Thursday, May 31, 2012

Best Zoo Trip Yet

Based on a recommendation and our desire to keep trying new sites, we headed to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo. We're still at the point where there aren't too many attractions that really work for the five of us, but a zoo fits the bill. And this one was fantabulous!

After a beautiful drive over the Sunshine Skyway, an engineering marvel that spans a huge chunk of Tampa Bay, we arrived on a day that proved to be blessedly overcast for much of it, and rather deserted in terms of crowds. Which means we had prime views of all animals, including this Clouded Leopard:

And this very large Burmese Python which Danny would go on to insist, all day long, really wasn't that long:

The zoo had a terrific layout, enabling us to wander from one cool exhibit to another, including an underwater manatee and turtle viewing area and this stingray petting pool (she loved it and would have dove right in):

Thanks to the lack of crowds, we walked right in to a sit-down restaurant for lunch, where our table was in front of a window offering prime views of giraffes, zebras and elephants. After refueling, Clare and Danny took a camel ride, during which I am told they pretended to be in Arabia:

We saw a lot of animals, and I will not bore you with photos of all of them. We also enjoyed easy access to rides, which were pleasantly included as part of admission to the zoo. In addition to a flume ride, kiddie coaster, and airplane-like ride, we hit the carousel, for what I believe was Laura's first time:

(She is riding a manatee after getting bumped off the cougar for Danny, who was intent on riding a predator.)

Clare and Danny were definitely in the zoo zone, enjoying every single experience, including brushing goats:

Everyone walked away with a different favorite animal - alligators, rhinos, spoonbill stork (?) - but we all agreed it was awesome!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sarasota Jungle Gardens

We're trying to branch out on this summer's visit to Sarasota, particularly since we were fortunate enough to be here a few weeks ago for spring break. And so we present today's excursion to The Sarasota Jungle Gardens.

When we first mentioned this plan, Danny was less than enthused. I imagine he pictured actual gardens, rather than the true attraction: reptiles and birds. As he is currently fascinated with wildlife, most notably snakes, he quickly changed his tune.

We spent the first hour exploring the gardens, viewing macaws, birds of prey, turtles, and even lemurs. Eventually we found our way to the flamingos, which you are welcome to feed. At first, Clare and Danny were a bit startled by the flamingos' familiarity:

Soon, though, they both warmed up to the friendly birds:

Meanwhile, Laura enjoyed walking around as though she owned the place:

From here it was time for the reptile show. Danny was thrilled that it featured a Burmese python (aptly named Lucky), which have become somewhat notorious in Florida and about which he has seen and learned a lot on Nat Geo Wild. He and Clare were able to pet both Lucky and a baby alligator named Tinkerbelle:

Later, both kids got to hold Oliver, a bird whose type I do not recall:

All in all, it was a terrific outing full of hands-on fun. So much that it resulted in this:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, May 25, 2012

Paging Mr. Banks

Yesterday, the first day of summer vacation, Danny solemnly informed Tim of "the summer rules" regarding electronics: computers, iPads, etc. would be available only during Laura's nap. Tim laughed and told Danny, "Mommy likes her rules, Dan." And it's true. I really, really do.

I like structure, and routine makes my heart soar. Which is probably the biggest reason I dread summer so much, aside from the heat. I find myself nodding in agreement with Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins, singing "The Life I Lead":

A British bank is run with precision
The British home requires nothing less
Tradition, discipline and rules must be the tools
With out them disorder, catastrophe, anarchy
In short you have a ghastly mess

I realize that's a bit histrionic, but I can't help what pops into my head. If only babies respected rules and structure. For the third day in a row, Laura was awake before 5:30 a.m. Which means she's currently taking a morning nap, despite being of the age where she really should have outgrown it (the photo above was taken at the trail yesterday, where she fell asleep at 7:15 a.m. due to her early awakening). Which also means the TV is on. So...let's go fly a kite?

Ah, summer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Field Day Redux

After my first foray into Field Day, I wasn't really planning to do it again. It was exhausting, and repetitive for we volunteers. Of course, it was partially exhausting because I was about six weeks pregnant with Laura at the time. Anyway, when the annual call for volunteers came along, I decided that since this was Danny's first Field Day, and also the only time he and Clare would share the same one, I would participate.

Lucky for me, I got paired with a mommy friend, so running the cups stacking station for 3.5 hours wasn't as painful as it could have been. I was certainly ready for it to be over, although since Field Day is also the last day of school, my feelings were very mixed. (I was relieved to discover, though, that I wasn't the only mom not relishing the end of the school year.)

Clare and Danny clearly had a blast. And both wound up going home with friends after school, which is awesome not just in giving me some quiet time while Laura naps, but more importantly because it ends the school year on such a positive, social note. Yes, I dislike summer vacation because, as Clare put it, I have to 'deal with' them all day (yeah, I said it). But I also miss the camaraderie of the CKS community - and that is something I definitely do not have mixed feelings about.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Clare's Literary Life

A couple of weeks ago, Clare returned from a sleepover at one of her BFF's determined to start a business. The girls had opened a shop of sorts, selling bookmarks and bracelets, and she was still riding the entrepreneurial wave. Thus was born CMS Books. Now, being nine, Clare starts a lot of projects that don't necessarily reach fulfillment. So far, though, CMS Books is more than a flash in the pan, as I received a signed book for Mother's Day, and other books have been written for gifts, too.

I think she was also inspired by their last project at school. The third graders spent months writing and illustrating chapter books, complete with dust jackets. They presented them at an Authors' Tea yesterday, where they dressed as the main character of their book. Surprise! Clare was an "old-fashioned" girl. (And surprise! Laura was a bit of a menace, but charmed the audience with her hat.)

Rounding out her literary adventures of late was Clare's first foray into the Battle of the Books, a competition for 3-6th grades. Over the past several months, the students and their teams (generally four kids) read from a list of 24 books, preparing for the competition. Clare's team emerged victorious and went on to represent CKS for the third-grade level at the archdiocesan competition, featuring 16 schools. They didn't win, but acquitted themselves well and were truly thrilled to be there. Clare was her team's spokesperson, and I got to watch her in action since I was the chaperone. Needless to say, I was very proud.

Clare's current career goal is to be an author. I definitely think she's well on her way!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Whole New Level

Smiling, sitting up, walking. Those are the milestones we coax and urge, and relish in their achievement. We recall at what age each child is when they do these things, mark it in the baby book. Sweet memories that will give us teary pause on graduations and wedding days.

Some of those skills, though, take on a life of their own and lead to destruction, defiance, and tears. Particularly when there are older siblings involved - older siblings with stuff. And so it is with The Menace and her new - completely self-taught! - skill of climbing.

Tim and I noticed this weekend that Laura really enjoyed being on the ottoman. I humored her and set her up there with me while I was around to protect her. When I was ready to move on, or at least not keep my arms hovering, I set her back down. She protested loudly. Then she got quiet, and started playing with pillows. Or so we thought. Turns out she was piling them up to help her get up on the ottoman by herself. (Tim has likened her to the sharks that grow smarter with each generation, potentially outsmarting the human race. In other words, he thinks we're screwed.)

Yesterday, she opted to climb in the playroom, using the chairs to get up on the table and cause mass destruction to Danny's various LEGO creations. Unfortunately for me, he was home from school with a tummy ache and thus witnessed it. Suffice to say he was brokenhearted. She had already taken to randomly opening drawers she wasn't quite tall enough to peer into, and blindly waving her hands through them to see what she could grab. Now she has the power to boldly go where her infant self had never been able to, and the remorselessness of toddlerhood to wreak havoc at every turn.

Nothing is safe. I don't even know where to tell Danny to put his stuff. I guess his room, which shall forever be under lock and key (or at least closed - she can't turn doorknobs yet, but I have seen her try to figure it out). But then she bats those (icy) baby blues, giggles when Danny wrestles with her, and we forgive her yet again. Wouldn't you?

Friday, May 11, 2012

So Ugly They're Cute?

Sort of like Birkenstocks, Crocs inspire debate as far as their attractiveness goes. I will tell you that I detest Birkenstocks. I will also say that, while I own a pair and find them handy for things like taking the garbage outside or watering plants, I do not wear my Crocs as regular footwear.

Yet, I think they're perfectly acceptable for kids, especially little kids. They have been Danny's chosen shoe for about four years now, particularly in the summer. When you have pudgy, Flintstone-like feet as he does, flip-flops are just not comfortable. Crocs are the perfect thing to throw on when headed to the pool, or the beach. (I still do not validate them as appropriate footwear on Easter Sunday, but I have already explained that particular situation.)

Laura is now following in her brother's footsteps. I picked up a pair of bright pink Crocs from Target, thinking they'd be great for the pool this summer. I tossed them in my shoe basket in the kitchen to keep them handy. Indeed they are handy, so much so that every morning after she gets down from her high chair, Laura beelines for the basket and hands me her Crocs, one at a time. She loves them. She clearly associates wearing them with heading outside, but even if we don't get to do that she wants to keep them on. If she sees them in her room from her crib, she points to them expectantly and will not be satisfied until they are on her feet. To a lesser degree, she is this way about her other pairs of shoes, too. I guess she's an accessories girl. To which we repeat the never-ending refrain: Just work harder, Tim.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spring Scouting Report

The spring soccer season has just concluded, with what I believe was another victory for the Cosmos (they still do not technically keep score). I know that it was a winning evening and season for Danny! He scored often, passed well, and has developed a sense of the field that demonstrates how far he's come as a player. I think he's still got his heart set on trying football in the fall, but we plan to encourage soccer now that he's starting to really get it. (Note that I have sworn not to have one of those two-sports-simultaneously kids. We'll see how quickly that unravels...)

Being a Friday night game, it was a whole family affair, marking Laura's second game. She generally enjoyed herself and showed an appreciation for some great plays - or at least an ability to clap when she heard other people clapping, even if it was for a completely different field.

Meanwhile, swimming has continued full speed for Clare, who is now winding down the Swim Atlanta season and will soon start the summer season for Vinings Estates. Her interest hasn't wavered, I'm pleased to say. I guess we Seymours have a sporty side after all.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Accessory to Living

At 16 months, Laura hasn't really adopted a lovey yet. (Sidebar: Danny long ago replaced that killer whale with a chihuahua that Tim and I find annoying - we're just not dog people, particularly cutesy little dogs. But Danny has a deeply-rooted devotion to this thing, so we let it ride, but admittedly snicker at it behind his back.) There are about four items that have been in her crib for several months now, and sometimes she takes notice of them, and often she ignores them.

There is one thing to which she does seem consistently attached: beads. The girl loves her beads! She's not content with just one or two necklaces, either - she methodically goes to the cabinet and retrieves all of them, painstakingly putting each set on and often declaring, "ooooooh!" once she is finished. She then carries on with her business, be it wandering around the house, running errands, or riding in the stroller.

Looks like we might have a Southern belle on our hands.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Danny Faces Off to Age 6

"Finally, I am free from age five!" Dramatic words from our lovable, hilarious, and, yes, dramatic Danny Boy on the morning of his sixth birthday. Evidently it's not fun to be one of the last kids in your class to turn another year older. But finally he has reached this great milestone, which we kicked off in grand style with his party on Sunday at the Sandy Springs Fun House.

The (in)famous Fun House is packed with a laser tag arena, big indoor playground, bounce house, and arcade games. What more could you possibly ask for, right? Maybe more photos, but that didn't happen, so use your imagination and enjoy views of his beloved hockey cookie cake and a cheesy pose with Parker.

For his actual birthday, I decided to surprise him at school by bringing Burger King to him for lunch. As Laura and I walked the halls headed to the cafeteria, we learned that Clare's team was the big winner for the 3rd grade Battle of the Books. She was definitely flushed with excitement, and I am so delighted for her! They get to move on to the Archdiocesan finals next week, so she is furiously preparing (she is her team's spokesperson). Adorable!

The day's delights continued as Danny was thrilled to see us for lunch and enjoyed our company immensely. During the lunch hour, to get the kids to quiet down a bit, the teachers had the Kindergartners sing a couple of songs from their upcoming musical, and then the First Graders sang the song from their class mass. Charming, all of it, especially because the kids were so proud to sing. Meanwhile, Laura strutted around, proud as a peacock to be hanging with the big kids and have them so interested in her. (I did feel a touch bad for the little girl who had a bag of Cheerios, which Laura definitely thought should have been hers.)

We spent a somewhat rare afternoon at home, chilling out and, in Danny's case, watching "Miracle" for the umpteenth time. We then enjoyed Papa John's (the lamb on a stick dinner was Sunday night, as that's a difficult feast to prepare on a weeknight) and Death by Chocolate. Yes, that's right, Danny eschewed the traditional cake in favor of this white trash dessert. Though, he did get a hockey cake out of the deal, so I suppose he wanted to feel well-rounded.

And, of course, presents. He had already received a generous assortment of gifts from the party attendees, and then on his actual birthday he opened the gifts from the family and met every heart's desire. While he tore through them at warp speed, I could tell he was genuinely thrilled with each one. The hockey gear did top the list, though, and when he put it all on he was very pleased with the outcome. We were pleased for him, too, but as Tim said, "He's really starting to look like a big kid." Sigh.

Happy, happy birthday, sweet boy!