Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

I have very fond memories of visiting my grandparents during the summer. Their houses both seemed so exotic to me as a Southern Californian, because they had basements (no one in So Cal has a basement). And basements, as I now know, are a terrific place to store stuff, including toys from days gone by. I discovered books that my parents read as children, toys that either they or my aunts and uncles cherished, and of course countless ensembles of dress-up gear.

I see a similar pattern with Clare and Danny here in Buffalo. My in-laws have lived in the same house since Tim was 12 or so, and they wisely stored away the good stuff: Legos and Playmobil sets, Cabbage Patch and Strawberry Shortcake dolls (the first generations), etc. Most of this bounty has a home in the basement and is brought upstairs when the kiddos arrive. Today, being a rainy day, the kids ventured down to the basement and discovered a few more treasures. Including this old school desk that could not have fit more perfectly into Clare's mode today, which started out as an imitation of Kit Kittredge (American Girl and aspiring journalist) and then morphed into author:

Clare wrote more stories today than she has in her six years thus far, and her enthusiasm for it was awesome to behold. She didn't just write stories, but developed entire publishing genres for them. There was the "Red Sketch" series, which were short books with the word "red" predictably in the title. She then went off to write a story for my mother-in-law's friend Jean, whose birthday we'll be celebrating tomorrow at the beach in Canada. When she came downstairs with the finished story, she said, "See the fireworks on the cover? That means it's a Little Fireworks story, which are longer stories for more advanced readers." Which, of course, it was - four pages to the single page of the previously penned Red Pony (which she wrote for Danny, who ungraciously tossed it across the room upon wakening from his nap. He really can be an ass.) Between writing and reading with me on my bed, she happily passed the entire day.

Danny, for his part, has fallen in love with Aunt Karen's old horse riding set, and this evening discovered Tim's old cowboy and knight Playmobil set (which also prominently features horses). He focused intently on these items for a good 45 minutes and had to be dragged to bed, crying much of the way.

So I don't know if the satisfaction today comes more from how well we passed a rainy day at home (it's been so long since I had a rainy day that I truly relished every moment), or from watching my children get excited about things that I used to get excited about as a kid. Either way, it was a good one.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lake Effect

Tim has finally been indoctrinated into lake life, thanks to a weekend at the Pryors' place on Lake Martin. We had spectacularly perfect summer weather and proceeded to spend all day Saturday and much of Sunday living the good life. As much as the kids and I had talked up "the lake house" (and watching Danny bounce around the house Saturday morning before we left, chanting "lake house" and packing his suitcase should have been a big indicator of what was to come), Tim admitted that seeing was believing.

I really can't say enough for Jen and Dave's hospitality. It's the best blend of "c'mon, let's go" and "we're here to relax and have a good time" that is the recipe for a perfect summer weekend without a care in the world. Their lake house is gorgeous, their boat is awesome, and they have an entire refrigerator devoted exclusively to beer. Yeah, I know you wish you knew them, too.

On the ride home, while Danny was passed out, I asked Clare what was her favorite part about the weekend. "BOATING!" That was true for me, and I'm pretty sure for Tim and Danny, too. I really could have ridden around on the lake in the boat all day. After our arrival on Saturday, we packed a lunch and headed out for a beach. On the way we passed a conglomeration of boats gathering for Aquapalooza. They were expecting 1,000 boats or so for an outdoor festival featuring Kid Rock, Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson, among others. Wow. It was interesting to see, but not exactly our scene.

We passed the early afternoon at a great beach where we swam and ate and explored, and then we went back to the lake house. The kids went inside to chill out, but we adults stayed out by the dock. It was marvelous - other than one modest request for goldfish, the kids kept to themselves and so we swam, tried our hand at the neighbors' rope swing and lazed in the sun for hours, almost as if we weren't even parents. Ahhhh.

Eventually we made our way inside to reclaim responsibilities, and after dinner we made s'mores around the campfire and then went for a nighttime boat ride in search of the "green monster," (green lights several residents put beneath their docks to attract fish and the like). It was a totally different and very cool perspective to see the lake and the houses at night. Really, I just can't get enough of the boat!

Sunday morning we essentially did more of the same, boating to a different beach and then drifting in the waves while the kids jumped with glee and abandon (see above). So much fun and so much sunshine eventually wears you down, so we had to pack our bags and head home before Danny had a total meltdown...but hopefully we'll be back for more. Until then, though, we're off to Buffalo tomorrow, so let the travelogue continue!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Feline Update

Since they don't get a party this year, I decided it was at least time for an update on the boys. Quincy and Duncan are two now, and not much has changed about them. They remain steadfast friends, which is a good thing since we leave them to own their devices so much this time of year. They supposedly drive Tim up a while while the rest of us are out of town, flocking to him the moment he walks in the door from work, but if you ask me that sounds quite friendly and not at all annoying.

They did have one eventful adventure this year, just recently in May. We were sitting out back on the deck on a lovely spring evening, which means the windows were open throughout the house. Somehow the cats popped open one of the screens to a dining room window in the front of the house, and made their escape. I have no idea how long the window had been open. When I discovered it, we went outside and began calling for the cats. Quincy showed up immediately, trotting from out of the woods. Duncan, not so much. In fact, he was gone for two days. This is a long time, considering that I had seen a coyote on our street just the week before. I really assumed he was gone for good. At the time I was mostly thankful that it wasn't Quincy, because the kids are much more attached to him (this would be because he's the only one that lets them touch him). I felt sad for Quincy, too, who very clearly missed Duncan.

So two days later I come back from a run, only to find that Duncan has reappeared during my absence. I was much happier and relieved to see him than I would have thought (and again, much happier and relieved than either Clare or Danny). We have no idea where he spent his time, though I suspect he simply got lost and was cowering in the neighbors' bushes. Regardless, it feels more complete with him in the house. (And I know Susana will be relieved to read that.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Diamond in the Rough

Thanks to the picture-perfect weather we've been enjoying this week (as in warm but not too hot, and zero humidity), the kids and I headed to the park with friends yesterday afternoon. This particular park (Kidscape for the locals) has a terrific playground that I figured would keep the kids occupied for a while. Which probably would have been the case, had Danny not spied the baseball field located behind it.

The diamond was quiet, so after Danny plead his case, we headed over to check it out. We were without ball or bat, but that didn't stop Danny from stepping up to home plate and asking me to pretend to pitch him balls. After his homer swing, he promptly ran to third base. We spent a lot of the afternoon correcting his running direction, though the example Jason set for Danny was much more worthwhile than anything we told him.

Suffice to say we were there for a while. Clare was a good sport and got in on the action, primarily because Jason and Sarah were there - I seriously doubt she would have stuck around if it had just been Danny and me.

Having finally coaxed the crew back to the playground (one can only throw so many imaginary pitches), Danny walked next to me and mentioned that next time he'd like to bring his bat and ball and glove. Sure thing, buddy - but I will definitely make sure that this is not the only park in the rotation...

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's A Guy Thing

To put it mildly, Danny was happy to see his daddy when we returned from our travels. We all were, of course, but Danny has been the most exuberant about it. He has taken advantage of opportunities to hang out with Daddy whenever possible, like watching the British Open and playing soccer and football. This Saturday he was also presented with the chance to "help" Tim work with tools. Tim decided to wage war on the errant nails on our deck and began to gather the necessary supplies. Once Danny caught wind of this, he immediately asked, "Can I get my tools?" He loves to get his tools when Tim is using anything similar. It's pretty obvious that his dad enjoys it as well (and I don't even think it's because he works for Home Depot).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Old Friends, New Kids

Armed with one last mug of my dad's freshly ground, home-roasted coffee, I figured I would write my final post about our fabulous CA trip on site. Months ago Terri and I synced our summer travel schedules to overlap for a day in San Diego. Since she flew in from Hong Kong with two small children only the night before our reunion, she definitely wins the Trooper Award! She did a marvelous job of masking her jet lag, as did her daughters. Thus we had four mommies who went through high school together (and have been good friends ever since) and our seven offspring. We were minus a couple of other moms and their kids who couldn't make it, but it was a merry gathering nonetheless.

Thanks to Jen's generous hospitality and ideal surroundings, the kids took off and played while we visited, and then we all hit the pool together. We laughed that this pool party wasn't exactly like the ones we used to have on the last day of school, but considering how quickly the hours flew by (and my sunscreen wore off...ouch), we had a ball.

Which is exactly how I would sum up our time here, as usual. After 19 days away from Tim, though, we are ready to head home, at least for a couple of weeks. Ahhhh, summer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sun, Sand and Surf

You didn't think I'd get through a visit to Southern California without a post about the beach, did you?? We only made it to the beach twice this time, but we had a blast both visits. Clare loves the beach without reservation, while Danny has a more tentative relationship with it. However, he warmed up to it nicely, especially by our second trip, which made for an extremely relaxing day for Mommy. And really, that's what it's all about.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Play's the Thing

One of my favorite things about our get-togethers with the cousins is the way their imaginations work together. For example, one morning while playing outside, they held a snail wedding (complete with a runaway baby). Danny is definitely the tag-along, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. But the three girls are a package deal, no matter how many months it's been between visits. This year was different, because we spent the whole time together at Grammy & Grampy's. This meant a lot more hours together, which could have been problematic but instead was idyllic.

By the second day here, the girls decided to perform a play. Of course all three were actors. Katy, at nine, was also the playwright and the self-proclaimed "bosser-arounder." Nicki (seven) took care of security, by way of these notes on the door to the casita (where the top-secret rehearsals took place):

I don't really know what Clare did, other than obey her cousins, but whatever it was took literally hours, which was simply fabulous.

After a few days, it was finally time for the big performance of "My Pretty." Katy outdid herself with the script, with gems such as the following conversation between the two newly-minted princesses Melinda (Clare) and Anastasia (Nicki):

Anastasia: Now that we're princesses, we must always behave with perfect manners.

Melinda: Of course! We're not ruffians!

I mean, where else do you get children's theater that uses the word "ruffians?" There was also the creation of the "witchernet," which is where the evil witch looked up all of her potions. Clever, no?

I'm pretty sure we weren't supposed to laugh at lines like, "I know. It's a bummer." But we did, and they didn't seem to mind. After all, we were all enjoying ourselves. Particularly since the performance took place during Danny's nap. No, that was not a coincidence. Poor Danny.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

They Were American Girls

I've had Tom Petty's song "American Girl" running through my head since we headed up to the American Girl Place in Los Angeles a couple of days ago. Not that this retail machine has anything in common with Petty's song...Anyway, Sara and I decided that American Girl would be our big destination this summer, as opposed to Sea World or the like. Clare, Katy and Nicki were very excited and carried their AG dolls on various and assorted airplane rides, just to make sure they were present for the field trip.

I have to say that our experience didn't really live up to the hype, but that's largely because the L.A. traffic is just so miserable. It took us three hours to get there, and another three to get home (just imagine three girls crammed into the backseat of a car, impatient to get there, one of them starting to feel carsick). Add to this the fact that we almost missed our lunch reservation, and that when we finally got to the mall and were trying to park, we encountered a police blockade (due to a man lying in the middle of the street). Basically it was the reverse of an auspicious start, and I just don't think it was possible to live up to our expectations.

That said, I do think the girls had a great time. We had a fun lunch in the cafe, which provides chairs and teacups for the dolls and tons of food for the rest of us. And the store itself is somewhat awe-inspiring. We were disappointed to learn that the theater has permanently closed, which seems a lost opportunity to me. Then again, most people probably don't make a six hour trip just to visit this place.

While there was a dazzling array of clothes and accessories as far as the eye could see, Clare stayed true to form and bee-lined to the books in every nook of the two-story mega store.

So basically there was a lot of oohing and ahhing, careful deliberation over which outfit to select as the souvenir...and that was it. Before we retrieved our car from valet, where we hastily left it in a panic-induced moment (it happily turned out to only cost $12, the best $12 I have ever spent), Sara and I decided we deserved a visit to Anthropologie across the street, where we each found a cute top. Oh yeah, all right...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Because Golf Simply Isn't Pricey Enough

Much to our chagrin, Danny has found the one sport in the world that unites all of his loves into one activity: balls, sticks, and horses. He has started to hone his polo skills here in Grammy and Grampy's yard, but I'm sure it won't be long before he's clamoring to take it to the next level. All together now: Just work harder, Tim!

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Day at the Fair

Ever since she first read Angelina at the Fair four years or so ago, Clare has been clamoring to go to a fair. Yesterday we finally made it, and it just so happened to be the San Diego County Fair. This is the fair I grew up attending, so I love the symmetry. The bonus of attending with her beloved cousins made the experience all-in-all terrific (even if Danny was also there).

We pet farm animals, ate junk (that's Danny enjoying his first-ever corndog above), rode some rides, and shopped, but the highlight for all of the kids was riding an elephant:

We also found Grammy's painting, on display in the Fine Arts exhibition, but alas they wouldn't let us take pictures. Nevertheless, the kids all filled out "people's choice" ballots in favor of her piece, so we're expecting a phone call any day now!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Out West

Every summer since Clare was an infant, I have done what I have subsequently dubbed the Summer Grandparent Tour. I travel with the kids and visit their respective grandparents for a couple weeks at a time. It's terrific, and one of the many blessings of my life. This summer, for the second year in a row, I have added a Great-Grandparent leg to this tour, taking the kids and I to Topeka, Kansas.

It really is a magical time, where all combinations of family, from siblings (my dad, his brother and his sister), to children (my dad and his parents, my sister and I with our own parents), to cousins (my cousins and my kids' cousins and cousins' gets confusing) gather. But of course it's the great-grandchildren and their great-grandparents that are the central reason for the reunion. Thanks to the generosity of my Aunt Sheryl and Uncle Jeff, who graciously open their beautiful home to us, we once again made wonderful memories. Here are a few highlights:

Friends (and distant cousins) reunited:

All seven great-grandkids together:

The freedom to be a full-fledged boy:

Showering affection on a really big dog:

Channeling creativity to put on a (crowded) show:

Twice-a-day swim sessions (animated by an unpictured Jon):

And fireworks!

There was also a lot of eating (especially Grandma Eddie's cinnamon rolls and Aunt Sheryl's cookies), and most of all laughing. All of which took place at Sheryl and Jeff's house - a sign of a happy home, and a loving family, I'd say.