Tuesday, July 31, 2007

at least the dolphin show was killer

What a weekend. Friday night we drove to a large amusement park in the general, greater area but it's large enough that it would be unlikely to be able see everything in one day and far enough away that driving back and forth would have been a major hassle. Wisely, John's cousin Brian, who has two little boys, suggested we all stay the weekend at the the hotel across the street.

Saturday morning as we ate breakfast together Brian's oldest son Jake, age 6 (and who had never been to this park before) was already planning out the day. All the kids were sooooo excited, peering out of the huge hotel windows to the gigantic aerial roller coaster tracks across the street. It turns out that, with her shoes on, Erin measures 42" by the ever precise height indicators at the entrance to each ride. 42" is a critical amusement park milestone. Shorter than this and you have to do even the kiddie rides with an adult. 42" and above means freedom, baby. Jake and Erin enthusiastically ditched parents whenever possible to ride the rides together, but very importantly, alone.

We can't wait until K & A reach that milestone so that we can be spared of experiences like this:

As it turns out Kate isn't even 36" tall, so she wasn't tall enough for several of the rides at all. She could understand when Erin could do a ride that she couldn't, but she really threw a fit when Allison (about 2"taller than she is) got a pass onto a ride while the minimum wage-earning measuring stick-wielding ride attendant/physics genius, sizing her up at the gate, turned her away. She's really close to that 36" cutoff, and these were the tamest of tame rides. I'm not quite sure, but I don't think that all of them all even moved. I'm pretty sure the wind and the riders' own breathing was solely responsible for the motion on a couple of them.

So I looked for ride attendants that seemed a bit distracted and busy and while engaging them in inane conversation I sneaked Kate through onto several rides, like these froggies and elephants below. Hopefully Kate will grow that last 1/4" by next year.

Erin and Jake walked hand in hand for most of the first day, leading our group through the crowds to the next decided upon attraction. Jake kept a map to refer to now and again. Erin looked on and he'd point out and discuss certain aspects. Erin can't read on that level. I wonder if Jake ever realized that his co-pilot is functionally illiterate. Jake and Erin could easily ride the usual little kiddie sized rides together but they were also tall enough to ride a real roller coaster. Not a little circular track of about 25 yards in length "roller coaster" which definitely belongs in such quotation marks, but a real coaster. They were sooooo proud of themselves and I think over the weekend they rode it three times.

This park is known for animal shows and attractions, not just rides. The first one we took in was the killer whale show. This park used to have great animal shows--I remember seeing them as a kid. New ownership now and added big attraction roller coasters and such, but still, we all had high expectations for the shows here. What a disappointment. That small, single killer whale was perhaps on tranquilizers. Or was ill. Or was holding a float-in of some kind. What he didn't do was huge leaps in the air, drench the audience, come out of the water onto a huge platform, give his trainers rides, toss them around, basically nothing really worth the trouble of calling it a show. They should have just had him in an aquarium to observe. What a sad current rendition of the kind of shows they used to have there. I guess we gotta make it to Sea World one of these days. The dolphin show was really good though. And the sea lion show started out well but then the sea lions quit cooperating with the script and just lay there on the stage. Seeing the trainers freak out a bit was funny, but not funny enough.

Still, there were plenty of unique things to do. Erin and I rode an elephant with the cousins:

Feeding some giraffes and lorikeets:

Posing with cartoon characters:

Saw some butterflies up close and personal-like:

Funny story there. The butterflies are in a (very hot and humid) greenhouse type shelter. When we entered the attendant told us not to touch any of them and watch where we walk because butterflies land on the pathway and we might step on them. As soon as we walked in Allison saw a bight orange butterfly perched on the hand rail and she ran over, grabbed it by the wings and started squealing happily as she shook the little thing around in the air. Luckily, we escaped PETA's attention.

The butterflies were everywhere, even landing on us briefly, but hard to photograph--they always just blended in with the foliage.

Jeff and his kids drove up for the day on sunday. He quickly got suckered into carrying one small child or another on his shoulders, and he even babysat long enough for me to ride the biggest, baddest, fastest, longest roller coaster in this whole region with his daredevil teenagers. It was fantastic, I made John take a turn at it too.

Everyone had a really great time. Even after two full days there were several animal shows and other attractions we didn't manage to see. We should plan to return next year if we aren't blacklisted by the butterfly house attendants and height-cutoff for rides police. And we'll skip the killer whale show.

Monday, July 30, 2007

look away

...if you are bored of kids playing in water photos, cause that's what I have...again. What can I say, it's been beautiful this year, not too hot but hot enough, and the kids have been enjoying their July.

I love this look on Allison's face. She has a knack for looking like she isn't 100% sure she knows why she is where she is at any given time.

We went to the fountains in front of our local library the other day for some water fun on a hot afternoon. Always a good time there. Quinton was feeling especially mischeivious I suppose. Though he and Erin are the same height and probably the same weight, he managed to grab her over and over and hold her in the water, but she never resisted that hard and laughed out loud each time. I was hoping she'd turn around and do the same to him. Nothing doing. Always the poor, helpless damsel in distress.

Later while toweling off Q would "sneak" up behind her, open up his towel and swallow her up into it with him. He must have done that 10 times and each time she acted surprised and squealed and was delighted. That Quinton is a smoothie.

Next the kids and their friend Rylan returned to the water park we visited earlier in the summer. Given than Erin starts kindergarten in just over a week(!) now, I'm trying to squeeze in lots of these little summer-time excursions before her time is occupied for 5 full days a week. Our fall is arriving mighty early this year.

Kate takes summertime relaxing very seriously. "Hey mama, you're blocking my rays".

I saw Danielle take her over to the chairs after just a few minutes of swimming so I came over to see if everything was okay. "Sure, she said she wanted to come sit down" was the official report. So I asked Kate if she was having fun and she didn't say anything. She just stared off, still and speechless...daydreaming? Do two year-olds daydream? I offered her a sandwich, and she took it but held it off to the side not seeming particularly interested. I think she was embarassed by her mom wearing a bathing suit and splashing around in the pool and she needed a "moment". Point taken.

All the girls spent a lot of time asking Danielle to be an "alligator" and crawl through the shallow water while they rode on her back. I don't pay her enough to have to suffer such indignities and I reminded her of this, but she went along with it anyway.

Erin and I and Rylan and his mom spent some time in the "deep" pool too. Rylan and Erin are each in swim lessons and I wanted to see if she'd swim as well with me as I've seen her do in her lessons lately (which means, she has been swimming for about 10 feet on her own, no floaties, under water). She is much more cooperative and adventurous in her lessons though and much clingier with me when I took the life jacket off, but after a while she did swim to me a couple of times. Progress.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Erin: "Kate is having a pattern. She whines, then she stops, then she whines, then she stops. That's a pattern!"

Saturday, July 21, 2007

back to the beach

Joe took a break from his insane site-seeing schedule to spend the day with us on thursday. He didn't have any special requests, he just wanted to hang out with the girls and do whatever they wanted but I figured, this being summer, I'm pretty much obligated to take a visiting midwesterner to the beach.

I expected typical coastal summer weather, that being full-on foggy/cloudy and cool until about 11 and then clearing and warming up gradually but Joe reminded me that he brings good weather whenever he travels and he even managed to get sunburned in Ireland. Well, right he was. We arrived at the beach a little before 10am and there wasn't a cloud in the sky and just a light breeze. Perfect!

After setting up camp all the girls wanted to go into the water right away. Danielle and I had a twin by the hand and Erin was fending for herself and she lost her balance almost immediately and got soaked from head to toe. Oh yeah, that water is a bit cold isn't it? After a change of shirt she decided that she'd just observe that whole ocean thing for a while.
Joe ventured up a long cliff-side trail that went up into some coastal forest to check out the view from there and Erin and Allison decided to go with him. At first Kate wanted to join them but going for a little hike would require putting shoes on and leaving the ocean, and Kate was not going to have any of that. In fact she didn't want to leave the water for anything but a quick lunch break.

I brought a whole pile of buckets and shovels and both Erin and Allison played in the sand quite a bit, digging and filling buckets and building some castles. They went for walks, played in the waves, and took several snack breaks in the shade, but Kate was a different story. Along with her sisters, she did enjoy collecting shells, but basically if the activity didn't involve being in the water she wasn't interested.

She was just fascinated by the waves. We spent about 6 hours at the beach and for 5 of the 6 hours she was in.the.waves. One of us had to be right with her and hold her hand when the waves came in because she hard a hard time keeping her balance when the water rushed by her feet. Often as the waves receeded she pulled us to go in after them and as bigger waves started our way again I'd have to lift her straight up, over my head othewise they'd have been eye level or higher to her. I don't think she appreciated the fine lifeguarding we were providing. She just giggled every time. This is basically what Kate did for 5 hours:

After lots of sun and a fun day we were all ready to go, even Allison and Erin agreed, but it was really tough to get Kate away from the water. But she was so, so tired after a quick rinse off and change of clothes for the ride home she feel asleep immediately in the car.

Back home and after dinner Joe's decision to forego any sunscreen or hats was pretty apparent. I warned him but like father, like son. That's a story for another day. We had a good dinner and then Joe was off again to do some Irish dancing in the city and continue his sight-seeing there.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

important developments!

Two major breakthroughs to share.

First, I found a Dairy Queen. I'm not kidding. I haven't been to one in years because they aren't around here. Other states, sure, one on every corner, but we are distinctly Dairy Queen deprived and I don't mind admitting that I've been rather bitter about that. Turns out, there is one about 15 minutes from home which I happened upon the other day. Who knew? Of course we stopped, and I think the girls would have given it two chocolate-covered thumbs up each, if they had stopped eating long enough.

Second, the turbo bubble blower actually works! John bought this gadget/toy at Toys R Us a few weeks ago--you are supposed to be able to fill it with solution and turn it on and have it create a virtual bubble storm. The question of why we need something to create a huge bubble storm in the first place and why we should be disappointed in continuing to be deprived of one got entirely lost because of the following events: it conked out after about 5 seconds. Hmmmmm. Try other, different, sets of new batteries, same thing. So John returned it and got another one but it didn't work any better, or longer. He didn't know what the problem was and some time later when I asked him if he'd taken this latest model back he said he is keeping it and considered it a "personal challenge".

First he tried hooking up an AC adapter instead of using batteries for power. Still no worky. Then he decided to "bypass the thermal fuse" inside, which required using a soldering iron on some of the wiring, and that's about all I know about that. Yes, I took four physics courses in college and I did quite well in all of them. Yes, we studied circuits at some point. Yes, I still know jack squat about circuits.

And it just goes to show that even when you have a zillion bubbles per minute spilling out of a machine right next to you, blowing them one at a time with a cheapy little wand is still pretty cool.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"life is not whatnot"

A line from a movie I like, though I don't agree. Here's some of this past week's whatnot.

Last saturday we went to a small dinner party at an old friend's parent's house in the city. We all know his parents well and have been to this house several times before and we all know that there is nothing remotely childproofed or inexpensive about anything in it. So, intelligently, though kids were invited my other friends didn't bring theirs. One friend did bring his 2 year-old son. I was thrilled to see the little boy because I hadn't had the opportunity to meet his son before and, more importantly, if my girls broke something I now had someone else to blame for it.

The kids entertained themselves with a set of cardboard bricks the hosts brought out. It was great fun to take turns building up walls around each other and then join together in smashing them down.

Fortunately they didn't smash anything else, though they did do more than their share of decorating the floors and tablecloth with food. Regardless, my friend's parents thought they were just entirely adorable and sweet. Heh, heh, heh...yeah. We know better than that.

Here's a rare cute photo of Kate and Erin at the park this week. Both looking at the camera AND smiling? I didn't even bribe them or anything.

My cousin Joe from Chicago arrived yesterday for a week-long vacation out here. He arrived in the morning and suggested that we come over to his hotel to swim in the pool there and my new little fishes thought that was a great idea. No hesitation about the water at all this week. Everyone had a blast.

On sunday Joe took off on a multi-day site-seeing excursion up north. He plans to see grand old growth forests and majestic coastline and sample fine foods and wines along the way. Sure, that's all well and good for him, but we roll in grander style than that around here. We went to a birthday party, located at a small park & zoo that's been around since...well, actually, I don't know how long. I went there once or twice as a kid. Most of the attractions were in dire need of fresh paint and cobweb removal and general maintenance back then, and they still do. Erin made a new friend--a cute little girl her age named Ansley.

That's the birthday boy, Cameron, looking over his mom's cake artistry. The theme of the party was "pirates", and that's the croc from Peter Pan. Erin requested, and was served, a piece with some of the teeth. Ansley requested the eyes. I like that kid already.

Joe will be back on wednesday night so hopefully we'll find something adventurous to do together on thursday. Until then....

Thursday, July 12, 2007

no habla espanol!

I took the girls to a playful spanish language class for kids 2-5 on tuesday. The topic was the sea and animals of the sea. After a very creative, fun hour, during which Erin had a blast and the twins looked consistently puzzled, they were given a sheet to color of the sea animals they'd learned about with the names in spanish underneath each one.

On the way home Erin was talking about some of the animals. She pointed to one and said, "cangrejo."
Kate: "That's a crab."
Me: "Right, but how do we say crab in spanish? Cangrejo."
Kate: "No, no, NO! That's a CRAB!!"
Erin: "And this is El Delfin."
Kate: "No, no, no, NO! That's a DOLPHIN!!!"
Erin: "No, Kate...del-fin."
Kate: "Dolphin, dolphin, DOLPHIN, DOLPHIN!!!!"

This is going to be money well-spent.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

friday's escape

Before we get started, a technical note: you can always click on any photo to see it enlarged, then hit the "Back" button of your browser to return.

We've had no daycare this week so I've been home from work for several days. I wanted a change of scenery so I packed the girls up and headed a couple of hours away to see my friend Susan and family. Details of our last outing with them, to the beach.

Erin is a fan of Susan's daughters, "Those big girls who went to the beach with us, Leigh Ann and Lauren. They're nice, when are we going to see them at the beach again?"

Susan said to meet her at her mom's house so the kids could swim in the morning before it gets too hot. And hot around there is...HOT. So that was an excellent idea. The twins hadn't been in a regular "deep" pool in a year, not since we were in Hawaii last summer, and even then they really didn't enjoy it. They mostly cried and clung to John the whole time. So once they were suited up it was much of the same here although the heat kept them interested in the water. They sat on the pool steps for a long, long while, contemplating the danger and gathering their courage.

Erin, meanwhile, loved the pool right away. I asked Erin if she wanted me to throw her in and she did. Leigh Ann and Lauren and their cousins Mia and Kira (ages range from 6 - 11 and all great swimmers) were very encouraging. They reminded Erin to kick and paddle, and showed her the various prime locations for jumping in. The premier of these was "the diving rock", as Leigh Ann demonstrates below. They applauded Erin's every effort. Their title changed from merely lifeguard/babysitters to lifeguard/swim instructor/babysitter extraordinares.

About 45 minutes later, the twins agreed to venture off the steps--at first not so happily,

then a little more happily.

And finally they were having a blast and swimming all on their own (assisted only by every conceivable floatation device I could manage to fit on their tiny bodies). When we decided to get out because we'd been swimming for a couple of hours, it was now hotter than hot, and it was lunch time, Kate kept jumping back into the pool. Susan finally pretty much dragged her out.

Allison was happy on her own as long as she could keep the elephant floaty

What to do for lunch when it's 100F outside and you have seven kids to feed and entertain? Chuck E Cheese, of course! Susan and her mom and I planted ourselves in some booths in the center of the place where we had a vantage point to see pretty much everywhere and keep the invaluable token stash centralized. The big girls were, mostly, very good at making sure they kept tabs on the little girls. Leigh Ann and Lauren were particularly diligent, deciding with each other who was going to stay with whom to do what activity and when they would meet up to trade responsibilities. The one slip up (that I discovered) was when the pizza arrived and I headed over to the play structure where I'd seen several of the girls just a couple of minutes before. I found Allison alone and wandering around, looking slightly upset. After I brought her to our booth, served her some pizza and left her with Susan's mom I went back to get the others. Mia walked up to me just then, "Um, we can't find Allison anywhere. Sorry." with a little head tilt and shoulder shrug that implied, "you know how it is, well, at least you have others."

After all the cheesy excitement we could bear we dropped off the cousins and went back to Susan's mom's house. "Can we swim again?" the big girls asked. What a crazy idea! It cooled all the way down to, like, 90F by then.

While we were making dinner Kate and Allison kept busy with their second favorite activity of the day: shadowing and pestering poor Rusty the beagle. Beagles are known to have tremendous amounts of energy. Twin 2 year-olds have more. His only escape was through his doggy door, but K&A discovered that they are tiny enough to fit through it too (though I didn't capture that on video). When we arrived Rusty was very excited to see the girls but I think he soon got flashbacks of their last encounter.

After dinner the kids piled on the floor for a little movie-watching while Sean (second generation BBQ master) cooked some delicious ribs and chicken for us. Unfortunately, then it was time to get back home. What a full day and it was already past the girls' bedtime. We drove about a mile before all three kids were snoozing.