Friday, August 31, 2007


Home again! And this time, as far as I can tell, for a good long while, too.

Our trip to visit my sister was, as always, a lot of fun. I wish we could do it more often, and for a longer period. This time we were just there for three days.

Still, we managed to squeeze a large amount of juice from even that short time (I KNOW that metaphor doesn't work at all. Humor me.). There was an awesome water slide in the backyard:


Homemade ice cream, courtesy of the coolest ice cream maker I've ever seen (a ball that you roll around and shake to make the ice cream):

And a lovely nature walk (at my request as an antidote to all the artificial sweetener of Disney World), with vistas like this:

All that, plus a game of croquet, and smores (the first for my kids), and so much cousin- and aunt-bonding that my heart nearly burst.

I can't believe school starts next week. Expect several at least one mournful and contemplative post about the end of summer and the first days of kindergarten and preschool (which I hope I can find the time to write, given the fact that my in-laws are coming tomorrow for a long-ish visit!).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Disney World Part 2: Bibbidi Bobbidi Bite Me

So there were a few less than delightful aspects of our trip. May I vent for a moment?

-- I was right to be concerned about the heat. There's hot, and then, apparently, there's "August in Disney World" hot. So freaking hot. It made me a wee bit irritable. We used a spray mister fan and kept reasonably well hydrated, and I still wanted to shoot someone at certain midday points.

-- As I noted, the kids were terrific throughout our vacation. But the unfamiliar sleeping quarters, the heat (did I mention the heat?), and the fairly relentless touring schedule conspired to tease out some of Allie's more demanding personality traits. She seemed more intractable than usual, more tantrum-prone, more just plain difficult. I don't blame her, really, and I tried not to over-react. Except this one time, in the bathroom, when Allie threw an enormous public fit over the fact that I ripped the paper towel off for her instead of letting her do it herself. I know! Can you believe I'd be so thoughtless?

-- At no point did Sean's or Allie's needs for a bathroom break coincide. One would have to go, the other would adamantly refuse; 20 minutes later, the other one's urge would kick in. The upside of this was that it necessitated frequent trips to the air-conditioned bathrooms. We learned to take advantage of every chance to indulge in air-conditioning.

-- I will have to do some serious atoning for all the sins against the environment that I committed. First, the bottled water (hangs head in shame). Second, the lack of recycling of those bottles. Although Epcot does have a smattering of recycling bins, I found none in the Magic Kingdom. Third, the counter-service meals and all the attendant disposable meal accoutrements. Any time I spotted a worker (cast member, sorry) pushing a cart heaped with trash, I felt some fairly huge waves of guilt. There I was, complicit in it all.

-- The heat, my goodness, the ... oh, we've already covered that.

-- I hate shopping in general. But shopping in Disney World in a crowded store with two kids absolutely wild about all the Disney wares? The equivalent of hot pokers stabbing me in the eye. We managed to limit the kids to one purchase per day; fortunately for them, they have one parent (the one who is not me) who realizes that when we're on vacation it might be okay to relax some of our rules about buying stuff. In my defense, I was able to hold my tongue during the trip. I'll just let this one little comment slip out here: The commercialization and materialism in Disney World are both breathtaking and appalling. There. I'm done. No sermon forthcoming (Jeff wipes his forehead in relief).

I could probably keep going, but that's enough kvetching for now. Tomorrow we're off to visit my sister. See you later in the week!

Disney World Part 1: The Magic

We're back! We're exhausted! We're leaving for another trip tomorrow!

Just some highlights for now:

-- Sean and Allie are at the perfect age for appreciating the magic of Disney World. It was as if their imaginary play worlds had come to life for them. They not only read Winnie the Pooh but also bounced through the Hundred Acre Woods; not only watch Peter Pan but also flew through the skies above Neverland; not only play with their Woody doll but also dance with him and Jessie and Bullseye.

-- I wish I could have captured the look on Allie's face when she saw the characters for the first time. She was just enraptured by Cinderella, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, and Winnie the Pooh -- and equally shy and overwhelmed when she actually got to meet them. Sean, too, though older, willingly waited in some pretty long lines to have his picture taken with the characters. He loved both the princesses AND Buzz Lightyear.

-- Favorite attraction? For Allie, it was the Peter Pan ride and Dumbo. For Sean, Peter Pan, the Buzz Lightyear ride, and Splash Mountain. He was tall enough for that ride, but Allie wasn't. We've since been downplaying just how spectacular Sean thought it was.

-- The kids were remarkably well behaved, given the constant activity, the oppressive heat, and the crowds. They responded very well to being ordered about for much of the trip! It helped that the Disney employees have been commissioned to randomly distribute trinkets to guests; a few of Allie's meltdowns were ameliorated by observant cast members (that's what all Disney employees are called) bearing stickers, pins, and other small gifts.

-- Dinner with my friend Kathy was a welcome break from the crush of crowds and heat. I need to publicly thank her for going well above the call of duty by picking us up at Epcot, battling Orlando traffic back to her house, serving us dinner, and then driving us all the way back to hotel. All this on her first day of classes at the college at which she teaches AND her kids' second day of school, no less. Thanks so much, Kath!

-- Speaking of food, I'd been kind of dreading a steady diet of junk during our vacation. I was pleasantly surprised by all the healthful choices now available. Each kids' meal, for example, comes with apple slices or carrots or grapes or applesauce. Jeff in particular ate very well, with lots of salads and fresh fruit -- far better than we do at home!

-- Not that we didn't have ice cream every day. Please, we're not THAT virtuous.

I feel that I'm not doing justice to the vacation, but there you go. Here are some pictures to fill in the gaps. With captions, even!

In part 2 of this post, some snark may or may not slip in.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Forget the Mouse, We're Here for the Princesses

In a practically unheard-of bit spontaneity, we've decided to go to Disney World. This Sunday.

Okay, it's not as if we just planned the trip yesterday, but it was only about 3 weeks ago that Jeff talked me into transforming our idle chitchat about a family trip to Disney World into an actual vacation with booked airline tickets and hotel reservations. This will be the first time we've ever gone on a vacation alone with the kids, and the first one with them that will not involve visiting relatives.

The kids are, how to put it, quivering with excitement. (As I'm writing this, they are chattering about what they're going to see there. Allie just asked if Disney World was a store. "Actually, in a way, yes, it's one big store," I replied. Was that too cynical a response?)

Allie is primarily interested in meeting all the princesses strolling about the park. Every day she asks me if they will talk to her and if they'll know her name. "I think I'll ask Cinderella how old she is," she told me yesterday.

Apparently Allie plans on presenting the Disney cast members with a stiff test of their ability to keep in character: "Now when I see the princesses," Allie said, "I will pull *d*o*w***n my shorts and show them my princess u*n**der*p*a*n*ts so that they can see themselves!"

I gently suggested that we might want to keep that image a private one, but that she could perhaps tell them that she has a princess nightgown instead.

Although I am not the world's biggest Disney fan, I am looking forward to the trip. The heat, perhaps not so much. The crowds and the walking with the kids who complain about walking around the block, not so much either. But if their excitement and anticipation are any indication, they, and we, will have a great time. Sweetening the deal is that we'll also get to visit a friend from college who relocated to Orlando several years ago. That alone would make it worth the trip!

If the planning and the packing consume me for the rest of the week, I'll resurface when we return. Wish us luck!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Thank You Note to My Children

Dear Sean and Allie:

Thank you so, so much for being supreme troupers on our return trip from northern Virginia.

First, you slept through my realization that the front tires seemed to be making a repetitive "bump thump" sound as we zoomed up 95. You didn't awaken until after I had pulled off the interstate, found a gas station, parked in front of an air pump, and stared perplexedly at the pump's instructions. Unfortunately, you did have to witness my shameful capitulation to automotive helplessness as the gas station attendant helped me put air in the tires. Allie, I'll make sure you won't be a similar position when you're driving.

You even managed to refrain from laughing at me when, a few minutes after the tire situation was addressed, I decided to fill the gas tank. After we pulled alongside the pump, we all sat in the car for several minutes, impatiently awaiting the attendant, until I realized that we weren't actually in our state and that I would have to pump the gas myself.

With freshly inflated tires and no more bump-thumping, it appeared that the rest of the drive might be uneventful. It was, until an ominous sign warned that "Major congestion" loomed ahead of us.

Major indeed. And it is your behavior during this stretch of the trip for which I am truly grateful. You didn't complain once as we inched along the highway. Not even when I had to turn off the air conditioning and roll down the windows to make sure that the engine didn't overheat. There wasn't even a hint of squabbling in the hour and a half it took us to travel a whopping 15 miles. I am so impressed that you entertained yourselves by playing with your Etch-a-Sketch and Doodlepad, reading books, playing "I Spy", and singing songs.

And when we reached the source of our traffic woes -- three lanes of traffic melding into one -- you seemed fascinated by all the construction equipment. I would have been fascinated, too, had I not been recoiling in horror over the fact that as we traveled over an extremely high bridge, the construction crew was actually lifting up a portion of it on a crane. Given the recent tragedy in Minnesota, I worked hard to suppress thoughts of the three of us plummeting into the Susquehanna River.

Of course, I kept all this to myself. All you knew was that we were finally, gloriously, driving 65 miles per hour.

Thanks again for helping me maintain my sanity. You guys (oops, there I go again) are the best.



Thursday, August 09, 2007

Most Boring Post Ever

"Really?" you ask. "How on earth could you possibly single one out among all the duds you've written?"

Because THIS post is a list of what's on Sean and Allie's summer reading log for the library. Doesn't get less exciting than this. I just wanted to note, for them and for me and for posterity, what we read this summer before I turn in the logs tomorrow. I do apologize that you, my stalwart readers, are also subject to my penchant for obscure record-keeping.

To make this somewhat worth someone's while, I've set an asterisk next to the titles that we (or, in the case of The Cut-Up books, just the kids) particularly enjoyed.

Farmer Palmer's Wagon Ride: William Steig
How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Mark Teague
*The Caboose Who Got Loose: Bill Peet
What's Going on in There? Geoffrey Grahn
Franklin Plays the Game: Paulette Bourgeois
Superdog -- Heart of a Hero: Carolyn Buehner
Swim for Cover: Sue Vyner
Neptune's Nursery: Kina Michelle Toft
The Wretched Stone: Chris Van Allsburg
*Little House in the Big Woods: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: Verna Aardema
The Sweetest Fig: Christ Van Allsburg
Arthur's Teacher Troubles: Marc Brown
*The Secret Shortcut: Mark Teague
*The Wump World: Bill Peet
Arthur and the Big Blow-Up: Marc Brown
Zeke Pippin: William Steig
Miss Spider's Wedding: David Kirk
The Amazing Bone: William Steig
Pirates Past Noon: Mary Pope Osborne
A Penguin Pup for Pinkerton: Steven Kellogg
*The Monster at the End of This Book: Jon Stone
Arthur's Mystery Envelope: Marc Brown
Space Case: Edward Marshall
Liverwurst Is Missing: Mercer Mayer
*The Wingdingdilly: Bill Peet
Matthew's Dream: Leo Lionni
The Spooky Tale of Prewitt Peacock: Bill Peet
*Ira Sleeps Over: Bernard Waber
Look Out, Big Bro's Coming: Jez Alborough
Henry and Mudge and the Wild Wind: Cynthia Rylant
How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? Jame Yolen
Harry's Pony: Barbara Anne Porte
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile: Bernard Waber
Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia: Peggy Parish
*The Cut-Ups: James Marshall
A Chair for My Mother: Vera Williams
Tillie Witch: Don Freeman
*The Cut-Ups Cut Loose: James Marshall
*The Cut-Ups Crack Up: James Marshall
Arthur's Underwear: Marc Brown
*Martha Speaks: Susan Meddaugh
Martha Calling: Susan Meddaugh
The Trouble with the Johnsonns: Mark Teague
Two Bad Ants: Chris Van Allsburg
*Book Fair Day: Lynn Plourde


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

About That Gender Neutral Pronoun

Why is it that the use of the generic "he" sends me into fits of apoplexy, and yet I routinely and blithely summon my children by saying "Hey, guys!"?

Score another victory for the partriarchy, I guess.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Few Surfside Observations

I encourage you to embrace my new philosophy: Sand -- It Comes Off Eventually, You Know. I have found that not freaking out about the sand in every crevice of my children's bodies has made my beach demeanor much more pleasant.

I continue to be amazed at how much work it is to bring young kids to the beach. However, each year it gets a little bit easier, at least while they're just playing in the above-mentioned sand. And that is because...

A rough surf and strong undertow could still swipe away those small bodies in a flash.

If you feel a burning sensation in part of your skin, it's not merely because it's on the part of your body facing the sun. It is probably the result of your skin ACTUALLY BURNING and perhaps you should consider beating a hasty retreat to the beach umbrella.

And a corollary: It's best to ensure that you don't glop on the sunscreen haphazardly in an attempt to leave the house already.

At the beach, every day for me is a bad hair day.