Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Grave Adventure

Since her exploration of Forest Lawn in Buffalo, Clare has been eager to visit Oakland Cemetery here in Atlanta. After a week that began with some nasty wet, hot and humid weather, Friday presented us with not only a day off from school, but some glorious fall weather. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out. And while Danny does not share the same historic interest in cemeteries, his extreme enthusiasm for Halloween made him equally game. (As this post recalls, Danny has actually been here before. This time he at least had the grace to wear normal clothes.)

It was a unique way to get fresh air, and just a change of scenery in general. Clare had a lot of questions about graves and monuments, though not so much about death itself. Danny remarked that he wished he was buried beneath one of the monuments, which prompted us to inform him that he would then be, you know, dead. "But you would, too!" His grasp of death is definitely hazy, at best, and I don't really feel like correcting it right now.

We concluded with an alfresco lunch on the rooftop of Six Feet Under, a restaurant across the street. Hopefully it's not too macabre of us to spend such a pleasant day in or near a "graveyard," as Danny insisted on calling it. Then again, it's Halloween weekend...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Scarecrows In The Garden

Danny has been hit the hardest with vacation withdrawal. Sure, Tim has been less-than-enthusiastic about returning to work, and I've not been thrilled to resume laundress/chef/chauffeur duties. Clare has had plenty to keep her busy, not the least of which was her Brownie troop campout last weekend, so she's adjusted the smoothest.

At any given moment over the past few days, Danny could be found reminiscing about our trip or longingly planning for "next time." His teacher informed me on Tuesday that he had been a bit emotional. When I asked him about this, he indeed teared up and told me he just wished we were back at Disney. I had to maintain a pragmatic air and explain that we would all love to still be on vacation, but that it's time to readjust and settle into our daily routine. Inside, though, I really felt for him. What's not to love about having both parents around all the time, everyone in a good mood, and adults primarily following the kids' lead on what to do?

He made it through the remainder of the week a bit more chipper. Nevertheless, while the house is still in disarray from the painters and there are plenty of errands and chores for me to do, I decided that we were in need of a Fun Friday. The weather has been absolutely stunning, and since I've intended to visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden's annual "Scarecrows in the Garden" exhibit for the past five years or so, this seemed like a ripe opportunity.

Danny was totally game, and fortunately so was a fellow CKS mom whose youngest is Danny's age. We had a terrific time and saw a lot of funny, well-crafted scarecrows. Not surprisingly, Danny's favorite was the knight, contributed by Medieval Times.

As we were using the restroom on our way out, Danny commented to me, "Can we come here again? I like this place! I mean, it's not as fun as Disney, but..." A Botanical Garden employee happened to be washing her hands at the same time and burst out laughing. (I suggested she use his comment in their marketing materials.) It was funny, but also exactly what I hoped to achieve with him today. Nothing will top Disney World for a long time, but as long as he realizes we can still have fun, we're in good shape.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween, Magic Kingdom Style

In addition to gorgeous weather, October proved to be a fun time to visit Disney because of a special event at the Magic Kingdom: Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. We had received word from multiple friends before us that this was a worthwhile event, and Donna and Larry were kind enough to buy the tickets. The kids packed their costumes, and after a day at Epcot (and a good nap for Danny, Daddy, and Mommy), we trekked over for an evening of festive fun.

Disney may not be the least expensive place in the world, but I really do think you get your money's worth. The decorations were excellent, the crowd control was awesome (as a ticketed, after-hours event, we were able to nearly walk onto several rides), the parade and fireworks fabulous. Best of all, there were trick-or-treat stations scattered throughout the park!

Getting ready to brave the Haunted Mansion ride. They did really well!

I think Clare and Danny really enjoyed wearing their costumes around the park, too. Danny met up with more than a few other Star Wars characters, but I'm fairly certain Clare was the only Laura Ingalls Wilder on campus - which was just fine with her!

This was a special event that really capped off a magical vacation. It was our second-to-last night at Disney. On our last day, while Donna and Larry headed home, the four of us hit Typhoon Lagoon, one of the two Disney water parks. We were pretty sure we'd love it, and we were absolutely right. However, it being a water park means no photographic evidence. But I'm fairly certain that the Storm Slides have made their mark on Clare's memory, while Danny loved the Ketchakiddee Creek's shooting water guns and raft ride.

If Tyhpoon Lagoon hadn't closed at 5, I don't know how we would have gotten them out of there. We were a wiped out bunch as we headed back to the hotel, but we also needed some dinner. Tim decided to see if we could get a reservation at the Wilderness Lodge's upscale restaurant, Artist's Point. I had read that they featured a kids menu, so we figured it was worth a shot. Tim gave the kids (mostly Danny) a little speech about how it was important to be on their best behavior in this particular restaurant. It was late, they were could have been a disaster. Instead, they were marvelous. They politely colored, chatted, kept each other amused, and we ALL enjoyed a truly delicious dinner. A wonderful end to a vacation none of us will ever forget, and a reminder of how blessed we are in our children and our family.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dining with Character(s)

One thing people impressed upon me as we planned our Disney trip was the importance of dining reservations. This is something I may have taken a bit too lightly overall. Fortunately, I did make it a point to schedule some of the coveted meals with characters.

The first was dining at Cinderella's Royal Table, within the castle itself. I had hoped to make this a girls' meal, with Clare, Donna and I enjoying a meal with the princesses. Sadly, despite scheduling this more than three months in advance, I was only able to secure a reservation for two. So, off Clare and I went. Given that her princess mania reached its zenith about three years ago, I wasn't sure how excited Clare would be about this meal, although she had told me she wanted to do it. I'm so glad we did, too, because we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Clare beamed broadly for her photo with every princess that strolled through the restaurant, so much so that it was hard to choose which photo to post here. (I ultimately chose Belle because Clare has decided that she is her favorite, given that Belle loves to read so much.) She was thrilled with the wands they dispersed. Even the food itself was a pleasure for both of us (Clare got to decorate her own cupcake!). It was a very nice opportunity for us to get some one-on-one time and revel in girly pleasures.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew headed over to The Crystal Palace for a buffet lunch. I chose this place primarily because it was also located in the Magic Kingdom, and I could get a reservation within five minutes of our princess lunch. The Crystal Palace was going to feature Winnie the Pooh and friends, something I feared Danny would pooh-pooh (ha ha) given his anti-Mickey stance. Fortunately, a jaunt on the Winnie the Pooh ride prior to lunch, after which Danny declared, "I have to do that again," made me feel better about the plan.

Rightfully so. After feasting on flank steak and other buffet delicacies, Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore came calling, all of which Danny happily reported to me when we met up after eating.

We had one final character meal on Tuesday morning, which was Donna and Larry's last day. We headed over to 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian for a buffet breakfast. In addition to some excellent food, we got to visit with Mary Poppins, the Mad Hatter, Pooh and Tigger. Larry was probably the most eager to see Mary Poppins, and that's about all we'll say about that...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What's a Pirate's Favorite Resaurant?

As we embarked on our seven-hour drive to Orlando, we quickly learned that Danny claimed to really not like Mickey Mouse. He decided that Clare could look at Mickey, go on Mickey rides, etc., but, as with princesses and any other "girly" thing, he had no interest. I think he associated Mickey with being babyish, a distinction he was eager to distance himself from.

Once you enter Disney, it's sort of hard to avoid the Big Cheese. Both Danny and Clare delighted in the "First Visit" pins they received upon checking in to the Wilderness Lodge, pins which prominently featured MM. They squealed with delight over the bath towels arranged in the iconic mouse ears shape. In fact, finding this shape in the wallpaper, manhole covers, etc. became quite a game for them throughout the week.

Nevertheless, I was a bit surprised when Danny selected a pair of mouse ears to wear. I made the offer to the kids based on my own sentimental childhood memories of wearing mouse ears around Disneyland each time I visited. Clare eagerly accepted, choosing a cute pair of Minnie ears. I really thought Danny would opt for a different sort of hat, but he quickly zeroed in on a pair of pirate ears. For both kids, the ears and the "First Visit" pins became like uniforms that they eagerly wore every single day. In fact, they even wore them on the long drive home.

The ears were a great talking point throughout the parks (and an easy way for people to learn their names, which we got stitched onto the back). Danny's in particular elicited a fair amount of attention, including from our breakfast waiter one morning. We were dining in the Whispering Canyon, the lively sit-down restaurant in our hotel. Our waiter was full of silly jokes that the kids found hilarious, and his slew of pirate jokes has made a lasting impression on Danny. Who has likely already informed anyone reading this what a pirate's favorite restaurant is. If he hasn't, just wait until you see him.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Map of the World

Seymour genetics are teaching me that an appreciation of maps is an inherited thing. When it comes to directions, I definitely prefer the step-by-step instructions that Google Maps provides, whereas Tim just wants to see the map. I admittedly do not have a great sense of direction. Perhaps looking at a map would assist me here, but regardless I am not drawn to them.

Clare could not get enough of the maps at Disney World (nor could she ever get enough information about us about our plans for the next minute, hour, day - the girl likes to know what to anticipate). Each park has its own map, and she was determined to have her own copy of each. Probably because she sensed Tim's reluctance to hand over the map each time she asked to see it. Donna found this quite humorous, having spent 43 years with Larry refusing to let anyone else handle "his" maps.

The above shows Clare studying the Epcot map. This is a place that, despite two visits, feels like we left largely untapped. Clare could have spent several more hours wandering the sites (and shops!) of the World Showcase - and we all could have gone on Soarin' a few more times!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wonderful World of Disney

Here's a photo dump of our magnificent and magical family vacation. Stay tuned for a few anecdotes and memories.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's A World of Laughter, A World of Tears

We're getting ready for our trip to Disney tomorrow. We've been on the countdown for weeks (months, really), and the excitement has really been mounting around here. In fact, Clare's threshold for thrills was put to the test the past two days, because not only was our big vacation so close, but they were also starting "work stations" in her class this week! She truly couldn't contain her excitement for either one. Is it any wonder her teacher was gushing to me about her?

I am admittedly unabashedly boasting about Clare right now, but I feel like I have a good reason. The past few weeks have given me several opportunities to be proud: the impressed parents complimenting her after playdates and a sleepover; the carpool mom who loves the influence she has on her daughter; and the teacher who is so clearly smitten with her. I try very hard not to take these qualities in Clare for granted, but at the end of the day I know I do, and I know I'm often way too hard on her. Such is the relationship between almost all mothers and daughters, no?

This afternoon cast Clare in yet another impressive light. In the midst of planning and preparing for our vacation (I'm certain the U.S. Military could teach me a thing or two about preparing for troop movements), I nearly forgot that I had scheduled the orthodontic evaluation that her dentist recommended. Although knowing that it was right before our trip, I've also been in pre-baby mode and wanted to go ahead and get the appointment on the calendar. Of course, since I forgot I also neglected to tell Clare about it. When I picked her up from our carpool's house and informed her, she was a tad cautious but generally seemed fine when I assured her that they were simply looking at her mouth.

I don't know if either one of us was prepared for the conversation that accompanied this look at her teeth. The progno$i$ for her mouth is a combination of overbite, crossbite, and then whatever it's called when your front teeth are pushed up and out - the result of sucking her finger for 7.5 years. A thumb-sucker myself for far too many years, I knew the time would come when we would need to kick the habit. I even nagged at her occasionally about it, but never really had a strategy for the issue. Enter Dr. King. She had a terrific approach with Clare, asking her age-appropriate questions, showing genuine interest in her, and also speaking directly to her about her mouth and what we needed to do about it. The first step: stop sucking her finger. An addendum to this step: lose the lovey, which for Clare is her beloved Annie Bear.

It was at this point that I expected Clare to lose it. As I watched her absorb everything the doctor said to her, I could see that she was making a decision within herself to be a big girl, not cry, and above all was going to make this happen. There may have been a few tears in her eyes, but she was determined not to shed them - at which point I nearly lost it myself. Danny flat-out did, crying to me, "But Clare loves Annie Bear!"

There are two items that somewhat explain Clare's determination. The first was Dr. King's order that to keep her distracted from trying to suck her finger at bedtime (about the only time she does), she should read books. As many as it takes to fall asleep. No arguing from mom or dad. Truly a best-case scenario as far as Clare is concerned. But if that was the carrot, then the stick was the news that followed. If she fails to stop sucking her finger, the doctor will have to insert a metal device on the roof of her mouth that will poke her finger if she tries to put it in there. Clare has made it clear she wants nothing to do with this.

As I write this, Clare is reading in her room. She very casually tossed Annie Bear to me while we were packing Danny's clothes for the trip. She spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening sharing stories from her school day, joking around with Danny, and just generally acting completely normal. Totally composed. Sometimes I think she should be the head of our house. She is awesome. And by golly, we're going to Disney World!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Finally Fall

Cooler, more seasonable weather has finally arrived after a miserably long and hot summer, so we hopped on the autumn bandwagon with gusto! We could not have asked for a more picture-perfect fall day for our annual outing to the pumpkin patch. As we drove up into the North Georgia mountains region, Tim remarked that our pumpkin patch outing is among the most consistent things we have done as a family. I think we all equally appreciate it, too.

Once again, we headed to Burt's. Bedecked in their finest Halloween finery (i.e. t-shirts and socks, with the addition of various Silly Bandz and one pirate eye patch), Clare and Danny hopped out of the car ready to find the perfect pumpkin. After the initial pass-through, we opted to take the hayride before grabbing a wheelbarrow and truly getting serious about the selection.

Both kids were very intent on finding not only pumpkins for themselves (Danny was particularly vocal about the fact that he was getting his own), but also wanted to find a little pumpkin for the baby. Which quickly extended to one for each of the cats as well. Then the bizarrely shaped gourds caught Danny's attention, so soon we had a full wheelbarrow.

As it is a considerable drive to Burt's, we decided to add to our festivities and hit one of the many nearby apple orchards. Frankly, this might have been a bit too ambitious, or perhaps Burt's was just a lot to live up to. At any rate, we did pick our own apples, which will probably go down as the most expensive bag of apples we'll ever possess or consume. I think the kids thought it was fun, which is really the point...right?

All in all, it was a fun family outing in line with the many previous years of similar activities. As always, it concluded with the ceremonial placing of the pumpkins on the front porch. (Danny later went out with some markers and drew a face on his pumpkin. He has been really into the seasonal decorating, costumes, and stories this weekend.) It's fun to review these pictures in our photo albums from the past few years...and exciting to anticipate next year's addition to them!

Friday, October 1, 2010

How Else Is He Supposed To Practice Being a Cowboy?

(Quincy is fine, I promise. If he hadn't immediately extricated himself, I assure you I would have helped. But yes, my first instinct was to grab the camera.)