Last year, the Monkey and I headed off to Girl Scout camp all on our lonesome. We had a truly fantastic time. It was so cool and so relaxing for it to be just the two of us. I truly think a million dollar idea is to offer family camp that is all the possible family permutations: Father/Daughter Camp, Mother/Son Camp, Father/Son Camp…you get the idea. This year, we found some willing companions in Zoe’s best pals: Alex and Shoshanna. Alex’s Mom, one of my favorite Gal Pals, April, also came along. We picked up our fellow travelers on Wednesday afternoon, and headed for Hughesville, MD, where Camp Winona is found. Other friends, Mary and daughters, Evelyn and Katie, were also there, and we quickly made friends with the other girls in our unit. (We were grouped by the section of camp we stayed in. Last year Zoe and I were part of “Holly.” This year, our fivesome was part of “Deer Crossing.”) For the next three nights and four days, we played together, ate together, and slept together. Except for a few hours on Friday morning when Zoe was under the weather and needed to rest in the glen shelter, we were all pretty much together, and it was splendid. The girls play beautifully together, and they are all three really wonderful people. I’m so grateful Zoe has such wonderful friends. This is taken outside the glen shelter the 5 of us shared. It was in the 90’s all 4 days we were at camp. At night the glen shelter might get down to the 80’s, which felt cool. The girls generally slept well, except for Zoe and Alex having dreams where they yelled out to each other, but April and I were pretty restless. AC wimps, I believe we are. I’m dying to get these pictures posted since camp was in June, so here are the pictures, in no particular order.
San Francisco: The Ending August 15, 2010
Our last full day spent playing around in San Francisco was extra fantastic because Buds was through with the Google Conference and hence, could spend much of the day playing with us.
We headed down to the diner so we could show him the place we had eaten and enjoyed for several meals. We made the soon-to-be-rued decision to let the children have ice cream for breakfast. We’ve certainly done that before, but it was ice cream at home, where we knew for sure what ingredients were in it. More on this later.
After breakfast, we headed for the California Academy of Sciences, where we had tried to go on our first day of exploring. It took us a long time to get there, taking buses all over town, and by the time we got close, we realized we’d be wise to get some food in bellies, so we popped into a random deli we passed on the street. The people were very nice and willing to sell us hard-boiled eggs and plain sliced meat. I’ve gotten very comfortable asking for what I need for the children, often things I would not have asked for just for myself.
At the deli, the children were absolutely crazy by our standards. For someone with tough/extremely active children, they would have seemed mild, but for us, it was insanity. A little girl at the table next to us said something to her mom, who started laughing, looked at me and said, “She just said, ‘She can sure talk a lot.'” They were referring to Monkey. Her tongue seemed hung in the middle so it could move more quickly. Yessa and the Buster could not sit still, they were bouncing, jumping, climbing, talking…It was crazy! Either something in the ice cream set them all off, or the excitement of having Buds with us was too much for them.
I was so grateful to have Buddie along for this day, and he got them all involved in racing games while we waited for the bus.
The Academy was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Zachary fell asleep in the stroller, but the rest of us took a stroll through the Costa Rican Rain Forest, which was a great walk down memory lane.
Then down to view the aquarium housed at the Academy, where the Buster finally woke up to join the fun.
The young ones were intrigued by the huge globe, and tickled to figure out where we lived:
Though it’s very blurry this picture was important to me to include because it was the one part of the museum we didn’t care for. It’s a replica of a boa constrictor, and you stick your arm in the hole, and get to feel the pressure of a boa squeezing the life out of you. Yessa stuck her arm in here before I realized what was happening, and there is no “Emergency Stop” button, so I had to stand helplessly by and try to comfort her as she moved quickly into panic mode. It was really distressing to her, and me. Being squeezed to death by a boa would be extremely unpleasant…to put it mildly.
The Gem Family form of bonding. (Buds was given two android phones with his conference registration. I won’t ever have to worry about a human mistress, but a technological opponent I can easily foresee. 😉 )
Waiting for the Cable Car.
Having Dad along was a sheer joy for all of us.
Last looks out the Trolley window.
And, finally, Yessa, Dora, and I trailing along behind the rest of the family as we make our way through the airport. Thanks to Virgin Airlines, a fantastic trip.
San Francisco, we love ya’, and we’ll be back.
We were up and around bright and early on Thursday. Buds headed out to Google, and we headed down to board the trolley. This was our day for taking a boat ride in the Bay, and then touring the Aquarium Of The Bay.
This was us as we awaited our turn to board the boat that would take us out under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alkatraz. The boat ride was quite hot, and we were seated in the back. Noa fell asleep, and Zachary wanted to, but overall we thought it was interesting. We heard fascinating stories about Alkatraz and the building of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Looking over The Buster’s head as we chug toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
The spooky music playing over the boat’s speaker system certainly had an impact, but Alcatraz was spooky to just look at. It would be easy to understand, as the narrator put it, to see how a man could go crazy with all the world had to offer in plain sight every day, and to not be able to reach it.
After our ride around the Bay, we snacked on ice cream, and watched people wobble off on their rental bikes to see the city.
We stopped for a few pictures with some sea lions, then on to the Aquarium By The Bay:
As we did on our last trip to San Francisco, we loved the Aquarium.
This day ended with a ride home on a Cable Car, as most of our day’s in San Francisco did. The children were thrilled because they got to ride facing out on the car, like adults. I stood on the running board, with my arm across them, and the other adults seated around us were on constant vigilance, too, ready to help if needed. It was really great.
I also love this picture because it shows The Buster with his Bakugan Book. It went everywhere with us. As I emailed Ms. Jenny, who gave him the book for the trip, “Bakugan Boy has explained Bakugans to random people on the plane, the British people in the booth behind us at the diner at dinner last night, and the three street musicians who were performing as we waited to get on the Cable Car. Like with most things when you are talking with someone as they share their passion, all the people were very interested in the Bakugans.”
Jenny’s response, “Zachary, emissary of hope to the masses. Bringing Bakugan to the people. I love it!”
One Thing I Did Right… March 30, 2010
Parenting is full of pot holes. If there is anything that shows hindsight is 20/20, it is being a parent. So, if there is anything that I know I have done right, at least for our family, and that I have done right enough that Buds has commented and complimented me on it many times over the years, it is our children and sharing.
I am eternally grateful that I read Siblings Without Rivalry soon after the Buster was born. There are tremendous treasures throughout the book, and the one that has come back to us time and again is children fighting over a toy or some object that both of them want. Our standard has been to not make the children share. If you’d like to share, that’s great. If you aren’t ready to share that’s great, too. If you used your allowance to buy this cool toy, and a brother or a sister wants to see it, you are welcome to say, “I’m not ready to share yet.”
It carries over to food for us, too. If you leave food on your plate, the adults have to ask permission to eat that leftover item. And if the child says, “No, I don’t want to share it,” the adult has to accept that. Food will be thrown away rather than a child’s wishes be ignored. (And don’t tell me about the children starving in Africa who could eat that food. I’ll rip right through that argument with a few well-chosen words–starting with–“What factory farm do you get your meat from?!”)
Anyway, what we see in our home is children who are very willing to share–unless they aren’t. And it is fascinating, with our young neighbor who HATES to share, the children don’t like to share with him. Natural consequences follow very quickly from this approach.
I really hope this isn’t the only tally I’ll get to make in the “win” category.
A Magical Weekend March 23, 2010
We truly had a weekend in a million, and I want to remember it 10 years from now, so here it is.
The weather, of course, was a huge factor. It was in the upper 60’s and 70’s and sunny all weekend. It was like living in L.A.
Friday night we had a fantastic Indian dinner at the home of our wonderful Pastor‘s house. She and her husband, and the Board President and his wife, hosted Christine and I and our families as a thank you for our work on the auction. (This auction just keeps on giving and giving. And soon I’ll be starting it all over again.) Mary Katherine had even hired a babysitter to be with our children so they would have someone to totally focus on them while Chris and I sat around and visited with the adults. It took Noa about an hour to get comfortable with Lisa, but after that Buds and I sat around the table with the other adults and laughed and told stories. The children would pop upstairs every once in awhile to get a drink or ask for help with something. It was just wonderful.
One of the things Buds and I love about our church is how amazing the other members are, and how we have found all of them to be both interesting and kind people. This night was another data point for that view.
One of many funny things that happened was Mary Katherine and John’s yellow lab, Stella, doing a Jaws attack on the piece of pizza that was sitting on the table between Buds and me. Noa had left it there when she returned downstairs, and Stella just leapt up on the table and owned that slice. Buds tried to get it back from her, but despite Stella supposedly being old, and having a bad hip, she easily evaded him. We were all crying with laughter.
Then, Saturday morning, I had a really tough Saturday workout with TNT, then we all headed over to Z and A’s to play. We hadn’t seen the Cousins for several weeks, and I especially was pining for them. Again, the weather was so lovely, and the five children play together so great. Well, actually the two boys tend to just disappear to play their battle, lego, Star Wars, imagination games together, and the girls just do whatever strikes their fancy on that visit.
At one point, we were out in the cul-de-sac, watching our children, and the neighborhood kids play. The guys were throwing a football around. I was pushing Noa in a stroller car with a cup of delicious coffee in my hand, and I realized, I was living my parenting dream! When I thought of parenting before children–this day was exactly what I envisioned! It was magical.
After we left there, the children were ssssttttaaaarrrrvvviiinnnngggg, so we went to Potbellies in Reston Town Center. The children suggested we eat by the fountain, which we did, and it was great. Then a less-than-fairy-tale-like, but still pleasant, stop at Home Depot, then home.
The afternoon brought Zoe’s first ever piano recital. She wasn’t nervous, and played her duet with Ms. Marsha perfectly. ( I hope to get a youtube video of the recital up at some point.) She sang the words while she played the song, and it was so precious. And, of course, as she walked up to the front of the room, there was that standard little whisper of “Oh, look at that hair,” “She’s so cute.” It was like a light breeze of sound blowing through the room.
After she performed, she came back to snuggle on my lap and said, “I think I was the only one who sang while I played,” which was totally accurate.
But wait! There’s more!
From the recital, we drove to Laura and Michael’s house for a CARD PARTY! Buds and I absolutely adore playing cards, and we haven’t played for so long. The children disappeared to play whatever games or dress ups they chose, and after lots of visiting, we adults settled in at whatever table best suited our personality and played Hearts. Again, much laughter with comfortable friends, great food, and a cozy home. It was the ideal wrap-up to the day.
One of the great things about our friends are their children. The big girls not only let Noa play cards with them, they worked to teach her how to play!
And Zoe loves Mia’s dress up clothes:
Then, finally, Sunday. I helped in Noa’s classroom, and the children were thrilled to finally get to use the playground again after our very snowy winter.
After church, we had lots of playtime with friends, and the wonderful, laughter-filled dinner discussed in another post.
Everything considered, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect weekend.
The Dentist March 3, 2010
No cavities today! None for anyone. What a huge blessing. After the months and months of working on the Buster’s teeth, Dr. Neda said his teeth look great. His “metal tooth” looks good.
They all did so well. Yessa wouldn’t let the dental tech. clean her teeth. After the first few swishes with the electric brush, she was done. And that was fine. She did allow Dr. Neda to “count her teeth” and they looked good.
It helps that my own mother loves to tell the story of my first trip to the dentist as a five-year-old. She spent much time preparing me for the visit by reading to me from my “A Visit To The Dentist” book, which we might still have somewhere. And then, at the dentist, I refused to open my mouth. I refused to even sit in the chair. I have a vivid memory of sitting hunkered in a corner of the dentist’s room, sitting on a little ledge that went around the room, at just my butt height, shaking my head vigorously at the person trying to see into my mouth.
I survived it, my teeth are fine, and someday, Noa will allow the dentist to have a good look.
I was proud of all of them, including Noa, for being true to herself.
Car Pool February 19, 2010
If our children were in institutionalized school, I suspect car pool would be among my favorite pieces of the puzzle. There is enough fodder in children’s conversations, especially when they don’t think the adults are paying attention, to fill an encyclopedia.
Yesterday, when driving Monkey and Best Buddy, Alex, down to our house after Odyssey of the Mind, the following conversation took place.
“My grandma is at my house,” says Zoe.
“Maybe your loose tooth will fall out,” replies Alex.
“No, it’s my Grandma Iowa who is visiting. My Grandma and Grandpa Vermont are the ones who make my teeth fall out.” (Though this might seem like a bizarre concept, it is true that 3 or 4 of the 8 teeth that Zoe has lost happened when we were visiting or had just been visiting with Buddie’s parents. They do seem to make things fall out of one.)
This start to the conversation led to a discussion of the tooth fairy. Alex wants no part of the tooth fairy. She has all her teeth in a jar in her bedroom.
“What does she do with all those teeth, anyway?!” demanded Alex.
Monkey thoughtfully responded, “I think she stores the teeth away, but the first one she puts on display. Or maybe she builds them into a castle.”
Alex, who has a wonderful sense of humor, turns in her booster seat to gasp, “That’s grooossss!”
Zoe says mildly, “It’s just a hypothesis,” with a little shrug of her shoulders.
Alex’s face goes completely blank as she says, “I have no idea what you just said.”
And Zoe explains, “A hypothesis…it was just an idea.”
It was hysterical, and wonderful, and they were both giggling like crazy the whole drive.
Car pool. I love it.