Saturday, May 28, 2011

I don’t have a smartphone, so even though I sometimes think in Facebook status updates, I don’t have the ability to post them as I go. Which is probably not a bad thing. I also didn’t want to broadcast the fact that we were out of town, so these thoughts and observations languished in my head over the last week. Here is our vacation, Facebook style:

Car packed and on the road, 15 minutes ahead of schedule!
May 22, 8:15 a.m.

Dear Missouri, When you post a detour requiring people to turn right, it would help to use an arrow pointing right instead of straight up. The rest of the world thinks that means to continue straight. Love, everyone.
May 22, 10:30 a.m.

15 minutes into a stretch of winding, hilly country road: “I hope the kids don’t get carsick.” 2 minutes later, “Mooommm! My stomach hurts!” Open window, pass the barf bag and a pretzel rod, turn off DVD and advise passengers to look straight ahead. Equilibrium restored. The travel gods are smiling on us. #flatlanders
May 22, 11:15 a.m.

Surprised to pass through Mexico and Lebanon on our way to Branson.
May 22, 1:30 p.m.

Daniel just fell asleep listening to Mickey Mouse Club March on CD. @Maureen Geraghty will be so proud.
May 22, 2 p.m.

Thank you, Mom, for teaching me to pack a separate bag with all the swimming gear. 10 minutes after hotel arrival, kids are thrilled to be in the pool.
May 22, 5 p.m.

Glad to find “old downtown” Branson Landing on first night. Reassured to know that there is more than neon and asphalt here.
May 22, 6:30 p.m.

Did not expect to spend first night of vacation in bowels of hotel during tornado warning.
May 22, 8 p.m.

Emerged from shelter to learn of the storm’s devastation 100 miles west in Joplin. #feelingverylucky
May 22, 8:45 p.m.

Kids wanted the hotel entertainer Kenny Parrott to sing “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” at breakfast. He replied kindly, “I’m sorry that’s not in my repertoire.” They were shocked he didn't know it and asked me if they should teach it to him.
May 23, 7:45 a.m.

Blank stare from hotel clerk after asking what might be open at 8 a.m. #bransonnotkidfriendly
May 23, 8 a.m.

Morning mini-golf rained out. Too early for lunch. #whatthehelldowedonow?
May 23, 10:20 a.m.

Dear Summerwind Estates, I agreed to a 90-minute “vacation ownership” presentation in exchange for this low-cost trip. Don’t be surprised when I’m annoyed as we approach the 3-hour mark.
May 23, 5:15 p.m.

Afternoon frustrations drowned in kids’ giggles in the pool.
May 23, 6 p.m.

Kids again request “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” and when Kenny replies that he doesn’t know it, Daniel stands in front of the stage and sings it for him. #seniorcitizenscharmed
May 24, 8 a.m.

Edward over the moon after visit to Titanic Museum with John. Daniel's and my visit to Dinosaur Museum was less thrilling, but Daniel entertained himself for 40 minutes on a driving video game without depositing a single quarter. He also used the guns from the adjacent hunting game to "fill the gas tank." #simple
May 24, 11 a.m.

Just paid $20 for 5 minutes of go-karting. #rememberthegleefulgiggles
May 24, 11:30 a.m.

How can a kid who fights me daily about taking a nap, fall asleep on a loud, windy, bumpy Duck Boat ride? Shook Daniel awake with a reminder that he could have a turn driving once we hit the water.
May 24, 2 p.m.

No one in Branson can believe we have no intention of going to a single one of the 100+ shows in town. #notcountrymusicfans
May 24, 2:45 p.m.

I GPS! John’s phone directed us to a great playground for post-dinner energy burning.
May 24, 6:30 p.m.

Oops…stayed too long. #mosquitofeast
May 24, 7:45 p.m.

“Early bird” discount for touring Talking Rocks Cavern before 10:30 a.m. We’re all over it!
May 25, 9 a.m.

It takes several days for the ground to absorb three days worth of rain. #stillrainingincave
May 25, 10:15 a.m.

Just paid $20 to ride an elevator up about 10 floors to an observation deck to observe the tops of trees. #touristtrap
May 25, 11 a.m.

Hungry + tired = crabby family
May 25, 12:15 p.m.

Ah, the reviving power of a family nap. And once again to the pool!
May 25, 3 p.m.

Daniel’s GI tract is rebelling against the vacation diet. #underwearintrash
May 25, 7 p.m.

Had fun. Ready to leave. No need to return.
May 26, 8:30 a.m.

Thank you Rolla, MO, McDonalds for not giving us any static about letting our kids play in your Playplace without buying your food. I was much happier giving them the PB&J with yogurt offered at Panera a mile up the road. #thankyouGPS
May 26, 11:30 a.m.

Thrilled to use our Iowa Children’s Museum membership for reciprocal privileges at The Magic House Children’s Museum in St. Louis. #happykids
May 26, 2 p.m.

I Drury Inn. Dinner & 3 drinks per adult included in price of room. #anotherchardonnayplease
May 26, 6 p.m.

John and boys shared pool with about 15 fifth-grade girl scouts from Olathe. Edward, king of subtlety, kept sticking his head underwater to observe them through his goggles. #goodthinghe’sonly5
May 26, 7:30 p.m.

I Drury Inn. Popcorn in lobby until 10 p.m.
May 26, 8:30 p.m.

Boys watching two Little Einsteins episodes before bed. #tootiredtoenforceTVlimitsorbedtime
May 26, 9 p.m.

Boys awed by St. Louis Gateway Arch. Think elevator/tram is a spaceship to the top.
May 27, 9 a.m.

Definitely saved the best for last--St. Louis City Museum is AWESOME!
May 27, 10:30 a.m.

Loving City Museum even more. Boys so exhausted they slept for 3.5 of the 4.25-hour drive back to Iowa City. #worthEVERYpenny
May 27, 6 p.m.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Daniel (protesting being sent to his room for not listening): "But I don't want to go to my room!"

John: "I know you don't, that's why it's called punishment."

Daniel: "Why is it punishment?"

Edward: "It's like peppermint, but with an 'ush.' "

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Four days ago we had record 92-degree heat. Two days ago I wore a summer dress and sandals. Today the mercury did not even hit 50.

And it rained. ALL. DAY.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. After dinner, I heard Daniel giggling and accepted his invitation: "Mom, wanna see something?!" Stepped out to the bottom of our stairs and watched him scoot down on his butt. I saw no reason not to kick it up a notch, so I got out his snow pants and had him try it again. Edward then wanted in on the action. This is the result.

We did get out of the house this morning or we might not have made it through the day. We attended the annual 4-H Ag-Fest at the county fairgrounds, inadvertently arriving 30 minutes before it officially started. But those friendly farmers didn't bat an eyelash. The boys were both fascinated and terrified to see a baby pig getting a scrub down with one man holding it up by the hind legs while the other scrubbed its back, all the while the piglet was screaming for all it was worth. There were also baby sheep, goat, ducks and hens, a small merry-go-round and three different "plant a bean" stations--two involving wrapping a bean seed in a wet cotton ball and placing it in a tiny zip-loc bag with a string to wear as a necklace.
Daniel was very frustrated that the hens and ducks did not hold still for him to pet them, walking all around this small enclosure trying to catch up with them. Eventually I think he did get a feel of feather.

From there we hit the farmer's market and the library, so I'd say we had a full day before noon. After lunch, naps all around!

Friday, May 13, 2011

This is a repeat for those of you connected in Facebook-land, but I sometimes get in trouble for the lag between what I share on FB and what gets posted here.

John reports that the boys were "super awesome" at the commencement ceremony this morning. Lots of snacks and backpacks full of books helped, but I think the key was probably four grandparents to help out. That's fitting, since all of them were so key in supporting me all the way through the five-and-a-half years it took me to complete the degree. (It was actually six years ago next week that I started my first class, but since I finished coursework in January, I'm calling it a 5.5.-year degree.)

The most exciting moment came at the brunch after the ceremony when Daniel managed to get himself stuck in his chair. Thankfully it was not his head, but it did take three of us to extricate him. He remained calm throughout, alerting us to the need for attention with a simple, "Help, please!" Afterward, he returned to his meal, which pretty much consisted of a huge chocolate dessert. He might have also eaten a strawberry. Edward returned to the buffet for a second dessert. Yeah, it was that kind of day.

All in all a lovely celebration!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Not even a week since my last post and lots to catch up on.

Thursday afternoon I took Edward to Kindergarten round-up at Robert Lucas Elementary. I did not think it was possible to increase his Kindergarten excitement/anticipation level but this definitely jacked it up a notch. Or five! He loved every minute, begged to stay longer and then insisted on staying at the playground even though it was chilly and damp. I was a little dismayed that one of the first parent questions was, "What is the process for accelerating past Kindergarten and right into first grade and how often does this happen?" The principal handled this very well, explaining that there is a district-wide process in place, but that it rarely happens, since so much of what is learned in Kindergarten is not about reading and math.

The other parent comment that caught me off guard was the description of attending three or four of these round-ups before selecting a school--shopping around, as it were. Hmmm... We do have open enrollment and on our side of town we don't have issues with crowding so people have some leeway in choosing a school. Also Lucas is on the Federal "schools in need of assistance" (SINA) list, so the district is required to allow parents to enroll their children in another district school. Even so, it never occurred to me not to at least start out in our neighborhood school. Every school in Iowa City is a great school--award-winning teachers, plenty of resources, dedicated staff. I guess I just have confidence that my kids will thrive, and that I'll know if something is amiss and just cross that bridge if we come to it. As a friend of mine commented, "Nothing like parents to ruin a kid!"

On Friday we attended our first baseball game as a family. We're not talking Wrigley Field here. Or even the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels. No, we took in a University of Iowa baseball game on a beautiful Friday evening in Iowa City. It was dollar hot dog night and kids are always free. As my dad would say, "A bargain at twice the price!" It was the annual "pink game" for breast cancer awareness so the boys got pink wristbands, which Daniel quickly learned to use for a very dramatic sweat wipe (it wasn't even hot, but he loved the concept once it was explained to him.) They also loved that the players were wearing the same bands!

I also was paying close enough attention in the first two innings to complete their "baseball BINGO" cards (marking off things like "single," "fly out to left," "strike out--called," etc. early, which enabled them each to take home a prize t-shirt. These are size adult L, so they're even too big for sleeping shirts, but they were still thrilled with the prize!

Grandma and Grandpa joined us for the game. Beyond the BINGO, none of us was really closely following the action. The Hawkeyes are in dead last in the Big Ten standings, so we were not expecting much. Luckily, the Nittany Lions gifted us with eight (8!) errors, putting the Hawks up by 10-4 at the end of the fifth inning. That was 90 minutes of baseball, and plenty for us. A good time had by all (well, maybe not Grandma, but she's a good sport for hanging in there!)
(Side note: too bad we're not related to these Kenyons, whose significant $$ gift led to naming the football practice facility after them. It's next to the baseball field.)

Saturday we all got together in Chariton for John's grandma's 90th birthday. It was very festive, with a huge cake and cups of ice cream for all the family plus the other residents of the nursing home. The boys stood on either side of her wheelchair and sang happy birthday, eliciting smiles and claps and a big hug from Great-Grandma. Edward knows she likes his red curls, so he insisted we delay his haircut until after the party. (Now Gram has weighed in with her desire to admire them as well, so another week...)

Mother's Day Sunday started out lovely with John making waffles, scrubbing the kitchen, doing three loads of laundry and washing my car. Unfortunately, the boys had some strange notions about good behavior so the afternoon/evening was a bit rocky. John says maybe he put too much pressure on with the "We have to be extra nice for Mom on her day" speech before I got up. "Maybe you just shouldn't tell them about Father's Day," he suggested.

On Monday I took the boys to the Shrine Circus, which was out at the County Fairgrounds. I guess it was intended to be totally outdoors, but a significant morning thunderstorm led them to set up in one of the show barns, which made for quite a cramped viewing area. We were jammed in together in bleachers with peoples knees in our backs and a huge Dora balloon (ill-advised purchase by the parents behind me for their 4-year-old) bopping my head. It was no Ringling, but just about the perfect size/speed/length for our boys, who absolutely loved it.

Ed says his favorite part was the acrobats. Daniel was very impatient waiting for the elephants, which were the last act of the show. He was pleased with a clown whose tears squirted far enough to land on his shorts. There was a tiger act, but at that point the boys were still just as interested in the barkers' sno-cones and popcorn. I had a snack stash in my purse, but we did have to buy a drink as it is unseasonably hot this week (after last week's unseasonable cold!) We also skipped the opportunity to ride an elephant, as I was sure it would not be worth whatever they were charging. Plus we might have lost our seats!

Busy weeks ahead with my commencement Friday, a work trip next week, and then a family vacation. Didn't get a Mother's Day pic of myself with the boys, so perhaps a cap-and-gown shot will be in order. Although they did fall on the floor laughing when I modeled the academic garb for them. Oh, boys!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

We have a beautiful rhododendron at our front door. Even with our frosty spring, it's in full bloom, and I had the thought to take this photo to compare with one we took in our first spring in this house.
I don't think I took one last year so we won't have a complete set of year-by-year shots, but I still like the concept. We had to wait a few days after it bloomed last week for a day warm enough to go out without jackets. We've had overnight frost the last two nights, but things are looking up in the days ahead.

I was also going to share a non-kid photo showing our recent kitchen improvements--new stove and dishwasher! But alas, our streak of buying homes from people who have not embraced their own home-repair incompetence as we have continues. We pretty much call a professional for anything more complicated than a light bulb change. Other people apparently aren't so tied to actually having things done right. The dishwasher installer discovered that the electricity was oddly rigged and in no way up to code, so we have to have an electrician come out to fix it before he can finish the installation. Luckily the crazy old connection never caused any other problems. Luckier still, I called the electrician this afternoon, and he's coming out tomorrow, immediately followed by the return of the dishwasher man, so we should have a gaping hole under the counter and a new dishwasher randomly stashed in the corner for less than 24 hours.

Both appliances had previously been on life support as we held our breath hoping they'd last until we could afford to replace them. Lowes helped us out in that regard with an 18-month no interest deal in the last week, so between that and our tax refund, we were ready to take the plunge. It's really quite something to cook in an oven that actually heats to the temperature you set and then maintains it throughout the cooking period and whose burners heat all the way around! It truly is the simple things in life that give the greatest pleasure.