Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Eternal Piano Recital


Oh but it is that time of year again with recitals all over the place. Thursday, we had the girls' piano recital. Both girls had memorized their pieces (something I was never any good at); two solos and two duets each.


Maggie's duet partner this year was her buddy, Luke, which made for significantly more pleasing practice sessions as he was much less inclined to scold and hiss at her than her sister was last year. They looked pretty darn cute up there to boot.


They all did pretty well with almost no major derailment. At one point in Maggie and Luke's duet, he stopped playing, but Mags soldiered on and they were both nonplussed about the whole thing. I was thrilled there were no tears.

Our complaints of a late ending last year seemed to be, at least partially, heard. The playing and awards presentation was a mere two hours - a new record low. Maggie was additionally the proud recipient of the trophy for most practice time over the course of the year. (For the younger set anyway. One of the teens racked up 550+ hours. Surprisingly, he was really good.) Eion, who had no escape route seeing as Tim was working, was remarkably well behaved. Though that may have had to do with the dsi he was allowed to play. Look, I was just trying to survive.


We stayed briefly for the reception following. Enough time for a cupcake and to make them feel they hadn't been cheated out of the after-party. They only got to bed an hour and a half late; a welcome improvement over the previous year's 11pm arrival home. 

I feel kind of bad every year as I am always a little on edge through the whole thing and don't enjoy it the way I should since it is a school night and we end up out so late. As expected, Maggie and Eion were both tired and irritable the next day but at least Morrigan didn't have a test the following morning like she did last year. We'll just keep hoping, and hinting, that a Sunday afternoon would be a lovely time for this event next Spring.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Author's Tea

I do love the Kindergarten Author's Tea. Set a bunch of 5 and 6 year olds loose to create stories and see what comes of it. In the case of Eion, he wrote a story about his sisters and their relationship with homework, dedicated, naturally, to Tyler, his classmate.



E's story read as follows: 

"First, it was Maggie. Maggie loves homework and it was always easy.

Morrigan is a long story. It is so long you can't even believe it.

She is nine. She hates her homework and cries about it.

My homework is easy as a jiffy. It is so easy you can't believe it.

When I am in second grade, I will say, 'Maggie, do more homework.'

The End"

While greeted with gales of laughter by his classmates, Morrigan decided it was a mean story. I don't think Eion cares. Do you?


Could have been worse. One girl's story started with, "My Mom is getting old." And there was Robert B., E's buddy, who dedicated his book, which was all about how he and Eion play dsi together, to Eion. At one point, Robert wrote that he liked to play dsi with Eion because he beat him all the time. Eion spent the larger part of the weekend refuting this claim.

Surprisingly, Robert gave his book to Eion. I can't believe his parents didn't want it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Boston

After my last post went into some black hole in cyber space, I am feeling a bit insecure about this one. Will it still be there in the morning? Guess I am just going to have to take my chances....

Tim had a continuing medical education conference last week in Boston. Not wanting to be left with the kids, I recruited Mom and Dad to stay with them so I could go gallivanting about town while Tim was working! 

We arrived around noon Thursday with no real plan. But signs all over town informed us there was a Chihuly exhibit in town and we decided that would be our first stop. Having been cooped up on the plane since 6am, a walk seemed like an excellent idea. Once our iPhone GPS failed us entirely and the 3ish mile walk turned into at least six miles, a cab seemed like an infinitely better idea. When we finally made it, however, the art was fantastic.


We also had a very late lunch in the museum restaurant, Bravo, that totally hit the spot. The miles, even through some sketchy territory where all the languages spoken seemed to involve a large number of clicking noises, were worth it.

We then booked a Duck Tour. There is a fleet of WW2 vehicles that have been converted into tour buses. Buses that is, that also double as boats. We went through downtown and then set sail on the Charles River. 


Our tour had a dozen or so 10 year old girls that were having a birthday party. Luckily, they were all outfitted with plastic duck calls. One other couple, upon seeing the other tour passengers, and their noisemakers, set out to get a refund. We didn't mind so much. It certainly took the pressure off when our very enthusiastic tour guide wanted audience participation. The 10 year olds had that covered. 

The next few days Tim was occupied most of the day so I set out sight seeing. Being a mega nerd, I really enjoy historical tourism and pretty much couldn't get enough. My guide for the Freedom Trail came in full period gear. He was with an outfit called Lessons on Liberty and I loved his approach that was less dramatic and more historical. Not surprisingly, his day job was History professor.


I also went to see the Bunker Hill monument (sadly, closed for climbing, making it just a big stone obelisk,) the USS Constitution and the state capitol building. My favorite moments included...

We were below deck on the USS Constitution and I was walking around. The ceiling was rather low but I found I had about an inch clearance and could move about easily. I heard someone behind me comment, "Wow, she's really short!" Yeah but think about the advantage that would have given me on the high seas.

When I went to the capitol building, no one else showed up at the same time as me so I received a private tour. My guide was a darling little girl, who looked to be about 20, and she (I am not kidding here) described the inside of the dome as "wicked beautiful." The restraint I showed by not openly laughing is to be commended.

But you want to know what my favorite part of the trip was? I had a couple of friends from high school living in the area. Now I know many of you may routinely see friends of that era but I went to school at the American School of Paris (like France) and once we graduated, we scattered to the four corners of the earth. Facebook brought us all back together but I hadn't seen John and Alexandra in 20 and 15 years, respectively.


I had a friend question the wisdom of meeting up with those who I hadn't seen in so long, but I knew it was all going to be ok when John sent a message to me and Alexandra about getting together entitled "Let's get greasy." And while that title makes it sound infinitely more interesting than the actual outcome,  it was like the last time we all saw each other was yesterday. Seamless and wonderful, we caught up on what we had been doing since graduation and, for our spouses' sakes, kept the high school stories to a minimum. [Though the one about my drunken call to John's parents after he punched a glass door were worth retelling. "Hi Mr. and Mrs. P! John's had a little accident."] Wonder we are still all alive to reminisce.

The trip was fantastic, if a wee bit cold. (Those Bostonians may have thought it was good weather but they have yet to experience Roanoke in May.) Now we're back in full swing for the end of the year school parties, piano recitals, and general pre Summer mayhem. I am definitely looking forward to things slowing down and reading by the pool.

Fun Day, Fun Hats and Mother's Day

Ok, so every once in a while, I feel I may indeed be losing my mind. We went to dinner tonight and Ann said she hadn't looked at my blog in forever. To which Jerry replied that it was ok since I am a sparse poster anyway these days. Feeling a bit behind, I dutifully came home and logged on to recount the details of my Boston trip. And I found this post in the draft folder. 

Whisky Tango Foxtrot

I am 100% sure I wrote and published this post before we went to Boston last week but there it was, pictures only, no text and unpublished. In my crazy world, I even received a comment from Amy. Whatever. I am clearly losing it and will just go ahead and rewrite it. Hope it turns out at least as well as the dream version.

So Fun Day was a few weeks back. I was the unfortunate parent who had the responsibility of getting volunteers for the 2nd grade booth - Sandy Candy (think make your own pixie stix.) Willing participants were few and far between meaning I was on the hook for most of the morning. The plan was to arrive after the fun run but an early morning call indicating that a booming voice was needed to be the fun run announcer meant a change of plans. Megaphone malfunctions prevented me from fulfilling my announcer duties but the comments I received as I sought batteries for said megaphone confirmed that I was indeed an excellent choice for the position. Most asked, "Why on earth would you need a megaphone?" SO true.


But I will say that in contrast to prior year's events, I had something very close to a fun time. The kids self entertained and at no point did any of them try to leave the school campus. And sandy candy was a very low key place where the kids did most of the work themselves, leaving me to chat with parents. 


After a full and complete Fun Day, I was ready for a nap. A nap that was not in the cards as it was time to clean up and head out to Molly and Webb's Derby Party.


Our host had made the fatal error of mentioning that he hated everyone clearing out right after the race. Being well versed in overstaying our welcome, we remedied that situation directly.


Reports were that we helped make it the 2nd best Derby party they had hosted. We'll have to step our game up next year.


We didn't have big plans for Mother's Day which I consider generally a Hallmark holiday. (Don't worry, I'm not so cold as to neglect to send cards to my Mom and MIL.) And while they had no gift planned, Tim and the kids started painting the deck. Not bad at all.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

There is nothing I like better for Mother's Day than when they ask little kids questions about their Moms and record the consistently hilarious results. Not to mention, Eion's came with this gem of a picture:


God I love that boy's hair. But on with E's view of Mommy.

An Interview About Mom by Eion

Her name is Katie.
How old is Mom? 13 (A very generous assessment. I'll take it.)
Mom's favorite food is stinky salad. (This is actually a wilted spinach-feta salad but I'm not going to sweat the details.)
Her favorite thing to do is work out.
My Mom loves it when I give her a hug or a kiss.
My Mom is as pretty as Princess Leia. (Really, is there a higher compliment coming from a six year old boy?)
I love my Mom because she pushes my bedtime back and wakes me up when she wakes up. (Neither of these things is technically true but if it makes him love me, so be it!)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sedona and Slide Rock

We had originally intended to drive to the Grand Canyon but the eight hours round trip seemed daunting, especially considering the kids' propensity to start picking at each other after five minutes in the car. Instead, we opted for Sedona which was only about 2 1/2 hours.

We are so happy we went. It was stunning. I felt like all you had to do was blindly take pictures and the result was postcard/poster/art quality.


You couldn't help but think of phrases like "God's Country" when looking around here. 


Our destination was slide rock, a natural rock formation that made a waterslide. Tim went there as a kid and was shocked it was still open. In these days of car seats until you are 25 and full body armour to ride a bike, this seemed like something that would be shut down for "safety" reasons.


But fortunately, it wasn't. Maggie, Tim and I were the only ones in our family brave enough to tackle the 52 degree water. 


Not to be a huge baby, but I was perfectly happy to sit this one out. That is, until Tim mocked me into it. "What - did you come all this way for NOT slide rock?" It was fun. Cold, but fun.


After changing into some dry gear and getting lunch, we were headed back. We saw signs for Montezuma's Castle and thought a slight detour might be fun. It was a thousand year old Indian dwelling built into the side of a mountain. It was a quick stop, but neat to see. And the kids didn't have to pay admission.



That night we went to say goodbye to Grandma and get ready to head home the next day. While we had our fair share of kids fighting, getting lost and a little sunburn, the trip went better than we could have possibly hoped. Spring Break, I deem thee a success.

Natural History Museum and Taliesin West

For our next day, we briefly entertained going to a "Ghost Town." The kids liked the idea of panning for "gold" and in spite of the high probability chance it was a tourist trap, I thought it might me good, cheesy fun. Fortunately, I looked a little closer before we departed and saw that it was plenty cheesy and trappy but was also big bucks with each additional "attraction" costing $6 more dollars per person. My favorite was the Bordello (Pictures encouraged!) where the kids could learn about the role of women in the Wild West. 

Uh, no.

But that left us without a gold panning location and a near riot on our hands. A search of the Trip Advisor archives (really, this may be my favorite app when on the road) and we found the Mesa Natural History Museum had such an attraction. Sold!


It really was a nice museum and had lots of fun things for the kids though panning for gold was the favorite.


Everyone was still in high spirits after we finished there so we decided to go to a Frank Lloyd Wright home, Taliesin West. They had three options for tours: one hour, ninety minutes and three hours. I figured we would be damn lucky to get through one hour without another attendee killing the children so we went with the shortest option.


I was positively floored when the kids were good, quiet and attentive the entire time. Seriously, no bs. The girls even said they found it really interesting. Had I known, we would have gone on the ninety minute tour.

But it was probably best I didn't tempt fate. After all, the pool was waiting....

Arizona Botanical Gardens



The kids by the Chihuly sculptures

A botanical garden in the desert seemed a misnomer but all the reviews on Trip Advisor raved about it. Not to mention, we had heard that all the cacti were in full bloom. It was truly spectacular. It made me want to move to the desert just so I could landscape like this.




I took about five million pictures and could have easily spent hours more there. But the kids were much more interested in the butterfly exhibit.




The marveled over the different butterflies and hung around for a LONG time trying to get one to land on them. Only Morrigan had any luck which was near tear inducing for Maggie. She was quickly made whole again when she was given the power to chose our lunch destination - McDonald's, of course.




Some reviews said it was far less impressive when the cacti were not in bloom but if you are out there in late April, this is an absolute must see location.

Though, as ever, our kids were perhaps most impressed with the gift shop. And thank goodness we stopped there so Maggie could get a stuffed animal coyote. Lord knows this family needs more stuffed animals.

Phoenix Zoo



Two out of three of our children have never been to any Zoo other than Mill Mountain Zoo which, when we took our nieces, who had been to the Detroit Zoo and the National Zoo, asked "Where is the rest of it?" As we were in a city with something a bit larger, we thought it would be a great first outing.

And it did not disappoint. It was a large zoo in a gorgeous desert setting. In addition to the standard monkeys, tigers, and zebras, they had a few added fun things the kids (well, the girls) loved. They took a camel ride.


And fed the giraffe. Maggie was put out about his huge black tongue but eventually managed to feed him.


The whole family loved stingray bay. Hell, we may have been there for 45 minutes. You got to reach in and pet the sting rays - all of which felt like velvet. They were friendly enough and seemed to have a sense of humor - occasionally soaking an observer.



I had at least two more things on the agenda for our first day but after about five hours of zoo time, we were fully baked and ready to go back to the hotel for a swim. The botanical gardens would have to wait.

Great Grandma


I don't think I should feel overwhelmed by the prospect of blogging about our trip but I so do. Might have to do with the 500ish pictures I took plus Tim's pictures, plus Morrigan's pictures. Not to mention, there was enough going on that it can't all be in one post, too long for my taste, meaning I have to figure out how to organize my thoughts on the trip. 

Seeing as the draw to Arizona was Tim's Grandmother, we'll start there.


We went to Grandma's for Easter where Tim's only Uncle and Aunt came to visit us. His daughter (Tim's cousin) and her family came from California as well. The kids were excited to meet their second cousins and the lot of them got along famously. 


Grandma set up an Easter egg hunt for them and the kids spent the day eating as much candy as they could get away with (a lot) and playing. 

The adults visited and, in my case, got to know each other. It had been a good 30 years since Tim had seen Shelly, at least a dozen since he had seen Uncle Sonny and Aunt Karen and neither of us had met Shelly's family. The adults got along as well as the kids did and it was a relaxing day.



Over the remainder of the week, we went to sights all around Phoenix. Grandma was invited but said the walking was too much and she wouldn't ride a scooter because it would make her look old. A comment to which Tim replied, "You are old Grandma." Seriously, thick skin is a prerequisite to survival in this family.


But she held firm and didn't want to go on our adventures. So we would visit one or two things each day and then either go to her house or bring her to the hotel for dinner. We would drink beers and watch the kids swim while Tim wrestled with the unfamiliar grill.


When we got back home, Grandma called and told me how she missed us already. Looks like we'll have to convince her to come our way for a visit soon!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Stutter Start

So if you noticed I took a week off, it was with good reason. We took the whole family out to Phoenix. I would have given notice about my absence but while I am all for transparency, I still feel pretty strongly that announcing my house will be empty is generally a bad idea. 

The trip had a rocky start, to say the least. We arrived Saturday morning at the airport at the oh so early hour of 5:15am to find our flight cancelled. Not delayed, but gone. No warning. They had conveniently re-scheduled us for the next day. Seeing as we were expected that day, I, reigning in my considerable irritation quite effectively, asked if we might make it out today. Indeed we could, in seven hours. 

The good news is Roanoke is a small enough town that we could quickly reclaim our vehicle and return home. "You know," Tim said on the way home, "since we're not leaving until this afternoon, we can go to the Bunny Brunch at the Club." This was hailed by all as a banner idea. Lemonade from lemons for sure!


Their Easter clothes were packed for Easter in Arizona but the kids improvised and found other gear, only slightly disappointed at their lack of matchyness. The girls cared little for the Bunny (sniff, sniff) but Eion made up for their indifference with an abundance of enthusiasm. Even though he noticed that, "There's a grown up inside the Easter Bunny!" 


Whichever employee drew the short straw and had to suit up was really into his/her role, high fiving the kids and letting them touch his nose repeatedly. E loved it.

Then it was outside to the egg hunt.


As ever, the lawn was littered with tons of eggs. So many that the five and under crowd, separate from the older kids, eventually tired of gathering them and just left eggs all over the place. A course of action that was much appreciated by my children and the other big kids as they were allowed to swoop in and clean up after wee ones.


After a successful brunch and hunt, we changed and headed back to the airport where this time, we successfully departed for Arizona.