Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Big 1-0.

Laurel,

Today you turn 10. That’s a tough pill for me to swallow. I can’t believe how far we’ve come in the last 10 years. I remember holding you just after you were born, and whispering, “It’s just you and me, kid.” And that was the truth, then. I could never have imagined what would have happened.

My, how times have changed. And all for the better.

The past year has been downright amazing. It’s been a political year for you; you heard President Clinton speak, and shook President Obama’s hand. You did me proud with your public speaking abilities when you spoke to the Board of Education and blew the nation away when you asked President Obama about his environmental policies.

You participated in Old Newsboys Day, cut your hair for Locks of Love, and performed enough other tasks to rack up 100 hours of service so that you’d be presented with the coveted Triple Crown: the Presidential Awards for Fitness, Academics, and Service.

You ran your first 5K. You told me you planned to grow a unibrow. You racked up seven (7!) Junior Ranger awards at our national parks in one summer. You took to the violin with gusto.

You’ve shown more moxie than most girls your age; a trait that I know will carry you to the highest heights, if you let it.

You’ve given your little brother someone to admire and a high bar to hurdle.

We love you, and we are proud of who you have become. May this year bring even better things.

Happy Birthday, Laurel.

Different Gifts.

Laurel and I often discuss how people aren’t really ‘smarter’ than other people, that just about any given person knows more about something than any other given person.

We all have different gifts. Laurel’s are fairly obvious at this point; we’ve been waiting to discover what Ethan’s will be. We’ve just confirmed one.

Laurel didn’t do this until she had just turned 8; I was 5, and had just finished kindergarten when it all came together. Greg doesn’t remember how old he was.

Ethan is 3:

So this appears to be Ethan’s gift. I’m relatively unsurprised. He runs (runs!) across balance beams at the Little Gym. He surprised us with his ability to ride a scooter. He backs his tricycle into the little parking places on the preschool playground, even when he’s pulling a trailer.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence, anyone?

I would LOVE to know where he got that.

So it’s either natural or a result of us allowing him to tear up the floors in the house with his various modes of transport.

Either way, we’re pretty excited.

Sensitivity Training.

Well, it’s only natural that the way for a progressive parent’s child to embarrass her would be this:

Today while shopping, an African-American family passed us, and Ethan yelled,

“HEY! THEY HAVE BLACK FACES!!!!”

at the top of his lungs.

Of course, this comes just a couple of weeks after Laurel asked a little girl in Sioux Falls, “What percent Mexican are you?”

Looks like it’s time for some sensitivity training.

All-Star Game Day.

We are not particularly rabid baseball fans.

In fact, while I enjoy going to a game now and then it’s mostly just for the atmosphere. It doesn’t really matter much to me who’s playing. I don’t follow standings or rankings or whatever. I don’t really care enough about it to pledge allegiance to a particular team. The Cardinals are pretty convenient though, all things considered, so I’ll root for them anyway.

If you live in St. Louis, you’ve been inundated with All-Star Game information for the past, oh, couple of months. “Don’t go downtown,” they warned, “you’ll never get out, the crowds will be terrible, the traffic will be awful!”

Well, as is typical with me, I decided to ignore them (after all, I hate to be told what to do) and yesterday I took those kids downtown just to see what was going on. Besides, Laclede’s landing was having this big festival announced on its website.

The Metrolink station parking lot was chock full and we had to park on the street and hike back to the station. That was really funny, because when we got downtown I saw there was all kinds of parking to be had, right there in the Arch garage.

Aboard the train

Anyway, while on the train, Laurel struck up a conversation with some strangers, even moving behind me to sit closer to them. After speaking to her at length about sushi, baseball, books, the color pink, and freckles, the dad pronounced her ‘pretty articulate for someone going into 5th grade.’ I smiled to myself, thinking back to what the President told her.

We went right down to Laclede’s Landing to participate in the big festival they were having, with the variety of outdoor entertainment, etc. We got there right at 11:

lacledes landing website LIARS

Those liars. They didn’t have ANYTHING going on down there between 11 a.m. when we arrived and 3:30 p.m. when we left. Nothing. At all.

We veered over to the Arch grounds where I took the kids up in the Arch. It was Ethan’s first time up, and he had a fantastic time. This kind of thing is right up his alley, though he was very concerned about the decorative ropes hanging from the ceiling where we entered the trams. He didn’t know why they were there, and a man behind us joked they were for ‘ringing the bell at the top.’ Well, thanks – then all he wanted was to ring the ‘bell at the top of the Arch’ and when I explained to him that the man was teasing him, he got really – REALLY – angry. ha!

The obligatory Arch photo Sightseeing View from the arch including Market Street red carpetBusch Stadium from the Arch on All-Star game day

Then we went back over to the Landing for lunch. Either I’ve outgrown the Landing or it’s gone way downhill. I was put off by a lot of the restaurants but we finally settled for a deserted Subway located in the basement of a building. The kids didn’t care, they just enjoyed their sandwiches.

He told Greg he had a pickle and apple sandwich for lunch Lunch

Next we tooled over toward the Old Courthouse, which I wanted to see, but we happened upon the beginning of the All-Star Parade, and we were of course on the wrong side of the barricades with no way to cross, so we stopped for a bit to watch THE LAMEST PARADE EVER. Okay, here is how the All-Star Parade goes:

Wait for 5 minutes. Watch a truck go by with an All-Star player in it. Cheer. Wait for 5 minutes. Repeat.

I heard many many people say they were sorely disappointed; they expected the Clydesdales, or floats, or bands, or SOMETHING other than trucks driving down Market Street.

Tony LaRussa's backside in the lamest parade ever - oh no, he'll probably sue me for that Tired boy

You can see what Ethan thought of the whole affair. But no matter, the kids still picked up some freebie toys like fans and thunder sticks (well, Ethan got ONE thunder stick, but that’s probably just as well), and beads.

Finally we walked all the way around the Hyatt to get to the other side of the barricades and into Keiner Plaza where the kids threw coins in the fountains, and whined because I wouldn’t let them play in the water. Then – finally – we made it into the Old Courthouse. The deserted Old Courthouse, I should say. The All-Star Parade is definitely the time to visit the Old Courthouse.

Cardinal nation Stairway in the Old Courthouse Inside the Old Courthouse

After that, we were all pretty much exhausted, so we rode the train back to our car – by this time the train was packed – and returned home.

The weather was gorgeous (I don’t think it even hit 80 degrees), and we all agreed we had a great time… 

…even if we didn’t care much about the game.

Expanding Family.

Before we went on vacation, the kids and I fell in love with Will, a shelter cat on display at the local pet store. We felt it would be unfair to adopt Will before we left for two weeks, so we didn’t take him home.

Well – that, and Greg says he doesn’t like cats. He didn’t want cats, he’d spent too much time cleaning up after his lazy stepmother and her equally-lazy daughter’s cats, he did NOT WANT A CAT (even though they’re easier than that damned dog we own).

So come to find out, while I was off doing my own thing, Ethan asked Greg to take him to the pet store to see the kitty cat and Greg told the kids that maybe after vacation we could see about getting a cat.

And that, friends, was like finding the Golden Ticket.

So on Monday, we went back to the pet store and although I warned them this would probably be the case, I had two heartbroken kids when they found out that Will had been adopted.

Heartbroken.

So we drove all the way into the city to see what there was to see at the Humane Society.

After going in and looking at the cats and some of their histories, a volunteer approached.

“Didja fill out the form?” she asked.

I responded, “Um, do I need to fill out a form to look at the cats?”

“You can look but if you want to visit with any of ‘em you hafta fill out a form, then when someone is available to help you, they’ll come get your form.”

“Um, okay, we’ll fill out the form, then where do we wait?”

“You kin wait out here or in there or wherever, but you hafta fill out the form.”

We filled out the form.

Then we waited.

And we waited.

We went back into the cages and looked at the information sheets for the cats some more, then we went back outside and waited. All told, we waited an hour before anyone helped us.

Now, if you’re a parent, you know what waiting for an hour will do when you have a couple of excited kids (especially a 3-year-old) along. I finally gave up scolding him for climbing atop the planters and jumping off and just let him do it. “F-it,” I thought. “Maybe we’ll get help a little faster if we’re being obnoxious.”

Okay, in all honesty I did the best I could to contain him, but he was excited, hadn’t had a nap, wanted to see the cats, the dogs, to play with them all, you know the drill. I wish I knew how many times I threatened to leave before we got any help.

Eventually a young lady came around and took our form. While Ethan bounced around and tugged on my hand, I told her what we wanted. “We want an adult cat. We want him or her to be laid-back, and as you can see, it needs to be good with kids.”

To her credit, the lady chuckled and immediately named three cats she thought would be good. We visited with each of them at length, and then I asked the kids which they’d like to have.

We agreed.

So then it was time to take him back to the vet for his rabies shot and we had to sit around for twenty more minutes. As you may imagine, these twenty minutes passed in much the same manner as the hour we initially waited. Then I saw them come out with the cat and I went to the desk and sat down for paperwork.

Hooray, another unfriendly volunteer. By this time, I had just had enough. I was ready to call the whole thing off. I mean, honestly, they have all these cats needing homes and then they make adopting one a singularly unpleasant experience.

And then…

Then the volunteer did something that made me completely lose my shit (in a fairly restrained manner, for me) on her.

“Um,” she said, with a pointed look at Ethan (who by this time was doing nothing but standing next to me fiddling with notions on her desk), “You are going to supervise him with the cat, right?”

For about 10 seconds, I was simply taken aback.

“Y-y-yes,” I stammered, “I mean, of course.”

Then I got pissed.

I laughed, a good and hearty laugh, the kind of laugh that gets everyone’s attention.

“I mean, what the hell do you expect me to say?!” I queried. “’Durr, no, I’m not going to supervise my kids around cats?’ I’ve had cats. I’ve had kids.”

Then I gritted my teeth, fixed her with my  most menacing look, and hissed, “I THINK I CAN HANDLE IT.”

She backed off pretty quickly after that, and even told me that my kids were actually well behaved compared to some.

Mm-hmm. I don’t know about all that, but fear will make you say things you don’t mean.

Anyway, this is Lou. Lou is a big fellow, as you can see. And you can also see – just by looking at the photo – precisely how Ethan feels about Lou:

Ethan and Lou

Vinnie does not share Ethan’s enthusiasm, and has followed Lou around for days, staring at him. Lou doesn’t much care, generally flaunting his nonchalance, lulling Vinnie into enough complacency that Vinnie edges close enough for Lou to

—SWAT!!—

at him.

And he does. And Vinnie yelps and runs away, shaken, until he gets brave again.

It’s really quite a show.

Welcome, Lou!

(and I think even Greg is starting to warm up a little toward him)

Recaps.

Busy, busy, busy, lots to do, can’t stop for long, here’s what we’ve been doing–

Vacation:

We learned that mosquitoes outnumber every other kind of wildlife in Yellowstone National Park.

We learned that the state of Colorado does not think much of posting signs informing travelers of which road is at the next stoplight. Further, Colorado does not believe it helpful to refrain from changing road names every few blocks.

We learned that work zone speed limits in Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota are 65 mph, compared to 45 mph in Missouri. Freeway speeds are 75 mph.

We learned that the kids really DO travel well, and that we can take them again.

Independence Day:

Well now, THIS was a whirlwind weekend. We visited family, family visited us, and we blew things up.

fireworks fireworks2 sparkler trails

Then the next day, the kids and I went to Marshfield for a family reunion. Then drove back. Yes, all in one day.

Great Yellowstone Adventure 2009, Days Thirteen – The End!

Loveland, CO – Our family chose to tour breweries in the greater Fort Collins area on Day Thirteen.

“We started at 10:30 a.m., which is apparently perfectly acceptable in Ft. Collins,” Michelle observed. “We were most definitely not the first people at New Belgium.”

After tasting Dandelion Ale along with several other beers, then making purchases, our family admired the trailer and bikes outside and made a hasty getaway for an early lunch at Coopersmith’s.

“They had green chile beer,” Greg noted. “It was surprisingly good!”

“I thought it tasted like the chicken enchiladas verde I make,” Michelle added. “And those are good!”

By the end of lunch, at least one member of the family was certainly tipsy, so it was little wonder that the they drifted over to a science toy shop for a bit. In the shop they met the Interesting Character of the Day.

“He started off with the usual sales schtick, trying to amaze the woman of the family ‘cause we hold the purse strings, but I’m a pretty tough customer,” Michelle noted. “And then when Greg showed he already knew the science behind one of his tricks it was all over.”

He recognized Laurel for who she is, and when Michelle was teasing Greg about the bell curve shirt below, he wasn’t afraid to say something about it.

“See what happens?” he asked Greg. “We go off and marry these independent women instead of marrying women who will follow us around like puppies, and this is what happens. Believe me, I know!”

He was very complimentary and had a real way with kids, knowing when their interest was lost. As it turns out, he taught the gifted at a college prep school.

So that explained a lot.

After enjoying yet another ice cream cone, the family was tired from their excursion and returned to the campground where the kids played on the playground for hours.

Days Fourteen and Fifteen consisted of long-haul driving, with an overnight stop in Kansas. Nothing much to report, no photos taken those days. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Photos of Day Thirteen:

New BelgiumNew Belgium party trailerNew Belgium bikeRiding a fish with a train whistle in Old Town Ft CollinsSpinny Science ToyThe closest we got to a real bearLaurel's new bell curve t-shirt