The closest to Normal (Illinois) that I've ever been.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Sam

For Sam's birthday, we went with Sam's TaeKwonDo class to the City Museum in St. Louis. It just gets more and more awesome! They finished the roof area, which includes a giant dragon slide, a ferris wheel, a giant mantis and an incredible view.

Believe it or not, no one fell in!

The view!

Sam and Katana, one one of the rare occasions that they were standing still.

I spent most of the day following Joseph around. He is a pretty good leader. He is very decisive and leads us through every nook and cranny of the museum, but he makes sure that I can keep up with him.

The caves.

Sam got some awesome presents, including his first chemistry kit. Sam was delighted at the prospect of becoming an evil scientist.

The theme of this year's cake was droids versus arthropods. Sam requested Texas sheet cake, which worked pretty well, although it was a little harder to work with than regular cake.

I brought the cake to Sam's TaeKwonDo class, where the kids gobbled it up.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Swim time

It has been an eventful couple of weeks since vacation!
The kids have been in camp. Sam is proud to report that he is the "camp encyclopedia" and performs feats of fact recall for the amusement of the others. (Yeah, kind of Little-Man-Tate/Malcolm-in-the-Middle sad, but it could be worse.)

So far, Sam has not been too badly sunburned and is generally having a good time, Last week, he was also in projectile camp, which he enjoyed enormously (physics+projectiles=fun).

Joseph is at camp at Chesterbrook Academy. It sounds like a pretentious place where they wear little British schoolboy uniforms, but it is just a perfectly ordinary daycare camp. Every week they have a reality show theme, which the kids seem to like. So far, they have had an American Idol week, an Amazing Race week and a Deal or No Deal week. Of course, Joseph has never seen any of those shows, but that is because we make him live in a cave.

Joseph started piano lessons a few weeks ago. He really looks forward to the lessons, and he is OK about practicing at home on his new keyboard.

Also, last week I bought myself a new watch and Joseph decided that he should get one too. By the time we got home from the store, he had learned how to read time (analog) as well as adjust his watch strap. He is just such a competent little guy!

Both kids have been in swimming lessons, too. I really wanted Sam to join the summer swim team because it is the only swim team that is seasonal. The other swim teams in town run year-round forever and ever and ever until you quit. But Sam was having none of swim team, so the compromise was that he would take 4 weeks of lessons for stroke improvement. The classes are the prototypical Red Cross swim classes--exactly identical to the ones that I took as a kid. Sam seems to be getting a lot out of them, and his strokes seem more efficient (chicken-soldier-airplane).

However, the Red Cross classes are NOT AT ALL effective in getting non-swimmers swimming. Both kids have been taking swim classes every summer since they were infants. We sat through 5 years of "pre-swimming" classes per kid, watching them performing "pre-swimming skills" and yet not swimming. When Sam turned 6, he suddenly decided to start swimming and has been swimming ever since. So we had high expectations that Joseph would start swimming this year.

Last Thursday was "Parent Day" when parents (me) were encouraged to get into the pool with the kids. I swim with Joseph all the time, but this time, I convinced him to seal up his goggles and keep his eyes open underwater. He was so delighted that he started diving for rings. The next day at camp he decided to start swimming underwater all on his own! Joseph still can't reliably get up to the surface to breathe in water over his head, so watching him swim is really nerve-racking. But so far so good. Joseph still has 2 weeks left of lessons, so I hope that he will learn neutral buoyancy before he drowns himself.

Will he or won't he jump?

Joseph underwater

Monday, July 6, 2009

Away: Away

While we were in Cleveland, Danny and I saw "Away We Go." If you missed the trailers for this film, the premise is that a 30-something couple who are reasonably responsible people with good jobs but no permanent home go looking for a place to raise a family. Early in the movie, the woman turns to the man and asks "Are we f%ck-ups? We live in a house with cardboard windows. I think that we are f%ck-ups."

That is totally how I feel. After having recently visited so many places where I one lived I have to wonder: Danny and I have decent jobs and we could choose to live anywhere--why do we live in a house with no garage or basement that has no hose attachment so that we have to carry buckets of water outside to water the lawn? Where is it that we are supposed to live anyway? We have enough money to live somewhere decent, but where?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Away: Oberlin

Since we moved to Normal we keep driving past Oberlin College without stopping. Danny and I were undergrads at Oberlin and also got married in Oberlin. So we finally stopped to visit all of our old haunts.

Here is Dascomb where we both lived when we were freshman (but not at the same time).

Mudd library. Danny is pointing out his senior study carrel. I was like the work study queen of the library. I got to supervise a crew of students charged with vacuuming the tops of every one of the 1,000,000 books in the library.

I think that this was the student co-op that I lived in for my first summer. My recollection of that summer is that it rained for three weeks solid. Every piece of clothing that I owned was laid to dry on the floor because I couldn't get the half-mile to the laundromat in the rain. Also, every morning at 6 am, the quad filled with small children practicing bagpipes as part of the Midwestern Scottish Games. And if you love bagpipes, you would really love the bagpipes played by many small children (somewhat) simultaneously.
And as if on cue, while we were walking through the quad we heard the constipated peal of a pod of bagpipes

Asia House where I lived after I came back from China. It was a lovely dorm that used to be a monastery. There were catacombs and an ancient gym underneath. And the gamelon group used to practice in the basement, which made weird chimings and gongings come up through the ventilation system.

Noah Hall where Danny was living when we met. He had a functioning cuckoo clock in his dorm room. Consequently, we didn't spend a lot of time there.

Danny thinks that this is Mold House where we (like to think that we) first met. I am not so sure that this is actually Mold House. Anyone?

The chapel where Danny and I got married. Very cute. Cobblestones and an ancient pipe organ.

Gibson's--which now sells not only snacks and delicacies but also sells alcohol! Oberlin was a dry town when we lived here--we used to have to go across the county line to Johnny's to get alcohol!

The kids were distinctly non-plussed by the whole nostalgia trip. In their youthful narcissism, they have no interest whatsoever in anything that happened to their parents before they were born. However, they did enjoy their ice creams.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Away: Cleveland

On the way back from New York we stopped in Cleveland to see Dorinda. It was a short but action-packed visit. Argos and I did a lot of running (and getting lost) amidst the mansions of Shaker Heights. We ate some of Dorinda's delicious (no, really!) home cooking. Danny and I went to a $5 movie at the Cedar-Lee Theatre where we got to drink Great Lakes Elliot Ness beer and eat $1 Lindt bars!

We all went to the Cleveland Museum of Art which is undergoing a major multi-year renovation. Every time we go it just gets better and better! Last year, only the oldest exhibits were open. Now they have restored a lot of the modern art. The kids (esp. Joseph) were a little squirrely, but they had a good time.

We went out to dinner with Michelle and Rich at Lopez on Lee Rd..

It looks like Michelle's birthday garden gnome was enjoyed by many.

We went to UDF for ice cream after dinner. Oddly enough, it was the only place anywhere nearby that sold ice cream. (WTF CH-UH?) We drove around to visit places of nostalgia while everyone was eating.

Afterwards, torrential rain and a rainbow!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Away: Manhattan

The main event in New York was Karen and Mike's wedding. Although it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours to make the trip from Staten Island to Manhattan, we all got there ahead of schedule.

The ceremony and reception were at the historic St. Bart's Cathedral which was lovely. The kids had never been to a mass before, but they seemed rather nonplussed by it.

After the wedding: Mike (Danny's brother) and Marie (Danny's mom)

Alyn (Danny's aunt), Joe (Danny's dad) and Marie


Corey (Victoria's half-sister), Victoria (Mike's daughter) and Callahan (Mike's son)

Cameron (Mike's son) and Corey

Although there was a sudden torrential downpour during the outdoor pre-reception drinks, the reception was in a beautiful hall with excellent food.

Sam, in one of the rare moments that he wasn't reading his book.

Joseph took this photo of Mike and Karen. Joseph really had a good time taking photos--he must have taken 200 pictures, mainly of people's feet dancing. I will try to post some of them on Joseph's blog soon.

The photographer himself.