, confections and pyrotechnics

Once your children learn to spell you might as well just invest in a good thesaurus. CD knows a bit of Spanish but I know less than my kids. I can speak French but CD can't follow it well enough. So, we resort to elaborate language and hope the kids will never master the language well enough to understand.

We slept in yesterday (8am!) and had to hurry to get out the door in time to see the local Fourth of July parade. It hadn't helped that Bug's flag t-shirt was awol. We positioned ourselves in a new location, closer to the start of the parade route, in a nice shady spot. Then we collected candy. And more candy. And had parade participants throwing candy at the kids when they weren't even looking. And tossing it onto our blanket as if it were hot potatoes and they just wanted to be rid of it. I think I preferred the spot we sat at other years that was nearer to the end of the parade; most people were out of candy by the time they came past us. There was one float that threw toothpaste our way (sponsored by a dentist perhaps!?), but it reminded me of the home that gave out toothbrushes for Halloween when I was young. It made me feel like a mom and make me want to roll my eyes at myself.

We chilled out at home (usually we have to come home to chill out, literally, because of the heat, but the weather was wonderful yesterday) and prepared some great baked beans with no less than eight types of beans. Later in the day the kids and CD biked (and I drove with all our stuff) down the street for a party. There were about fifteen boys and four girls, all under the age of ~ten. One dad got into filling up water balloons and I think the kids forgot to eat. I watched a two year old holding his water balloon as if it were a bomb, carefully approaching a babysitter-looking teen. His glee when it burst at her feet was a wonderful sight.

Sometime before dark we lit and enjoyed no less than thirty-six packs of sparklers (six in a pack?) I had bought sparklers and small fireworks at a roadside stand, and others had brought a few too. I love watching them and can't resist buying them when I get the chance. I'm sure CD puts them in the "waste of money" category. I'm a wimp however, and won't light fireworks myself. We'd chosen some winners this year. I'd invested in the first four items marked "buy one get one" as items grew progressively more pricey, but I liked what I got. I'm partial to the colorful but quiet fountains. The kids liked the snappers.

We left the party before it was over, hoping to see the real fireworks at a nearby park. Due to a skinned knee on an already very tired five year old, we claimed a spot slightly after the first booms were heard (and a very fast dog was observed exiting-- I assume it was a dog, but I've truly never seen one run quite that fast!) I obtained a bandage from the fire fighters and the four of us snuggled together to watch. The area puts on an amazing show. They're shot from the other end of a kid-sized soccer field and the proximity makes them seem huge and particularly loud. Bug had asked for ear plugs in anticipation. For at least twenty minutes we enjoyed non-stop fireworks right above our heads and patriotic music just behind us.

Today was restful. It rained (I told the kids last night that it always rained after fireworks shook up the clouds, and at that time there was no rain in the forecast.) We watched Errol Flynn in Robin Hood, a movie we'd wanted to show the boys for a long time. Bug then spent the rest of the afternoon dressing up and playing either sword fight or bow and arrows with rubberbands.

Friday, July 3, 2009

three minutes

The boys both participated in a county wide swim meet yesterday. Bug had not been registered for competition for some reason, and when another child was being registered on site, I asked if he could be added too. $24 for a swim suit later, he was ready for action.

Bug swam 25 meter freestyle, Pook 25 meter freestyle and 25 meter backstroke. There were up to twelve heats of each event, up to ten children in each heat, ranked to swim with others their ability. All in all, we were at the location for five hours- either camping out on a blanket in the gym with two hundred others, or watching from the stands. They had a bit of time to swim and get used to the huge environment at the beginning, but of the five hours, less than three minutes were in the water competing!

They managed the stress really well; there were many very serious swim teams participating and our league is a Just For Fun league. They played around with the other children from our team and enjoyed the festive atmosphere in the building. I might have been the most anxious of the three of us!

It was a great experience for them and they had fun doing it. Maybe we'll see some of those children in the Olympics someday.