Saturday, June 27, 2009

Soccer Girl

My daughter is a fiesty little girl. It's always irritated me that when it comes to sports she's...well, she's a bad sport. She took one soccer class a couple of years ago and loved it. But she was ready to be done and it quickly became something she only played with her brother. And, of course, playing with her brother is frustrating and tantrum inducing.

I signed Mam up for a week-long soccer camp with the idea that it would give me an idea whether to sign her up for AYSO soccer in the Fall. Of course, it turned out that I had to sign her up for AYSO back in April, so camp was useless in that regard. Fortunately, she loved it!She was happy to go every morning, she came home happy, fell asleep fast and slept long.

On the last day of camp, the kids had a World Cup tournament. Mam and her buddy from school were both members of Team Germany. Of course, she didn't bother to tell me that. Apparently, many of the kids didn't really inform their parents about the teams. During the "Parade of Nations" there was definitely an overrepresentation of American flags. During the games, she called for passes...bossily...she ran the field, she kicked the ball. She scored two goals for Team Germany...enough for them to win their game against Team USA. And she was a giant show-off about it. She took the soccer seriously, but not so seriously that she couldn't pose for a picture mid-game.This was probably the funniest moment of the tournament.That's almost the entirety of Team Germany standing in front of the goal. See anyone with the ball? Nope. The other team was at the other end of the field, fighting each other for the ball, with a single member of Team Germany playing offense. Turns out Mam has the same penchant for playing defense as her brother.

What floored me the most, however, was how much her brother enjoyed watching her and cheering her on. He's clearly her very biggest fan. After her second goal, he couldn't keep himself from running out on the field and giving her a big hug. It was very funny and very sweet. When the tournament was over there were more hugs even though Team Germany had hardly been dominant.I knew Smunch was a big sports fan, but what could be better than having your big brother as your biggest fan?

Friday, June 26, 2009

San Diego 2009

As soon as we packed up our camping gear on Tuesday morning, we headed further south, to San Diego. It's become a yearly tradition that we visit my sister and her family there. And the kids' new discovery of Harry Potter audio books, and a Giants game on the radio, made our trip fairly painless. We arrived in the mid-afternoon.

Since we've got a big Disney-themed trip coming up next month, we decided to forgo another trip to one of San Diego's big amusement/animal parks this year and keep our visit mellow. We started out with a visit to the water park that Mam and SPENCER! went to last year.
This time, Smunch got to join us too. Obviously, it was right up his alley.As was the case with much of this particular visit, Mam and SPENCER! ran around like crazy people while Smunch found some older boys to play water war with. It's interesting to see how well the two younger ones get along and how awkward Smunch seems to feel about that. He's often the odd kid out in this group, it seems. No matter, really. It meant that he and Daddy got to take a repeat visit to the USS Midway earlier that day. Smunch loved it and apparently had a great time talking to the docents on board. It also meant he got another trip to Petco Park to see the Padres play. Only this time, they were playing the Oakland A's. It's hard to know who to root for when one of them is your hometown team and the other is the hometown team. Smunch opted to root for the Padres...a decision he may have regretted since the A's did something unusual and won. Daddy says Smunch barely sat down for the entire game. There was a lot of bouncing and some dancing involved, I hear. I'm sure it wasn't Daddy doing the dancing. Here's a photo Daddy got of Smunch after the Padres scored a home run early in the game.Notice how the guy in the upper right corner is actually standing still?

In between those two big events, we decided to use some coupons I'd gotten through the PTA at Smunch's school and went to the relatively new Sea Life Aquarium, which is part of Legoland. You can't miss that it's part of Legoland because although the aquarium is reasonably priced, you still have to pay $12 to park.Well, that and all the aquarium decor is made out of Legos. That might also be a clue.

On the whole, it's a pretty nice place. It has all the newest cool things that aquariums have. For instance, these viewing 'bubbles' make for really funny pictures of your kids.Although it's hard to tell, these bubbles pop you up right in the middle of the water in the aquarium. They're really pretty cool.

It also has a lot of sharks. Here's Mam, inspecting a "mermaid's purse", also known as a shark egg. In real life, you could see a tiny baby shark squirming around in there. And perhaps the centerpiece of the aquarium is an enormous tank full of sharks and rays, with a glass tunnel under it that you can walk through while the fish swim around next to you and over your head. Still, it was mostly just an aquarium. Lots of neat fish, the obligatory jellyfish, some sea horses and funny miniature horseshoe crabs. We were done in less than two hours.

On the way in, we'd noticed some strawberry fields where you can pick your own strawberries, so we picked some berries before leaving Carlsbad. We also picked up a couple of letterboxes on the way of which turned into a fast-paced trek down a hot, dusty trail for Daddy and me while everyone else waited in the van. It was an even faster trek back up the same hot dusty trail when we got a distress call from the van saying that Smunch had announced a potty emergency. Yikes.

Back at home, Karen and I put together dinner for everyone, including a yummy and predictable dessert... and Daddy relaxed with some of the small crowd.Our final day in San Diego had Daddy and Uncle David putting SPENCER!'s new swing set together, making everyone very happy and giving Mam some extra special connection to the Matrix...or something.Seemed to give SPENCER! some unique flying abilities too.The late afternoon was spent at the local pool before Daddy and Smunch headed to the Padres game. They got back super late, but Smunch was still awake and still bouncing, really.

The next morning, we made our annual trek to The Original House of Pancakes for a farewell breakfast, returned to pack all our camping gear back in the van and said our tearful goodbyes.Sometimes it feels like we've really stayed a day too long. This time seemed like at least a day too short. Still, they'll be coming to visit us in mid-August. Feels like that might be right around the corner!

Off We Go!

Just over two weeks into summer and I'm already two weeks behind on the blog. I'm going to say it must be because we're having so much fun. Although maybe it's because I was a scheduling fiend with this summer and we're so booked, it's just ridiculous.

Just four days after Smunch's last day of school, the mommymobile was packed to the gills for our first trip of this summer. First stop, camping at the beach in Santa Barbara.This was sort of a compromise camping trip. I really wanted to go camping this summer, but we have another big trip planned and we always go to San Diego to visit Aunt Karen and SPENCER! Three trips in one little summer sounded like an awful lot, so I decided to combine the camping trip with our road trip to San Diego instead. Yeah, I know. And you're right.

Summer in California has so far been kind of chilly this year and Santa Barbara was no exception. The day we arrived was lovely and since there's no keeping the kids out of the water, that was a good thing. And, compared to our trip to Burney Falls, the whole thing was really rather balmy. It certainly didn't snow and being outside wasn't unpleasant, even if it wasn't always sunny and beautiful.

As soon as we got our tent set up, we headed down to the beach and the kids had a blast in the water while I looked around for likely spots for tidepooling the next morning. There aren't really tidepools there like there are in Monterey or Carmel, but there were some rocky areas at least. After an hour or so at the beach, it was getting windy and we headed back up the hill for dinner.Fancy dinner with hotdogs, baked beans, salad and corn, followed by s'mores. Yummy. Then, the kids and I headed out to watch the sunset at the beach while Daddy tended the fire. Turns out, you can't really see the sunset from this beach at this time of year. It sets over the little peninsula to the north, but it was still pretty out there and we got to watch groups of pelicans diving for food in the least when the kids weren't busy seeing how far they could throw rocks into the ocean.After breakfast the next morning, we did head out to the tidepools, such as they were. And even though there were no real "pools", there was plenty to see. I always consider it a successful tidepool trip if I see a starfish. There were plenty and they were big ones!There were both purplish ones and orange ones. I just didn't post any of my orange starfish photos. There were also plenty of beautiful anemones out there. The kids were thrilled to touch them and feel how their tentacles sucked their fingers. I, on the other hand, went to work trying to capture the beautiful color.On the way back to the campground, we discovered this cool, nasturtium-covered trail off through the trees.We took a quick trip into Goleta and did a little letterboxing around the historic Stow House there. There were some neat birds to see in the fields around the house and we were moderately successful in finding the three boxes. We went back to the campground for lunch and then back out to the now dreary-looking beach for the afternoon. Fortunately, kids don't seem to care what its like out there. They kept themselves busy digging trenches in the sand and watching the tide come in and fill them up.As my mom always said. The amount of dirt on a kid is proportional to the amount of fun they've had. I'd say Mam had a pretty darned good time.The highlight of the trip...well, sorta...actually happened the second night after the kids were all snug in their sleeping bags and Daddy and I were relaxing around the campfire. There was a rustle in the bushes up by the tent. I'd heard something similar the night before, but I'd been inside the tent and didn't get out in time to see what it was. This time, I was armed with a big Maglite and I flipped it on. Just as quickly, I flipped it right back off because I'd clearly seen the critter up there by the least I'd clearly seen the fabulous plume-like tail...magnificently fluffy and black, with white stripes.

I still can't imagine what we'd have done if a skunk had sprayed our tent. Of course, the skunk wasn't concerned in the least. In fact, it turned out that the skunks in this particular campground are pretty fearless around humans. I suspect it would take stepping on one to make it spray you. And I almost had that opportunity. Because, there wasn't just one skunk. There were several skunks. No sooner had that one ambled off, than two of them appeared on the other side of our campsite, scampering along together, zipping under our picnic table to see what we might have left them, then playfully heading toward our chairs. I froze. I looked at Scott. He wasn't even there. He was already 10 feet away. But I was frozen in my chair and a couple of rambunctious little skunks were having a playful wrestling match around my feet. Yikes.

Oddly, I don't have any photos of these events, so you'll just have to take my word for it. The best I could do was this cute little ground squirrel who posed so handsomely for me the next morning.Cute, huh? And not at all skunky looking.

All-in-all, it was a successful trip. We forgot the dishtowels, but there were plenty of beach towels. We temporarily lost the kids' toothbrushes, but eventually found them. We all slept well, despite the squirrely skunks and ate well, because well, I know that's one thing I can do to make Daddy feel a little less like he's being dragged out into nature with no amenities at all! We brought the kids' scooters, so when they were bored, we could have them take a lap or two...or three...of the campground. Fortunately, there were lots of other kids around too. Assuming they don't go and close our state parks, I think there's a good chance we'll be camping again in the not-too-distant future!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

No More Pencils...

This was the look on Smunch's face as he walked out of school on his last day of first grade. This wasn't exactly what I was expecting when I brought the camera, but it's probably the look I deserved for trying to preserve his last minute as a first grader.

It was so much harder than I'd expected it to be. Maybe it's because I was the room mom this year. I got to know his teacher pretty well. I was in the classroom a lot. I talked to all the parents so I kinda knew everyone. I knew all the kids well enough to have opinions about all of them...and to have corrected my errant first impressions of some of them. Smunch made new friends and so did I.

But maybe it was how much Smunch grew this past school year. Naturally, I don't mean he's suddenly tall. That sort of growth isn't his strong suit. He just changed so much. It's hard to believe he was the kid who really, really didn't want to go to his second day of first grade after being completely overwhelmed on day one. Gosh, I still get teary re-reading that entry. That second day? That was the last day he said he didn't want to go to school.

He quickly made a best friend...something he'd never, ever had before. And his teacher wasn't so scary after all, even if this wasn't quite what Smunch had in mind when I asked if I could take a picture of him with her. He started off the year playing with a group of other first graders in the sand box, but by the end of the year he was playing "shoot out" with a group of 3rd graders every recess. (I don't know what that is, except that it's vaguely basketball-related.) They autographed his T-shirt before the last day of school. So much for the big, scary playground and lunch recess that was too long.

Despite having very obvious struggles to speak in class, when I was there and the teacher asked for volunteers, his hand always shot straight up along with those of all the other kids. And he didn't hesitate to speak, even if it was hard for him to get through whatever he wanted to say. And it changed him outside school as well. My kid who wouldn't dare go to a counter and ask for a cookie or ice cream, even when he had the money in his hand? He now brings his own money to swim class and goes and asks for his favorite cookie when he's done swimming. And at the bowling alley last week? When they didn't have the ball he needed, he not only went up to the counter to ask (they keep the light balls back there), but when the guy wasn't at the counter, he went and tracked him down!

He's getting so independent and has gained so much self-confidence. He's happy. He's looking forward to being a second grader, but psyched to have summer first...even though he doesn't know a single kid going to any of the camps he wanted to go to. They're mostly sports camps, so he's not going to care.

And then there's that. How many kids can sit through a baseball game? Sure you can make them, or at least tolerate the fidgeting, but how many of them are actually riveted to everything going on? That kid loves baseball in ways I can't quite begin to fathom. So, the NHL playoffs ended yesterday. He can tell you who won, but it's not a big deal. And the NBA playoffs are going on. He doesn't seem to care. Hey, Michael Phelps is swimming in a local swim meet. Couldn't care less. But he couldn't sleep tonight, not knowing the final score of the SF Giants game. He's going to drive some poor woman crazy someday.

Until then, he's seven and Mam is five and it's summer. What could be happier?

Friday, June 12, 2009

A New Family Moves In

For quite some time now, I've noticed there's a phoebe who likes to frequent our front yard. It likes to sit on the side of our garbage "corral", flicking it's tail as though it's a wee bit nervous. I'd noticed it, but hadn't paid it any particular attention. Phoebes are kind of neat little birds, so I was happy that it stuck around and it never really struck me that this might be the same bird, day after day.

That is, until we got home from Park Day on Monday. I don't remember now what made me look up at the peak of the roof over the garage. Maybe it was the telltale peeping coming from up there. But looking up, there was clearly a mud nest attached firmly to the house, under the overhanging peak of the roof.And from that nest, there was a faint peeping. I didn't have a clue what kind of nest phoebes make, necessitating an immediate trip to the ol' bird book. Yes, indeed, much like swallow, phoebes make nests out of mud. It didn't take much investigating to confirm that our phoebe...which is almost certainly twophoebe parents...has a brand new family living above our garage.

I feel honored. I also feel like I need to remember to pull the mommymobile into the garage from now on...knowing that the phoebes like to sit in the tree in the driveway when they're not out hunting for food. No wonder it was such a mess!

Another Day at the Park

Although Mam was done with school, there was just one little item of business left on Monday this week. Park Day. Our family has been at the same preschool for three years now and I think I've posted about Park Day each time. It's such a fun time for the kids, although I have to admit that after three years, some of the same old, same old is getting a little ho hum for me. Such as the giant, inflatable worm that eats and then poops children.Obviously, Mam is having a grand ol' time. I think she ran around in circles being eaten and then pooped at least a dozen times before she abandoned the worm for the bouncy house carousel.

I'm not complaining. Although I was slightly bored, it was fun to watch Mam run around enjoying all the different things. This is actually the first year she's gone all by herself. Smunch has always been there with us before...two years ago as the graduating preschooler and last year as an afternoon kindergartner who had a free morning to join us.

This year, the bubble station was of particular fascination. I think she went back several times, even though I urged her on to some of her other favorite activities.She had fun throwing rings around floating critters and getting to choose a prize for no real accomplishment in particular.She had a grand ol' time fishing with a magnetic and picking a prize for a fish successfully caught.She got a balloon animal. In typical Mam-girly fashion, she requested an orange snake. But, at the next station, where she had her face painted, she duly requested a pink unicorn on her cheek.She dug for buried treasure in buckets of sand and added a pile of trinkets to all the junk I was already trying to juggle. Too bad I won't be at this event again, or I'd write myself a big reminder to bring an empty bag with me...a bag for all the things I will surreptitiously try to sneak into the garbage can in the next month or so.

Mam also paid a visit to the "pocket lady" and picked out her favorite prize of all...She ate popcorn and Otter Pops. She visited with all the friends she ran into. In general, it was a very happy time. Of course, it's also a time for bittersweet goodbyes. Here she is with her favoritest teacher of all.Because Mam was enrolled in two preschool classes this year, Mam had six teachers and as far as I can tell, she loved them all. Looking at the sweet photos of her with them, I realize I loved them all too. I didn't full appreciate why some of my friends were having such a hard time with their youngest leaving preschool. Sure it's a little sad, but they're going to KINDERGARTEN! Maybe part of my excitement has to do with the days when I didn't think she'd ever make it to kindergarten. Or maybe my friends were just more sad because they'd had more years to absorb what a wonderful place this preschool really is. The director can be a little strident at times, but her love of children is unsurpassed and her ability to hire fantastic preschool teachers is really unbelievable. Not only have we never had a bad teacher there (and we've had 11 different ones in 3 years with the 4 classes the two kids have been in), but the teachers don't leave either. Although these are teachers who probably see 80 kids every week, they always knew who she was...including many of the ones who weren't her teachers. Even the office staff knew Mam by name...long before they knew my name, I might add. And they have a way of making you feel like you'll always be part of their family, no matter how old your kids are.

In so many ways, it's a magical place. I hope Mam looks back on it that way too.