Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Whistler Bike Park

More of these pics can be found here.

One of the last times that we took the bike up to Whistler, Thomas was riding a little wooden bike and gathering all sorts of attention from the big riders all around us. He was a little attention magnet, and it was very cute to see him confident in his little skills even around the experienced riders decked out in their full body gear and heading up the mountain. This time, Tommy came packing his big boy bike, and was eager to try out his growing riding skills. I was eager to check out the bike track that we'd passed by on one of our last visits, where there are jumps of various degrees set up for the jumpers.
It was amazing. Thomas went up the big starting hill, then looked down and decided he'd better just walk his bike down. After a bit of fiddling around in the puddles and on the little trail beside the jumps, we could see he was inching his way back up towards the starting hill. With determination in his step, he climbed his bike back up the starting hill, as the rest of us watched with part awe and part fear...or maybe that was just my mama heart pounding away in my throat. I was his cheerleader, though, and as he stood up there gripping his handlebar, I cheered him on with total confidence. At the same time I was praying that this would not be the day of his first broken bone.
And off he went. You could almost see him talking himself into it, and then we was off, too quickly for us to grab the video camera or shoot the big shot. I think we all figured he wouldn't do this, not this big jump for the adults. Down he went, then up the side of a jump, hitting two feet of air before landing it and heading down the backside. We were screaming at him by now, laughing and clapping our hands. He rolled through the valley between the two jumps, headed up the steep face of the next jump, but didn't have enough momentum to take the lip of it. He then tipped the bike and rolled with it down that same face he'd just went up. Oh, you can bet we were cheering for him. We know he didn't have a clue that he was going to do that jump when he took off. He hadn't realized he was going to actually hit air and "jump" when he went down. And he had no clue what to do with himself once he'd cleared it. He just went with it and let the bike take him where it wanted to. Thankfully he held on tight, thankfully he had the presence of mind to land the jump and thankfully when he didn't make the second jump he rolled with his bike instead of panicking. It was perfect. Other than a spoke stick in his knee from the slide down the jump, he was unhurt and proud of himself. Funny thing was, several groups had stopped their trek towards the mountain to watch him. Rhonda told me she could hear them chatting away about this "little dude" and that they couldn't believe that he did it!
John has also posted pictures of Tommy at the skate/bike park. When we got there, Tommy took a look down and didn't like that he was going to have to share the area with the other bigger riders. He took one look down at the layout, listened to me when I assured him he could go down there as well but would just need to be more watchful of others, then dropped down into the midst of the ramps and jumps of the park. It was so great to see this little boy watching the big boys, then gradually build his own confidence up the more time he spent peddling around them, through them and with them.

You might wonder what Cooper was doing all this time. Oh, we pulled out a new wooden bike for him and John put it together in the hotel room. His legs are just a tad bit too short, but he so wants to ride. While I was filming, dear Rhonda was pushing him around on it, then actually took him down into the bowl to ride with the big boys. It must have been back breaking, but she kept after it, swooping him up onto the ramps, then laughing with him as they swooshed down again. On one particularly steep ramp, she got him up, but lost traction and they toppled down the slope. Of course, Cooper came up smiling, still wrapped around the bike. I have that one on video, too, so that will be fun to watch. He also slid down the big dirt jumps on his butt and played in the mud puddles, as well as sat on the ground and made rock sculptures.

Watching Tommy race around the park, I had a lot of different things rolling around in my mind. His confidence in himself was a delight to see, as well as the thought he put into it before he headed down. His skills are impressive at this age, and I can only imagine how they will grow in the coming months. He was the only little boy riding around, though, amongst older boys and adults. I don't have a lot of good experience with skate parks, skater kids or bikers in general, and I have to balance his love of riding with my fear of that particular "culture" embedding in my son's life. Also, as I watched the big kids taking the jumps and flying their bikes through the air, I could only be thankful that this year is not the year that I have to worry about Tommy taking flight like that. I realize that it may be in his future, and that I have to be okay with the inherent risks of being a boy, but I was thankful that this year the only air he caught was big, but not not yet death defying! Wait until next year and the story may be different. Check out the flckr photos John included!

Tommy's Preschool Graduation 2009

It's supposed to be a moment of pride, a moment of joy and celebration for all that you have accomplished. You bask in the glow of your achievement and stand in awe of the adulation from the loved ones in your life.

Yeah, not for Tommy. Not this graduation at least. Let's hope that his next graduation plays out a little different. He wouldn't sing, wouldn't sit up on his chair, interrupted Teacher Kathy to whine about a different balloon he wanted, then mortified me even more when he proceeded to crawl under his chair and hide.

I'm sure I will post more about his preschool accomplishments....AFTER I laugh off these pictures!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

40th Birthday Surprise

I have been thinking about this day for months. How can you not? It's a 40th! So it had to be good, and it had to be done well. Back last fall I was thinking about it. Late in the winter I was thinking about it. What could I possibly buy him that he didn't already have or didn't want in the first place? What could I do to make it special? I tried to buy his love by sending him down to Florida to a triathlete training camp where the big tri guys train...this was after Brad somehow talked him into turning 40 AND doing an IronMan in the SAME year! Who wouldn't want to get away from it all for a week of sun, training and big time athletes? John!

I thought about taking him away for a night in Seattle. Then I realized he'd probably want to hook up with Brad and they'd plan, scheme and map out IronMan stuff for hours. Nope!
I thought about taking him on a float plane ride to an island getaway at some romantic resort. Then I realized that float planes crash more often than big jets. Nope!

I figured the best I could do was Whistler, and although I wanted some time away, just the two of us, I knew quite well that he is most happy when he has us all together, as a family, entertaining and spending quality time the four of us. So with that, I started trying to map out a plan. Rhonda offered to watch the boys for the first night, then take the kids up and over the border to join us for the second night. I thought that John would enjoy a night out to explore Whistler without the pressure of entertaining the boys, but wouldn't be so keen on being away another night without them. Rhonda was willing to take a day off during her week to help me with the boys while I planned to whisk John away as a surprise, then drive them up the following day. But what car would I take? How would I get John off of work without him having a ton of appointments with families and needy kids? How would I arrange a hotel without John seeing the VISA account or something coming through online?

I called up his boss and first asked for permission for him to be gone for those days. Then we worked out a plan to clear his schedule. And knowing he is no dummy, she thought to get HR into this by drafting up a letter for him to attend a mandatory training. She pulled his other co workers into the scheme, too, just to make sure they were all in on this "training" that he was going to. Once that was settled a few months before, I let it go as John and I then had to focus our energies on planning Tommy's birthday, our big trip to the Caribbean, then Cooper's 2nd birthday. There was little time for me to think of much else, really.

Once all that partying was over, I really felt the crunch. I wondered about the plan after John surprised me with an anniversary trip up to Vancouver, wondering if this would be too much. I couldn't stop now. I had no other plan. A few weeks before, I checked in one more time with his supervisor, Martha, who assured me that they were all still on board and that he was planning on going to the "training". Rhonda helped me book the hotel on her credit card, which was not easy for me, as I was trying to get two different types of rooms for the two nights, as well as get it on some sort of discount so John wouldn't be disappointed at the cost. Of course, I couldn't figure out his hotwire methods, so full price I paid. I figured that it was worth it for a 40th, right?

A week before I realized that if I didn't do something on the day of his birthday, he would probably realize that something was up. I thought about maybe just getting us together for a local dinner in B'ham. That just didn't seem good enough to keep him off track. Meanwhile, every chance I got I was slowly trying to get laundry done, as I had to pack the boys up for Rhonda, get their stuff ready. I also had to figure out how to write a letter to get them over the border without a parent, find passports for them, and make sure everything was ready so all Rhonda had to do was pack them in the car. Oh, and try not to let John realize what I was doing. I wanted the boys as safe driving up as I could get them, so I agreed to let Rhonda use our Pilot, but decided against using her car. I didn't want to risk breaking down half way up there. So, I called up the rental company and reserved a car for the three days. Anyway, it had to be bigger than just dinner, so I called up Robin, called up Brad, got the Lawrences to commit, and tried for Stephen as well, who shares a birthday with John and would probably be celebrating with Barb. Initially, it looked Stephen would not be able to attend, but surprisingly Robin thought they could make it work, despite their crazy, hectic schedules. Brad assured me that they would attend, regardless of Erica's recent surgery, and advised on the time in which to set the dinner for. I texted my friend Larry, who replied back to my inquiry of a family place in Everett. "Scuttlebutts", he replied. "No, Larry, not a strip club! A family party!" I snapped back to him. But ultimately I trusted him with this supposed waterfront brewery half way for those coming up, and halfway for those of us going down. Rhonda agreed to pick up the boys after work, and take my car, and I would get a ride from John. I told John that I would be taking him out to dinner for the night and that Rhonda was watching the kids for us.

Over the weekend, Stephen surprised me and let me know that they would all attend, including Donna, Annika and Kevin, as well as Gillian, who would be flying in from New York that day. With those numbers, after talking it over with Barb and Lil, I decided that I'd better get the side room, although very expensive to reserve. I just didn't think we would all fit and I didn't want to worry about us not sitting together in a dining room. John and I ended up getting to leave early, but he was on to us all. He knew something was up, but just couldn't figure it out. We shopped at the outlet malls, and I anxiously watched the time. Jenny was texting me the whole time, notifying me when they had passed the outlets with the boys following with Rhonda behind! It was exciting and sickening at the same time. Getting lost down in Everett made it no better, either.

Turns out, it was a wonderful, wonderful night together. The kids all yelled surprise from various hiding spots in the large room we had to ourselves, and we all enjoyed good food and great fellowship together as a family. And everyone was able to make it. It couldn't have turned out better. Better still was my belief that just maybe John had been surprised enough to be put off the trail of the bigger surprise awaiting him. Phase I of my birthday surprise was complete!

My initial plan was to pack John up, get to his work before him, then race for the border. A few days before, it became clear that it wouldn't be such a quick getaway. I couldn't pack his electronics or his toiletries without worrying I'd miss something, as well as the letter we would both need to sign together authorizing Rhonda to take the boys up to meet us. Rhonda, Cooper and I took off for the car rental, telling John that Rhonda was watching Cooper for me while I attended a quick meeting at DCFS. John took Thomas to school. The car rental went smoothly, however, they upgraded me as I am a sucker for their sales pitch. I was almost sick driving over to John's work, wondering how this was all going to turn out. Martha and Tracy took me back to their office, and we settled in to wait for John. Jenny texted me that she had just seen John in the preschool parking lot and was now following him down Lakeway. It was a long 40 minute wait. Then he didn't even come in to his office area, but went quickly down for his "training". Martha had to go chase him down, telling him to go back up to meet with one of his "kids" that was having a bad morning. He spied me as he walked up the stairs, a look of confusion and/or complete shock on his face. It still wasn't making sense to him, and it took several explanations from his boss to understand he truly didn't have training and that it was all a set up. He was free to go!

I had warned Rhonda that John might not be willing to leave the boys. I had a nagging sense that he'd want them along. Sure enough, he thought it would be fun to take them up for the full time to get the most out of our vacation, so I quickly called Rhonda up to tell her to get things ready, we rushed to the car rental to turn the car back in, then headed for home to finish packing. It didn't take Tommy but one guess to determine where we were going together as we picked him up from preschool. And then off we went! Whistler!

Thanks to EVERYONE for making John's birthday dinner down at Scuttlebutts so special. Your time and energy to make it there was so appreciated by us! Thanks again!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Day at Sea before hitting the Panama Canal

Today, the boys are starting to feel the time away from home. Cooper is disgruntled, but no fever, so we are a bit more at ease about his health. Tommy is missing home, and asking for his "Fluffy", even coming to tears over his misery. He asked, "Do you think Rhonda has found him and is taking care of him?" We assured him that while Rhonda was at home she would surely be taking good care of his animal friends. He was definitely missing home. We tried to watch the show tonight, but Tommy only made it through half of it, and Cooper is having none of these shows. Today John and I just traded places with the boys all day, and it was again almost too hot to enjoy. Cooper is stuck like Velcro to "da-da" and that is very challenging for John, not to mention exhausting.
This afternoon, the Captain came over the public address system to tell us were were about 30 miles off the coast of Columbia. It's strange to be that close to another country, especially one with a less than savory reputation.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Tour of Kindergarten for Thomas

Unlike Kindergarten registration, this scheduled tour we did not forget. Probably because every day one of us would remind the other about it. Thankfully, I did not have to be in court this afternoon, so there were no distractions, and Lil graciously agreed to listen for Cooper while he napped.
I checked in with Teacher Kathy last week about Tommy's progress this year. We missed his scheduled teacher conference date due to our quarantine back before the trip, but Kathy told me that she was so thankful we had missed that week, as that had been the most sick class week we've had all year, and even she got sick. So, the report she went over with me was wonderful for us to see. Tommy is right on track to start school this fall, and doing very well in school. He does seem to dislike group work, and she has noted that she needs to focus on giving him more individual time to learn. He said to John the other day that he hates circle time. When I've watched him, he gets frustrated with the chaos around him, with kids juggling for attention, yelling out things at random time, and the loud activity. He has to be "first" with the answer, and of course there is always someone yelling out stuff, so he gets frustrated and shuts down. I will make note of this with his new teacher, and can hopefully work through some of this with him.
Today, although excited about walking up, Tommy played a bit shy about the actual process. He hid behind John's legs for some of it, or held on tightly as we moved through the school. I could see that he was very curious about it all, but tentative at times. Ms. Hubner called all the children around for a story, including the "kinder-friends", and I had to encourage Tommy to have a seat. Once we stepped out of the room, though, he stayed back from the others but participated throughout. He was interested in the library, and wanted to check out a book before leaving. It was also great to see pictures of John as a little boy lining the hallways. They have kept record through the years, and the pictures of older classes line the walls. There is a class photo of John dated October 17th, 1975. He is such a cute little boy in the photo. I laughed, telling John that I was 12 days old when that photo was taken! Too funny!
I think there is some hesitation with this whole idea of Tommy starting school, of starting the long process. On one hand, we are excited about the activities and adventures this will bring. On the other, we dread the time lost with him. We enjoy him so much, enjoy our days with him, the time we can share together. We are thankful that here we still have half days, so that our afternoons can be spent playing with each other, visiting with friends and just "being"...We don't necessarily do grand things throughout the day, but the option is still there, the freedom of knowing if Grandpa wants to go out for an afternoon sail we can join in. If we want to go play, or go for a hike, or just sit around the beach...we can. Tommy is out of preschool this week. After the news of swine flu rampant last week, we decided at that time just to hang low this week and see where the ride went. Now that it has died down, I do not regret my decision to stay home. I have enjoyed easy mornings with the kids without the frantic hustle of getting ready for school. I have enjoyed my days off with the boys, enjoyed the lack of scheduled running around. And I won't hesitate to do it again if it happens again. I love any reason to keep my boys with me. It won't take much. My time with them is too short to waste one moment.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Our story from Curacao-Easter 2009

We were well rested on the morning we arrived into Curacao! What a beautiful sight that awaited us! It's Easter morning, and before the we could set up for the Easter bunny's presentation, the boys were up. Grandpa Bruce had smuggled Easter treats onto the ship, so I tried to distract Tommy with a search in the bathroom (it's as small as a tight closet!) while John frantically stuffed the HAL bags we received from the ship. At one point, Tommy called out, "Dad, don't scare off the Easter Bunny! He's a good guy!"
When he finally "found" his stuff, he looked at it, then said, "Oh, this is just the stuff Grandpa told me he was going to feed to the dolphins." He had spied the goods at SeaTac airport and that was Grandpa's cover story. Such was the Easter Bunny festivities this time around. We tried...
As we wandered down for breakfast and coffee, we could see that people were already off loading, eager to get on with their own adventures. It was HOT-HOT, the kind I have so rarely experienced, so with the boys we were in no hurry to hit the beach. We also weren't too sure of ourselves on this island, with no definite plans for the day. Again, it is very expensive to travel out to the farthest, and yet most beautiful and desolate beaches of this island, and with Cooper being so little, we didn't want to take a chance with taxi travel and hours in a hot ride. Making our way off the ship, we quickly decided to take a short taxi ride to Kon Tiki, now named La Cabana Beach. There were no seat belts in this taxi van, so the boys, specifically Cooper, enjoyed the adventure of sitting like a big boy in the back seat of this van. After an enjoyable ride through the streets of Williamsted, Curacao, we arrived. There we paid three dollars to enter the beach. Then we were free to wander what is actually three beaches...Mambo Beach, La Cabana Beach and Lion's Dive...each broken up only by restaurants that flowed out onto the beach. We selected a couple of lounge chairs down the way a bit, then took a look around. When you look around, you don't expect to see topless-ness...at least I don't. Then when your eyes do see something that looks unfamiliar, you look again...and sure enough, those are uncovered, uh, well, uncovered...well, apparently you don't have to wear a top on La Cabana Beach. It made changing Cooper easier, as I wasn't concerned about his bare butt when all around were bare boobs!
You really needed to stay in the water to have any hope of keeping cool. The sun was scorching at mid day, and out of the water it was almost unbearable. I say "almost", as I had to remind myself that only a few days before I was complaining about rainy snow on my early morning run. I could NOT complain, however hot I was. This turned out to be an issue for us, though we didn't see it coming until much later. Cooper fell asleep on top of me on the lounge chair. I moved him to his own chair, under a palm tree. We shared this palm tree shade with others on the other side, so there was nothing unusual about this. It was pretty sweet to see your baby fast asleep in the shade of a palm....until, minutes later, a very large, very green, very heavy coconut drops down but an inch from this baby's precious little head. People were shocked, stunned, and quickly moved away from under this palm. John was pretty shaken by this, as we could only imagine what would have happened had this heavy thing hit Coop smack on his head. (To those keeping count...pink eye and falling coconuts!) Cooper woke up after being moved from under the tree, but it was so hot by now we decided to call it an afternoon and trek back to the ship. While packing up and getting ready to leave, I could see that Tommy was only half-heartedly getting dressed and drying off. I tracked his eyes, which were watching a group of young ladies a bit away from us. Of course, 2 out of the 5 were topless, and I could only imagine what Tommy was thinking about this, and it was almost if he was trying to figure this all out. In my head, I was begging him not to say anything. He didn't, and continued getting dressed. I chuckle about it now, thinking that if we ever return to this beach on another trip, it will certainly be something to take into account.
Straight off the beach into the Zuiderdam pools! Then quickly to the afternoon Easter Egg hunt in the ship's huge theater. Quite a treat to be hunting for Easter eggs in a theater! At some point we even managed to eat that day, too! Hamburgers fries eaten out by the pools was standard for us. Nothing beat their hamburger and fries! Pizza came in second, not to be outdone by the ice cream at nearly every meal! Tonight I had a special treat in that Lil watched Cooper so that I could join the others out for dinner by the pool. What a treat that was, too. Cooper seemed to be fussy that night, so we were a bit concerned. Even more so when at 2 am he woke up crying and fussing. He was on fire, and quickly we took his temp. He was running a 102 fever! What do you do at 2 am, on a ship, heading for the Panama Canal? Do you call up Bruce? You can't look up anything online like you would at home....for such symptoms for heat exhaustion, heat stroke, things that come to mind after an exhausting day in the hot, hot sun. We gave him a dose of Tylenol, then one of Ibuprofen, stripped him to his diaper, then waited, and waited. Once the fever finally started to sleep we too fell back to sleep, hoping for the best for morning.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Pictures from Aruba

Tommy and Bruce heading out for their sub dive on the Atlantis Submarine.

The Jolly Pirates was a tour that I originally researched and thought by their description that Cooper wouldn't do so well on. Of course, the pictures they publish online are of a few people hanging out on the sailboat and kids jumping off the side by their rope swing. Click on the picture to see a bigger view of the individual pic. Look at this CRUSH of people. This would NOT have been a good thing for us, now would it? I'm thankful I did not join this "three hour tour, three hour tour!"

Beach shacks like this colorful one were typical on the high rise section of Aruba's coastline. Of course, this was also where the best beaches are in Aruba and the cheapest by taxi. To get to less crowded beaches, the taxi fare out would have been as high as $40 dollars a person to get out there.