Friday, April 30, 2010

the writer

A few weeks ago all the second and third graders had to spend an hour planning out and writing an original essay. I thought Erin's teacher said this was some kind of state-wide test. Maybe it was just a test given at their school every year, I can't remember exactly. Anyway, the kids didn't get a grade for their work, but Erin's teacher was extremely pleased and talked with us quite a bit about how remarkable she thinks Erin's writing is during our last conference.

Erin's essay is below, click on any page to see it enlarged:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

shamu says hi

A few months ago I was looking at our niece Laura's university tennis schedule in order to find a weekend where we could travel to see her play this spring. Her team would be in San Diego to play two other colleges over two days during a week which coincided with our spring break, so John and I decided to take the whole family to San Diego a couple of days early and do some additional activities. I'd never been to any of the San Diego parks before but I've heard about how great Sea World and the Wild Animal park are, in particular, and I knew the girls would really enjoy them.

We arrived at our hotel on monday afternoon and the girls wanted to see the hotel pool and swim. San Diego has some really spectacular hotels I think, but that's not where we stayed. We opted to stay at Laura's team's arranged hotel, which is centrally located and clean, but very basic. They did have an outdoor pool. I think it was about 12 feet long and 6 feet wide, and 3 ft deep on the ends and only 4 ft deep in the middle. A pitiful little excuse for a pool, really, but the girls were to swim* and had a blast that afternoon.
"Can we come back and swim tomorrow?" they all asked.
"No, remember, we're going to Sea World!!!" I answered.
"Oh nooooooooo. We just wanna swim*."

*swim = wearing arm floaties and jumping and splashing in the water

Nevertheless, on our first full day in the city we did indeed visit Sea World. Fortunately, our visit was the week following spring break for the schools in southern California, so the park wasn't very busy.
I especially liked the penguins. We sat and watched them for a long time while a keeper inside was lecturing about them as other keepers were feeding them. The girls' school mascot is the penguins and various classrooms are named for different penguins species, so they girls had fun seeing what these different penguin types actually look like.

The polar bears were entertaining too, as polar bears usually are.

Unfortunately, I had some kind of major camera malfunction I guess, as I've only now discovered, and most of the photos I took at the Shamu (killer whale) show, the sea lion show, and pet show have vanished from my camera. What a bummer, those were good shows. The pet show (mainly dogs and cats, and two very funny pigs) was particularly and surprisingly hilarious. It would be hard to describe and I'm sure I couldn't do it justice if I tried (especially without my pictures) but I highly recommend it.

Since the park was sparsely attended we had time to see all the shows and most of the exhibits in one day. We also had time for some lovely family photos.

wild animal park

On our second day in San Diego we visited the well-known wild animal park outside the city. It's a large very nice zoo combined with a huge section where animals are wandering around on open land. You travel through that section on tram cars to simulate being out on safari.

Before we got to the safari, we stopped in the Lorikeet sanctuary and did some bird feeding.

The girls really enjoyed feeding a bird or two at a time at first, but as more birds descended upon them, the girls got a little nervous and overwhelmed. Erin no longer looked like she was having a good time here:

But there was no getting these birds off once they decided to visit, until the food cup was empty and they moved on to someone else. Erin had the most birds on her and was definitely the most upset about it, but as soon as the food and birds were gone she asked, "Can we get more?" And later in the day she asked to return to the Lorikeets.

Shortly after escaping "the birds" we went to butterfly world. Inside, the butterflies were flying everywhere, all around, and landing on the ground too, so we had to watch where we stepped. The girls forgot all about the aggressive Lorikeets and were dying to have some butterflies land on them.

And eventually, the butterflies did visit them, attracted to their bright hats. Soon all three girls had a butterfly on their head and a crowd of spectators to see them.

On to the safari, which had so much to see on either side of the tram that sometimes it seemed like there wasn't enough time to take it all in.

And after our ride we wandered around to see some more of the zoo, including a lioness resting right near the observation glass.

And when we reached the gorillas it was hard to find any of them as they were all resting in various hiding places. Then all at once it seemed their nap time was over and it was gorilla social hour, so we hung out a while there and watched their antics.

Eventually we found the petting zoo, which instead of the typical goats and sheep contained several varieties of deer, and the girls loved spending time with them and feeding them.

We were lucky. We saqw nearly all of two huge parks in two days. Had there been crowds we wouldn't have made it to nearly as many attractions, which maybe would have been alright with Kate because she complained nearly all day each day about all the walking we were doing.

a bit of beach time

After our two days in the parks John had to go to Pennsylvania for a class reunion, and the girls and I were going to watch Laura's tennis matches after taking John to the airport in the early afternoon.

Laura and her team were busy practicing that morning so I drove us to a local beach with an adjacent small amusement park.

We weren't really dressed for the beach and it wasn't extremely warm that day, but the girls had fun wading in the surf and running from the waves.

Then the amusement park opened up and the girls rode a few rides, and then we had lunch by the beach at this funky place where we could watch surfers ride a huge wave machine while we ate. Then it was off to the airport.

tennis finale

Finally came the purpose of our entire trip to San Diego. We met up with the team the evening before for dinner, and again at breakfast that morning. The team seemed entertained by the girls and their enthusiasm about being with Laura again.

The team had several matches to play against two other colleges and we were there to cheer them on. This was the third spring that Erin travelled to see Laura play, but the first time for the twins. When we arrived the team was still practicing and the girls were mesmerized by being seated so close to the powerful hitting.

That first afternoon of tennis was especially exciting because of a fantastic doubles match that Laura played and won.

Eventually though the twins especially got a little wrestless with sitting and watching so I had their travel backpacks filled with activities for them to do. The novelty of that too wore off after a while and they sometimes got into trouble around the courts--talking too loudly, wandering in the wrong areas, even stepping down onto the courts once or twice. I thought for sure they were driving everyone nuts but Laura's teammates seemed to enjoy them and one of the umpires told me, at the end of the second day, that he was going to miss seeing the girls around the tennis center, as there aren't often children there.

This being Laura's senior year, it was our last opportunity to see her play at this level, and we were very glad that we didn't miss it.