Saturday, August 30, 2008


Here's my beautiful little girl and her lovely flowing blonde hair. This morning it was reaching for her waistband.But she'd been constantly requesting a haircut. "Up to here," she demanded, hitting her ears with her hands. I'm not quite sure what a haircut up to her ears would look like, but I'm absolutely positive I know what it'd look like if we lopped off eight inches and gave her some bangs. It'd look something like this:I'm absolutely certain this is going to be a more practical haircut and that it'll save some of the hassle I have with her in the morning. And the long, long hair really didn't look that good except right after brushing. But it's hard to get used to...

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's an...

Ancient Mew??? Seriously?

Instead of the violently glowing green jerseys Smunch's team wore last year, this year's team got blue. Blue the color of Smunch's eyes, with a big navy-colored stripe down one side. Much better, in my opinion. It's a great color on him, even if it's not exactly fierce or masculine.Although the team color is much improved, the team name could have used a little more parental guidance...also my opinion. And, at the risk of offending Pokemon fans worldwide, I'll concede that it totally bugs me to have the team named after a cartoon character that's already had the hell merchandised out of it. So, Smunch is now a proud member of the Pokemon Ancient Ancient Mew is pictured at the top of the post. Whatever.

Today was the Ancient Mews' first game and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Smunch has improved a ton since last year. Unfortunately, that means he's twice as intense about it. When he's not actually in the game, he can't stay in his seat. Not only is there a constant running commentary on the game, but he's bouncing around the sideline and often onto the field. He's a lousy sportsman, keeping constant, vociferous track of the score.

He scored two goals in today's win against a strange amalgamation of a team...which included two players from the team that was supposed to play, but forfeited (I guess their parents didn't get the message) and a bunch of players from "Shark Attack" (they were navy and white, not blue and red) who decided to stay and play another game after their first one was over. Final score, 7-4.

Pear season

Despite the plethora of different fruit trees in our yard, one thing we don't have is an apple tree. So, as Fall approaches, we look to the weird, straggly little tree on the side of our house. About now, it's heavy and drooping with the most lovely pears you've ever seen. They're a variety of Bartlett, but they have this pretty pink blush to them. Even if you don't like pears, you've got to admit, this is a beautiful specimen!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The first of First

We had a fun time at the baseball game on Sunday, but Monday and Tuesday were pretty challenging days around our house. I was ready for Smunch to go back to school on Wednesday. Really ready. But it wasn't everything I'd expected. I guess it wasn't everything I'd talked Smunch into expecting either.

Here he is, looking all handsome as we leave for school. I went early because I was supposed to be there to recruit volunteers for the undefined Spring Event. I took Smunch with me. Daddy and Mam joined us before the bell rang.Here we are. We're both doing pretty well, although Smunch is starting to look a little concerned. There are an awful lot of kids out here and it's pretty overwhelming for a little guy who's never been to anything crazier than kindergarten.When the bell rang, his new teacher came out. She walked down the line, introducing herself to each of the kids. I was totally impressed that she already knew each of their names. Despite her reputation for being somewhat strict and structured (two things I thought would be good for Smunch), she seemed very nice and I felt hopeful for a good first day. She invited the parents to come in with the kids, take a few photos and then hustle out.Uh oh. I wonder why he's looking bored already. I certainly hope this isnt a sign of things to come. But it's not. Shortly after this, his face started screwing up like he might cry. By that time, I was getting a little teary myself and couldn't get out of the classroom fast enough. I really didn't want him to see me having trouble holding it together.

When I picked him up that afternoon. The most he would say was that his day was "O.K." I knew it meant he wasn't that comfortable, that he hadn't had that much fun, that it was all a little overwhelming. To top it off, he and his friend Jeremy had collided on the playground. He had a red welt in his eyebrow when I picked him up. Two hours later, it was a full on shiner.

But none of that prepared me for Thursday morning. He was in a bad mood that morning and he looked angry while sitting at the kitchen table. I asked him what was wrong. Daddy asked why he was acting that way. He didn't speak. He stood up and left. A few minutes later, I followed him and found him in his room, crying and gasping for air. I don't know if he was technically hyperventilating or not, but he couldn't stop.

I gave him a hug. I told him I understood that first grade could be scary. He said he didn't want to go to school. He was scared. He didn't like his teacher. Lunch recess was too long. He cried and cried. I had a hard time calming him down. Is this what a 6-year-old anxiety attack looks like? Daddy came back to the room too. We finally got him back to the kitchen for breakfast. He didn't eat much. He cried more. Daddy got him talking about baseball. But any lull in the conversation reintroduced sobbing.

It was late when we got him out the door. The bell rang when we were halfway there. The second bell rang as we got to the front of the school. His class hadn't gone in yet. He bravely joined the back of the line. I gave him a hug. He lost it. He was crying again. I told his teacher that he'd had a rough morning, she offered to hold his hand going into the classroom. He wanted Daddy. Off he went. Heartbreaking.

I didn't know until I picked him up, but I think I held my breath the entire time he was at school. When I arrived at 2:20, I finally exhaled when I saw him and he smiled. I tentatively asked how his day went. "Good," he said. "Great, actually!" Thank goodness. Today's drop-off was eventless. I think we're on our way.

Smunch's indecision

It was only a couple of days after our 12-hour drive home from San Diego, but I'd had my eye on a particular baseball game for about a month. The Oakland A's were going to be playing the Chicago White Sox. Since our trip to Illinois, earlier this summer, Smunch has been a die hard Cubs and Sox fan. And the A's? Well, they kinda suck this year. But he's also a fan of any local team...and any team where anyone he knows has ever lived. It doesn't hurt that the White Sox star player is Carlos Quentin...just like Uncle Quentin in Illinois. He brought his White Sox hat, "just in case."

I figured this game would be a great one to go to because he couldn't lose. If the A's got creamed, one of his favorite teams would still win. I had no idea how reality would play out.

Fortunately, it's not hard to get tickets to a baseball game where the home team has no prayer of making the playoffs (my own excuse for tacitly rooting for the Sox). But for any of you who are likely to buy tickets for a professional sports event, StubHub is really awesome. It's a place where you can buy tickets from season ticket holders. They sell the tickets for face value, so they aren't cheap, but they don't rip you off and they're great seats. Ours were terrific.

Smunch and I drove to the nearest BART station and took the train to McAfee Coliseum...which is possibly the ugliest ballpark in the United States. It was "Free Jersey" day for the first 10,000 fans, so we got there early. Thank goodness, because what would we have done if Smuch couldn't have had one of these to swim in?I bought him an A's hat to go with it. I figured if he had his White Sox hat, he ought to have one for the home team.

It's not like I've been to thousands of Major League ballgames, but this one ranked right up there as one of the worst I've ever seen. It almost didn't matter who you were rooting for. By the end of the third inning, it was 6-0, White Sox. And later...I'll let that speak for itself.

Although Smunch got to see lots of home runs and he seemed to be having a good time, he struggled mightily with his love for the A's. The new A's hat kept slipping, rather purposefully, off his head. Finally, he demanded his Sox hat.And from there on out, he kept going back to the A's cap, but it he just couldn't keep it on. The season ticket holders behind us started laughing at the frequent wardrobe changes. Can you say fair weather fan? That might be an understatement.

Despite the misery of the game, Smunch wanted to stay for the whole thing. The A's finally scored a run. Just one. They lost 13-1. When I looked over at the BART station after the game, it was packed, so we walked back to the stadium and we stood in line so Smunch could run the bases. There he is. Out there running the bases...In his Dave Henderson commemorative jersey...dress thing...

Another fond farewell...

As with each summer that we visit San Diego, our week always comes to an end. In some ways, it's just the right length of time. After all, putting up with the three kids constantly racing around supermarkets and 7-11 was a real bear. On the other hand, it's always way too soon. We had so much fun and the kids were so bummed to be leaving their cousin.But it was time to go. We had a yummy pancake breakfast with Aunt Karen, Uncle David and Spencer and we set off...stopping just once for a letterboxing-themed picnic and again for a short visit with Grandpa Ryder in Fresno.

It's nice to be home...even though I hear Spencer is now pointing to every red mommymobile, thinking it's us...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Baseball and more sogginess

Smunch had been looking forward to Thursday all week. Despite the fact that he's not a huge Padres fan (or at least he wasn't) and the Padres were playing the Milwaukee Brewers, he couldn't wait to go to another Major League Baseball game. To make things even more exciting, they had great seats (it was 2 for 1 day) and Daddy agreed to take him on the Coaster (the train that goes down the coast) with a transfer to the trolley.

I don't think the day could have gone better for them. They had great seats in the shade, the weather was lovely and the Padres won, which was a first for Smunch...having 'his' team win. He was on the edge of his seat the whole time.and he was thrilled beyond words by the time he got home. I had to pretend I hadn't looked up the score, just so he could tell me.

Meanwhile, back in Rancho Bernardo...or wherever...Mam and I went to watch Spencer's gymnastics class, then went out to lunch, where Mam met a nice Sheriff who clearly liked little kids. He went out to his car and brought them all deputy sheriff badges. Very cute!Spencer fell asleep on the way home, so he took an early nap while Mam played with PlayDoh and puzzles with Aunt Karen. When he got up, we all had time to go to a nearby park with a terrific water feature. It goes without saying that Mam was beside herself with joy. The wetter she can get, the better...It took Spencer a little while longer to warm up to the whole idea, especially after that nice, warm nap, but in the end I'm sure there wasn't a dry spot on either of them.One strange aside about this park is that they also have a killer playground, but it's right next to the water feature. The playstructure is huge and tall and requires climbing ladders to get to the top of the slides. Anyone see a problem with that? The ladders were somewhat treacherous and the slides, something like water slides. But that didn't stop Mam from going up and down and up and down and up and down over and over...or Spencer and Mam from convincing Aunt Karen that she really needed to go down with them. The slide wasn't wet anymore!

Another "down day"

Well, it was supposed to be a down day, anyway. Having purchased tickets for Smunch and Daddy to go to the Padres' game on Thursday, we thought Wednesday would be a good day to do nothing big. For Daddy, that meant buckling Smunch into the car and going downtown to see aircraft carriers. And aircraft carriers were in abundance this year! Every year for the last three years, Daddy's gone to see the USS Midway, a retired carrier that now functions as a museum. This year, the USS Kittyhawk, the USS Ronald Reagan and another carrier were also docked down there, so it was a virtual military extravaganza for Smunch. I have pictures, but I haven't quite figured out how to get them from Daddy's gallery onto my computer, so they'll have to wait.

Meanwhile, Mam, Aunt Karen, Spencer and I went letterboxing. Coincidentally, the theme of the series we went searching for was military planes, so it was a military kind of day all around. I forgot my camera. Aunt Karen has some photos that she's promised to send my way. I'll post a few when she does. She got some really nice ones.

We made it to four letterboxes that morning, then went back for lunch and Spencer's nap. We had a nice couple of walks - Mam and Spencer actually ran and giggled the whole way on the second walk - and I got to stamp some nice stamps in my logbook, so I call that a successful kind of day!

The main attraction

Today is Smunch's first day of first grade. I had to stick around for quite a while trying to recruit volunteers for the "Spring Event", which is an undisclosed festivity on an undetermined day next Spring. So, I sent Mam on a playdate with her Sarah. Now I'm home. I'm alone. It's weird. I can blog sitting down. The only sound is the whirr of the dryer. Weird. I haven't even decided if it's good weird or sad weird.

Anyway, back to our San Diego trip. On Tuesday, we went for our big trip to Sea World. We'd already played it up quite a bit. We go to San Diego every summer, so we only do one big theme park each year and this was it. I knew one of my friends was in San Diego with her kids, but they were doing the whole shebang...Sea World, San Diego Zoo, LegoLand, Disneyland. Imagine my surprise when we ran right into them first thing when we entered the park!Those of you who know me, probably know I'm not particularly given to shrieking, but exciting surprises bring that out in me. Poor Sonia got shrieked at, right as she was trying to ask the docent a question about Shamu. How rude of me. But how fun to see them! And it was especially terrific to see her little boy Thomas who'd been hospitalized for dehydration from a nasty stomach bug just a week or so earlier. It was great to know he was better and up for this big adventure even after dropping 5 pounds off his little frame.

The kids were absolutely mesmerized by the Shamu show. They couldn't believe just how big killer whales really are. It made me a little teary seeing the whole thing through their eyes. It's so different to go with children for whom this is all so magical.Although we sat at the top of the "splash zone", we didn't get wet at all...making for a very disgruntled Smunch, but happy parents. The kids went on Elmo's Flying Fish ride. Mam still hasn't stopped talking about it. It's a pretty simple, low-key ride, but I think it was a big highlight for her. I rode with her, so the only photo I have is of Smunch and Daddy in their "angel fish".The kids got a little wetter at the dolphin show, but I think it was still kind of a disappointment to them...even if the dolphins themselves were really cool.Then, Smunch got what he really go on one of the "big rides". Sadly, Mam was just a smidge too short for this one, so she got stuck hanging out with me, while Smunch and Daddy got soaking wet.
Instead, Mam got to go handle star fish and later found a way to get all soaking wet all on her own. Fortunately, in a moment of rare brillance, we thought to bring extra clothes. Sea World was almost undoubtedly the highlight of the trip, especially for Mam and me. Daddy and Smunch may have a different take on it since their next two days were pretty exciting too.

Sea World. Outrageously expensive to get in. Worth every penny.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Beach landing

Well, it was a very gentle landing. We spent our first day in San Diego hanging around Aunt Karen's house and swimming in their neighborhood pool. It was mellow. It was fun. But we were working our way up to more exciting things. Our first step to exciting things was a visit to the beach on Monday. The beach is always great and this time I even remembered to go at the beginning of our trip. You know, just in case we needed to go again before we left. The kids have so much fun and I think the adults had fun too! Mam couldn't wait to get in the water...obviously.It was beautiful and sunny. A wee bit too breezy if you were wet...and we all got wet. The kids didn't really seem to mind though. Smunch met another 6-year-old named William, who was easily twice Smunch's size, and they started a big digging project on the beach. The ol' Rec Specs again coming in handy.And Spencer? Well, he thought perhaps sand was the perfect place to practice some yoga and perfect his downward facing dog pose.

Camel Brigade

It's a long drive between our house and San Diego, but with a couple of kids, it somehow becomes more practical than flying. Despite gas prices, it's cheaper. And when we get there, we have our own car and car seats. In theory, I can foist kid stuff off on my sister this way too. I think she foisted more stuff back on me this time. What goes around comes around...or whatever.

It took us almost 12 hours to get there this time around. It seemed like we stopped at every rest stop and tried to make Mam go potty. Fortunately, I made a miraculous discovery, children's books on tape. So, the Magic Tree House, Junie B. Jones and a funny little story called Cal and the Amazing Anti-Gravity Machine, probably saved our sanity. I don't know how I could have missed these at the library before!

Also on our agenda was a special stop at our favorite little park on the Grapevine. I put together a letterbox with the express goal of planting it there. I found the perfect spot and it's even been found at least once already. My crazy little stamping brain is thrilled.

Shortly after planting this box, we found another one along the highway and reached a milestone...100! Yeah, I know. Advertising that I've found 100 letterboxes since December 31st, 2007 probably does nothing for my reputation. School starts in just a few days. I'll chill out. I promise. I think.

The center of the universe is in my house!

A little more than a week ago, I packed up the family and the mommymobile for a trip to visit Aunt Karen in San Diego. The kids couldn't wait for another opportunity to see their little cousin, Spencer, who is finally mobile and verbal enough to really play with them. Or could they?

Friday morning, Mam had the sudden realization that we were leaving for San Diego the next day. Her comment?

"Spencer is going to get to see me again!"

The many faces of Mam

I haven't posted in a while because I have this paranoid fear that if I mention I'm going out of town, all those weirdos out there will figure out where I live and come steal all my stuff. Well...all Daddy's stuff. Honestly, my stuff isn't worth stealing. And I'd live if Daddy's stuff was stolen, but I probably wouldn't live through the buying of even better stuff. You know?

Anyway, we just got back from vacation, so now I feel like I can blog about the whole thing. But before I do that, I thought I'd share some photos I took of Mam before we left. She's such a crazy little girl, but every now and then, she decides to be especially photogenic, like she was on Smunch's next-to-last day of camp.

No, I didn't pose this last one in the least. I'm not sure what I should think about that. Born cheerleader, you think?