Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Five things in a brown paper sack.

Anna's first day of first grade was great. She got up before I went into her room, got dressed right away, and walked around the house wearing her empty backpack (we took the school supplies last evening at meet-the-teacher night). I suggested she take the backpack off and eat her breakfast, then left for work. Her dad drove her to school and dropped her off at the front door, like a big returning student. She found her new classroom no problem.

Her first "homework" assignment is to bring a bag with five items to share with the class, things to talk about to help them get to know her. She put in her bag:

1. Small model horse (because she loves horses).

2. Picture with her brother, eating smores.

3. Picture of our cats, Fratello and Sorella.

4. Picture of her with a bird on her head, from the Dallas Zoo.

5. Medal she got for running a Kids' 1K.

It got me thinking, what would I put in my bag? Probably, a big canine tooth extracted from a patient, my chef's knife, a good book, a cork from a bottle of yummy red wine, and a picture of my precious family. What would be in your bag? (You can post in comments. Or, anyone up for a meme?)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wishful thinking

We celebrated the last weekend of summer with my cousin Beverly. She is a home-schooled high school senior this year, and she is taking some community college classes this year. She is so wonderful and helpful to have around - she is always game to give the kids a bath, and even emptied the dishwasher while she was here! I hope that she enjoyed our high-speed internet access, dining out trips, and shopping excursion while she was here (not too many of those things in her small town). We also had a fun last trip to our local kiddie waterpark.

While all of greater Austin started school today, our little 'burg doesn't start until tomorrow. All day Anna said, "I wish my school started today. I can't wait to go to school. I AM a little nervous about first grade. I wish my school started all ready." Geez, you think she would be excited to go on a girls only shopping trip to the high-end Domain. Instead, she moaned on and on about wishing she could get a crystal-encrusted lizard by Jay Strongwater. (This link is actually a dragon, much more pricey than the lizard). His art was beautiful, but I'm not plunking down $650 for a flashy iguana for a 6-year-old!

She did enjoy our fancy lunch, and later was thrilled to meet her new teacher, and check out her desk in the new classroom. At an early bedtime tonight she sighed, "I wish it was time for school already!" I said just close your eyes, and before you know it, I'll be waking you up for the first day of school.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Things I am wondering tonight

1. What are my friends in Colorado doing? I hope they get internet access soon.

2. What kind of teacher is Anna going to get for first grade? I really liked her kindergarten teacher. We meet the new teacher Monday night, right before the first day of school.

3. How bad will it be at work when Kareen is gone, teaching full-time? I guess I'll get a little taste of that this semester, when she is gone student teaching 2 out of the 3 days I work. I know she is anxious to move on with her career, and I'll try to be happy for her.

4. How can I get on to Chicken Flicken's page? Michelle, help me!

5. How beautiful is the night view from Emily's new apartment?

6. When will I see baby Evie again?

7. When will Paula post again?

7. What is going to happen next in Harry Potter? (DO NOT TELL ME!) I read the first two chapters of the Deathly Hallows today on my lunch break.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Back to Work!

Because of my crazy long-days schedule, today was my first day back in 18 days. My mom jokingly asked me yesterday if I still knew what to do. After 12 years, it's like riding the proverbial 2-wheeled vehicle.

After a 2 week vacation, though, its extra fun! I had a morning full of dentistry, which I loved, pulling lots o'teeth in record time, even though I had to wipe the blood off my face later. (I do wear gloves, mask, and goggles, FYI).

I came home to 2 happy boys, dinner warm in the oven, martini cold in the freezer. Man, what a great work day!

Anna is in Houston, enjoying a week basking in her grandparents' sunshine. Colin has started preschool, but thanks to the Texas legislature bowing to lobbyists for summer recreational businesses, Anna's school doesn't start until the 28th. This left us high and dry without childcare, but my mom and dad, starved without any Houston grandkids this August, thankfully took up the call! We talked to Anna this evening, and she made it very clear she is having lots of fun (The zoo! Swimming! Chuy's TexMex! all in the first day!) and she is not ready to come home. I think Colin is enjoying being his parents' center of attention, too, but his first question this morning was, "Where is Anna?"

One more fun vacation photo, playing Mexican Bingo in the RV:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Zoo scenes

Colin, riveted on the train; with cousin Henley on the faux alligator; and me and Anna in the bird petting zoo.

Food writing on the other blog.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Oklahoma camping is OK!

Anthony's dad has a huge diesel truck that can pull the enormous trailer. The cab of the truck is much roomier than my Highlander! Anthony was nervous but did a great job pulling the trailer. We drove 3.5 hours to Beavers Bend in SE Oklahoma. Why did we go there? Because it was a short drive from where the trailer was (Dallas) and it is the nicest camping park in OK.

When we were young and foolish, Anthony and I did a lot of camping, in tents of course, and we were very disdainful of people in RVs. That's not camping, with electricity and AC! But, after many years, and with small children, and in August, we see the clear advantage of the RV. It was marvelous to go inside the chilly camper for lunch every day, and to cook dinner over a mini-stove instead of a hot campfire. The bed was better, too!

This area is also called the "Smoky Mountains of Oklahoma," and indeed as we pulled in, there was thick mist over the river that we camped right next to. "I see an animal with stripes!" Colin said looking out the window, and sure enough, everytime we went into the RV, a scrawny young racoon would sniff all around to make sure we didn't leave any crumbs, then slink back down to the river. The misty shot and the gorgeous sunset were shot from our trailer door.

One day Anna and I went to the Nature Center, where a ranger helped her make a snake key chain out of beads. I read my book, then we watched the ruby throated hummingbirds fight over their territory. Later, we all walked back to the nature center to watch the ranger feed the hawks and owls housed there. These birds have been too injured to return to the wild, and you can get right next to them and look them in the eye!

We also took a 3 1/2 hour canoe trip one day, definitely Anthony's highlight of the trip. We paddled a little, then pulled over to let the kids swim in the ice cold water, over and over. We skipped stones (Anthony can do it 12 times!), and saw lesser blue herons, turtles, racoons, trout, and alligator gar (those big ugly fish). It was a great day.

The highlight for the kids, though, was roasting marshmallows. They had previously only read about this camping delight, but they were ready to do it for breakfast! On our last evening, they collected lots of wood and we built a big fire. I cooked our chicken breasts over the smoky wood, then after dinner we went back out to cook the marshmallows. Anthony had surreptitiously bought the ingredients for 'smores, a treat my kids knew nothing about. First we showed them how to roast the marshmallows, and they'd each eaten a gooey one, we told them they were in for a surprise. Anthony took the graham crakers and single piece of chocolate, and smushed Colin's next marshmallow between them.

"YOU RUINED MY MARSHMALLOW!" Colin howled, and proceeded to throw a huge crying fit.
"But Colin, it's better. There's chocolate!" we told him. He was having none of it. "No, I wanted that one, and you ruined it! You ruined it!" I tried to give him my perfectly roasted marshmallow, but he wanted his, and it was, you know, RUINED! He was incensed but we couldn't help but laugh at him. Anna was game to try anything with chocolate, and eventually Colin was persuaded to try one, and as you can see he enjoyed it, despite continuing to mourn the loss of the previous marshmallow.

The RV is nice, but it is a lot of work. While Anthony packed up the trailer, I took the kids to an area of the park with horseback riding and train rides. Since it was just me and two kids, Colin had to ride with me on Anna's horse ride and wait for the train ride. Remember, he'd already been on 2 train rides already (in Dallas to the zoo and in Ft Worth). Anna was pleased as punch to get a paint horse to ride by herself. Colin got to ride behind me in a nifty little double saddle, but he was murmuring the whole time, "I don't like horses, I like trains. I wanted to do the train ride first. I don't like horses. I like trains. Trains first." He was cooperating, but under quiet protest. Finally, I said to him, "Colin, what is Woody's horse's name? Bullseye? You're like Woody, riding a horse." After about 5 minutes, he was having fun in the saddle despite himself. He held onto the saddle horn and leaned WAAAAY over to watch the horse's feet as she walked. Anna was directly in front of us, and watching her horse poop was a highlight for the boy, too. The ride was through some cool shady woods, and we saw a momma deer and her spotted fawn. "It's a boy baby," Colin told me, very sure of himself.

As soon as the ride was over, Colin said, "Can I ride the train now?" His dad had showed up by then, and they rode the train together, while Anna and I wished we could go on another trailride.

What was the highlight for me? I think for the whole trip, it was just seeing my children in a different light. Instead of being rushed to go to the next activity, like at home, preoccupied with the mess or next task I needed to do, I really looked at Anna and Colin, relishing them with new eyes. I saw how beautiful their fresh little faces were, and really listened to their delightful words. I loved watching them have so much fun with their dad. They really love water slides, zoos, trains, ice cream, horses, and marshmallows. Being around them made me feel some of the joy of my childhood summers again.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ft. Worth

After our tour of "Big D," we went over to Ft Worth to see our friends and their cute new baby, Wyatt. Anna really liked him a lot! Colin is not so into babies, so we took him on a great train ride.

For a kiddie train, this was a great one. It's the longest ride in Texas, and goes over the Trinity River several times (we saw a snowy egret, great white heron, and a great blue heron) and under several REAL cargo train tracks, which impressed Colin greatly. The train makes a little stop where you can buy drinks and popcorn at the depot, and the prices weren't too jacked up.

Our friends have a little garage apartment where we stayed. Anna and Colin loved this. They wanted to make frequent trips to the garage department, or grage tah-partment. Here is Wyatt with his mom, Deedra. (Sorry, no pic of his dad, David).

It was a nice relaxing weekend for us, just hanging out, looking at the baby, eating in. Here's their perspective.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

I know I've been gone from my computer for way too long... I actually had to log into Blogger! We've been gone on a family vacation. It was great in scale and in adventure. There were three parts:
1. Visiting Anthony's parents to do some landscape work and have some fun
2. Visiting our friends David and DeeDra and their cute new baby
3. Borrowing the in-laws RV for a camping trip to Oklahoma.

First, Anthony volunteered to help in his parents' yard. He was mightily frustrated at the lack of compost in the very large city of Dallas. He went to one place to get what they called "compost" but was really just mulch - ground up trees, not processed at all! Then he started calling places, asking what was in their compost (ground up trees was the usual answer). "I can get compost at three different places within a few miles of our house!" Anthony said. "How can this entire city not use compost?" He did finally locate a source, but by then an entire day was wasted.

Eventually, compost was spread on the nutrient-deprived yard, filling the low spots and covered with new sod, and some ancient shrubs with gnarly, tenacious roots were removed. My MIL and I took the kids on the train to the Dallas Zoo on the hottest day of the year. You know it's sweltering when despite plying the kids with lots of water, the only bathroom break needed ALL DAY was when we walked through the zoo entrance! We also managed to drag our Daddy away from his labors to spend a day at a local water park, with lots of fast slides and splashy fun.

This trip was big enough to be written about in installments. That's enough for tonight! I enjoyed being away from the internet at first, then I really started to miss you all. I've got to get reading the archives of all my favorite blogs... More later. And pictures.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Work in Progress

We gorged ourselves this weekend with visits with our friends and Auntie Emily, both about to leave Texas. We are actually off of work again for the next two weeks, and are going to spend them working on the landscape and going on an RV camping trip with the kiddos.

Since we'll be going up to the Dallas area to get the borrowed RV, Emily had an inspiration before she left. "Can I take Anna with me, and you can get her in a few days?" Anna was immediately and completely in favor of this trip, so I packed her a hasty bag and she was off. We miss her a little; Colin misses her a lot. "Is Anna still with Auntie Emily?" he asked. "They are taking too long!"

Really it worked out great since Colin's preschool started today, and he was happy to spend the day there with his friends. It also allowed me to get a bunch of stuff done, including helping Anthony with the yard.

Here's Colin and me getting ready to prepare the beds:

Here you can see the mulch over what will be the beds, and some curvy white lines delineating the new stone path and crushed granite area. Now that we can see the outline of our plans coming to life, we are very excited!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Strike a Pose

Anna and her friends had a big makeover, putting on glitter and eyeshadow, as well as anything else they could find to rub on themselves (like travel sized shampoo). I took a picture, and couldn't believe the attitude these supermodels-in-training had!

While they were getting beautiful, their dads were getting super-dirty and super-stinky:

They were removing most of the grass and the little sidewalk from my front yard, preparing the way for the new landscape: