Epcot

February 28, 2009

Highlights from Epcot: The Soarin' Ride, lunch in Morrocco (truly a feast), live music in Canada, drumming in Africa, finding a microbox in the UK, the train garden in Germany, the tin toys in Japan, and dinner on the way home at Greens and Grille. Now for the things that drove me crazy. Adam and I are not huge Disney nuts. We don't have a desire to go back year after year. The biggest highlight for us is watching our kids take it all in...at 3 and 6 they are the perfect age for the "magic" of Disney. But the crowds and the lines drive me crazy, the over the top consumerism, the weird plastic/perfection of it all, the over stimulation, and the crowds did I mention that already? And on this most recent visit it felt like we were having some sort of weird Wall-E experience....surrounded by adults on scooters, beeping and backing up....much worse to get run over by a large adult on an automated vehicle than a kid in a stroller. I can only do Disney in small doses. Our two days at Epcot and Magic Kingdom was a full dose for us. Glad we did it, but it was also nice to have some lazy days at our resort, too.

Magic Kingdom

Highlights from Magic Kingdom: Camille's first tea cup ride, Noah's first exhilerating trip down Splash Mountain, finding our first microbox (very small letterbox) in Magic Kingdom, beautiful weather, early spring flowers, not losing any children in the crowds (lots of Louisiana folks spending Mardi Gras week in Orlando), and crashing into bed after a very full day!

Wild Florida Tableau

February 27, 2009


Click on this photo and it will take you to flickr where you can read the notes identifying each animal....really wish I had a zoom lens but still feel pretty amazed to have seen all those creatures in one spot together. 

Manatees

Last weekend on our way to Orlando we made a stop at Blue Springs State Park. It was truly one of the most magical moments of the whole trip for me ....wild manatees swimming in crystal clear spring-fed water along with gar, alligator, turtles, anhinga, cormorant, and one pretty kingfisher. The manatees come to Blue Springs each winter and I can see why. It is a beautiful spot and the water is 75 degrees all year round. After wandering along the water, we did a little letterboxing along a hiking trail in the same park. Had lunch with friends and then got back on the road headed towards Disney. And did I mention it was a surprise for the kids? We didn't tell them until after we were in the car and after our manatee morning. It was pretty exciting to see their reactions. More about our Disney experiences in coming posts. Here is some info on Blue Springs State Park. Disney was fun, but for me it's hard to compete with the magic of mother nature. It was truly a memorable adventure.


A Week

February 21, 2009

Hard to believe it has been a week since Adam's return. A week of catching up, lounging around the house, playing in the backyard, trips to the beach and the park, lots of laughing, hugging, and savoring family meals each night with everyone in their spots. Successful bread baking with this great recipe. Visiting with friends and neighbors.A date night (went to see Slumdog Millionaire...what an intense film). Soccer playing.Giggling. But it has also been a week of change and adjustment. Some changes have been very welcome. Dishes and laundry aren't so overwhelming with another set of hands. Bedtime runs much smoother with Daddy home. We have had some significant set backs with potty issues but I am confident that will resolve once Camille is feeling more secure about Adam's return. I keep pinching myself. I can relate to some of Camille's anxiety. Hard to believe that he is really back,that the deployment is over, that things are so good.What a week. A good week.

And we are about to start another good week. Headed to hunt for manatees and Mickey Mouse.

Bliss

February 17, 2009

An then at last our bliss full and perfect is. --Milton

Since Adam's return our days have blurred into one big happy moment after another. Thanks for all of the kind comments. Things are good, blissfully good.

Letterboxing Party

Yesterday we had a letterboxing party to celebrate Noah's 6th Birthday (we waited a week so Adam could join in the fun!). We chose a park with several different trails and hid two boxes on opposites sides of the park. Inside each letterbox (plastic ziplock storage box): a stamp made by Noah, inkpads (washable ink for kids), and a small notebook. We also placed a note on top identifying it as a letterbox and asking that it remain hidden along with the link to this letterboxing site. We typed up easy to follow clues including points of interest along the trails.At the start of the party we gave each child a bag containing a small letterboxing book (blank spiral notebook) and a small stamp (found in the dollar bin at the local craft store). We divided the kids into two teams and handed out the clues. The kids (8 kindergarten classmates) did a great job of following the clues. It was fun to see how excited they were to find the boxes. After finding the boxes, stamping their books, and re-hiding the boxes; the teams switched and hunted for the box on the opposite side of the park. Playing in the woods, letterboxing, eating cake, playing some more, enjoying the sunshine....Noah woke up this morning and announced "that was the best birthday party ever!" And here are two more letterboxing links of interest: a great article about letterboxing and another source for finding local letterboxes.

Valentine's Day 2009

February 14, 2009


A special red, white, and blue day for us! Adam is home! Valentine's Day! Family Day! Love! Hope you all have a great weekend.

Home

Defining Home

February 12, 2009

Home. Going Home. Coming Home. Making a home. A word that has multiple meanings and intense emotions. Home has been on my brain and in my recent reading. I decided to participate in my first on-line book challenge. Basically, it means I read and review three books that fit this criteria. I have put off taking part in these "challenges" because it just seemed like too much pressure, too much obligation, but I have enjoyed seeing what others have been reading during this particular challenge. It turns out that my two most recent reads fit the criteria for the challenge and also seem to have some interesting connections in spite of their obvious generational and cultural differences.


I noticed Maya Angelou's book Letter to My Daughter sitting on the preschool director's desk. It was hard to miss the brightly colored mosaic on the cover. She let me borrow the book and I quickly gobbled it up (mostly because of the content, but as I started reading I realized that there is quite a bit of "filler"..empty pages between essays which give the illusion that it is a thicker volume). A series of essays/lessons that she shares as a collective gift to her "daughters" (all women). My favorite essay in the collection is the opening one about home, especially these words:

Thomas Wolfe warned in the title of America's great novel that "you can't go home again." I enjoyed the book but I never agreed with the title. I believe that one can never leave home. I believe one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and dragons of home under one's skin, at the extreme corners of one's eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe (p.6).


With this opening essay on home, Angelou sets the stage for a collection of essays which are essentially glimpses into some of her own "gristle". An interesting and beautiful read but it left me wanting more and felt as if it ended too abruptly. Like Angelou, the narrator of A Map of Home also attempts to define "home" while examining the bits and pieces of her childhood. Nidali's mother is Greek-Egyptian, her father is Palestinian and she spent most of her childhood in Kuwait until the outbreak of the first Gulf War which ultimately resulted in a move to Texas. The novel is essentially a coming of age novel with the backdrop of war, intense cultural transitions and collisions, and the angst of adolescence. At times funny, gritty, heartbreaking and very hard to put down. A wonderful debut novel by Randa Jarrar. Here's what Nidali's father has to say about home:

There's no telling where home starts and where it ends (p. 193).


Home is a tricky thing to define but it's interesting to view it through different lenses. I'd recommend both of these books.

Day 223

February 11, 2009

Only a few more days until this deployment is done. I can't post any details about Adam's return and technically he isn't supposed to even tell me the specifics. For security reasons I am supposed to be contacted by someone from his command, but that never happened. So we devised a little code to convey the information (how else am I supposed to know when and where to pick him up? or was his command going to just call me a few hours before his arrival? ugh..one of those frustrating things about being a "dependent"). Turns out my de-coding skills need some work! He's coming home a day earlier than we thought!!!

And not a moment too soon...things continue to happen....the car was dead on Friday morning, I discovered termites in the back of the house this morning, one very bad haircut experience (me), and poor Noah was in the emergency room again last night. He got some bad cuts on his fingers from barnacle encrusted rocks....he was trying to retrieve some trash that an older boy had just thrown into the water. He is fine now and just bummed that he didn't get to return to the park, but it was nearly dark when we left the hospital. I had a long list in my head of all the things I wanted to get done around the house but I can tell already that I need to toss that list out of the window because it's not going to get done. Things seem to be falling apart but we just keep doing happy dances around the house because "Daddy is coming home!". Thanks to all of you who have helped us through this deployment. Thank you for the the friendship, the phone calls/letters/care packages/blog comments, the food, the babysitting, the commiserating, the support, and the encouragement. We could not have survived this deployment without all of the help from family, friends, and kind strangers.

Busy Birthday

February 9, 2009

Turning 6 is big business around here and that meant a very busy day. It started with a nice little morning of muffins, presents, and blowing out the candles with help from Solly, the school bear. From there it became a frenzy of activity: celebrating 101 days of school, a special musical presentation, basketball practice, a trip to the zoo, and dinner out. A busy, happy day of celebrating and having fun...all the things that six should be! Happy Birthday, Noah!

Starting

February 7, 2009


Another chunk of time and another letter. Hard to believe that this Valentine's Day will mark three years since Camille joined our family. A lot has happened since our last update. Yes, she has physically grown and become more adept at counting, singing, and jumping...those traditional milestones that I will share in our letter to her birthfamily. Those are the ones that are easy to share with the photos to document them. And then there are some new developments that may be more difficult to translate because they aren't on the typical developmental checklist.

Camille has recently become very interested in babies, especially the concept of pregnancy and birth. She is drawn to pregnant women and fascinated by the idea that babies grow inside their mamas. When this interest started, she talked about growing in my tummy. Noah quickly corrected her and abruptly informed her that only he had grown inside my tummy. And in an instant her face became confused and sad. I jumped in and reminded her that she had grown inside her Taiwan mama's tummy. We have told her this story many times, but for the first time she started asking questions. She wanted to know if I was there to "catch her" (we often talk about the fact that Daddy "catches" babies when he is working...note to self come up with a better way to describe the birth experience!). I gently told her I wasn't there but that we came a few months later. We talked about how much her Taiwan family loves her and we looked at photographs of them. It felt momentous to see her starting to comprehend, starting to absorb and form her story.

In addition to her interest in babies, Camille has also become very aware of physical traits. While reading books, she will point to other Asian children and say "she looks like me". I was kind of surprised to see her doing this on a regular basis. We have talked about difference in skin colors, but not much beyond that and I have never pointed to other Asian children and said "she/he looks like you". And yet she does. In the library last week, she noticed an Asian child standing in line with her mother. Camille stared at her and in a loud voice said "she looks like me". I don't ever remember Noah doing this. Is it a gender difference? Is it just normal development that I have forgotten Noah doing? Is it a result of our hyper vigilance/ desire to surround her with multicultural books or our concern about raising a child of a different ethnicity emerging in subconscious ways? I am glad to see her growing awareness, but while thinking about the letter to her family I wonder how to phrase this...." happy to report she is aware of her Asian appearance. happy to reassure you that we are regularly eating at Chinese restaurants and reading her books filled with Asian faces. She is also starting to ask questions and demonstrate awareness of her adoption story. She refers to you as her Taiwan mama and wants to know who was with you when she was born." These are not easy things to put into a letter that will be translated and read by her family and the orphanage staff, but in some ways they seem more important than the physical and developmental milestones we routinely share in our updates. At age three, Camille is starting to delve into parts of her past, parts of her identity, her story. Reading the words of adult adoptees I can anticipate that there will be many more questions, internal grappling, mixed feelings, and searching. I know that there will be times when I won't have the answer or the magic band aid for immediate comfort. I know that there will be parts of her journey and her story that she must do on her own. As I document this early stage of awareness, I just hope that she will know that she is loved, she is not alone, she will always have our support.

Day 217

February 5, 2009

We made our countdown chain tonight (thanks for the Japanese paper links, Lisa). In a little over a week, we'll be welcoming Adam home. Adam called while we were doing a little grocery shopping today. He told Camille that he was coming home very soon and she started shouting throughout the store: "Woo hoo! My Daddy! My Daddy!". We got lots of stares but it really was very cute and as soon as I explained the reason for her celebratory shouting there were lots of smiles and congratulations. I am feeling pretty giddy tonight, too. Forget the disposal, the lock,the dirty house, the whining, the fussing...none of it matters as much as that homecoming just around the corner! The end is in sight and it feels so good.

Locksmith, Plumber, and Chocolate, Please!

February 3, 2009

Ugh! It's 10:30pm and I really wanted to be in bed by now. It's been a rough evening with too much fussing and whining (from all three of us). I really felt like a bad mama tonight. Camille locked the bathroom door and pulled it shut as she left the bathroom. I tried but couldn't pick it open...any tips? And I just emptied the fridge of last week's old food, poured it into the sink and discovered that our garbage disposal is dead. It already smells bad, but I can only imagine how rank it will be by the morning. I will try to scoop out as much as possible, but any tips for repairing a disposal? I am going to make myself a cup of tea, scrounge around for some hidden chocolate, and then I am headed to bed.

Letterboxing Supplies

February 2, 2009

We were introduced to letterboxing by friends several years ago. Here's a look at our first letterboxing experience. It's a great activity for all ages.Winter (in the South) is our favorite time of year for letterboxing (not so hot and not so many bugs or snakes!). We pulled our letterboxing supplies out this weekend. Here's a look:

One small notebook
One homemade stamp (made by Noah)
One ink pad
One pen

And the only thing left is to do a search for a letterbox. You can find one here or here. We try to pack our letterboxing kit with us when we travel because it can turn into quite a memorable adventure plus it's a good way to see things that might be off the beaten trail. Just type in your desired location and find a letterbox that sounds interesting. Note that some are more appropriate for younger children (easier clues), some are riddles, and some are no longer active. Also be sure to read or print out these guidelines before getting started.
In addition to the thrill of finding the boxes, we also love seeing the stamps inside the boxes (many are handmade and specific to the location of the box) and the books filled with other letterboxers' stamps and notes. After discovering a box, we carefully open it up. We use our ink pad to stamp our family letterbox book with our newly discovered box stamp. I will usually write a small note to remember the day...details about the location, who was with us, anything funny that happened while searching, etc. We then use the ink pad again to leave our mark in the box's book along with a note (including the date and our names). We carefully wrap everything back up and replace the box in the same spot so other letterboxers can discover it. You can make your own stamp using these guidelines or these,too. Or you can use a store bought stamp that has some significance to your family.

And a few pics from this weekend's successful letterboxing adventure:

Driving By, Killing Animals, and Falling Out of Love

February 1, 2009

Driving By
Driving down a busy road in a very suburban area near our house we saw a family standing on the side of the road. The father held up a hand painted sign requesting help for his family because he'd lost his job. The mother stood beside him holding a tiny infant and another child sat in a stroller. It was a heart breaking sight and I gasped when I saw them. Noah picked up on my reaction and immediately started asking questions. He wanted to understand more about what it meant to lose a job and then quickly followed up with concern that his daddy might lose his job. The conversation continued at dinner when he suddenly turned to me and said "why didn't you stop to help them?" and that went straight to my heart because I had also been grappling with that all afternoon. My first social work job and much of my graduate school training had been working with the homeless in New Orleans, primarily women and families. I am all too familiar with the fact that many families (especially now) are just one paycheck away from being homeless and I am sure that there is already and will continue to be an increase in families needing serious help. It is a very sad and scary situation and I feel the need to do something besides just bringing food and clothes to local shelters. Noah's question has stirred up a place inside me that has been dormant. Since having children, I feel like I have withdrawn into the little world that is our family. I stopped watching the news. I have focused all of my energy, creativity, and skills on building a place that is filled with positive possibilities and adventures. I have tried to shield my babies from scary things (including the story of Hansel and Gretel...that gave me serious nightmares as a kid!). But as my children grow older, I realize I can't change the harsh realities that are a part of the larger world. And I want to be able to not only talk about doing the right thing, but more importantly "do" the right thing. I am seriously considering options for ways to reach out those in our local community. I need to do that for me and I need to do that for my children. I don't want to just drive by and gasp.

Killing Animals
As I was serving Noah a piece of meat loaf, he stated: "I guess we are carnivores". I laughed and agreed that his observation was pretty accurate. Out of the blue, a few days later he asked: "do all people eat meat?" I told him that some people were vegetarian. " You mean like some dinosaurs are carnivores and some are vegetarian?" I confirmed this and he quickly informed me that he wanted to become a vegetarian. "How can you be an animal killer? We like animals. We shouldn't kill them!" Camille quickly joined in the chant that seemed to fill up the van...."We like animals. We don't kill them!". It isn't an easy question to answer when your three and five year old are chanting about animal rights.

Falling Out of Love
Noah and I watched the original "Parent Trap" movie tonight. And as seems to be the case with most movies that I loved so dearly as a child, I am always a little taken aback when I now watch them as a parent. I still love Hayley Mills and we did enjoy the movie, but there was lots of pausing to explain parts (seriously how horrible to separate twins and never allow them to know each other or their other parent!). The longest pause came when we discussed the concept of divorce. I guess I should consider ourselves very lucky that divorce is such a foreign concept to Noah but he was seriously shocked by it. He kept telling me that I was wrong. That once people fall in love they stay in love. And then he started to worry that Adam and I would fall out of love. It was a very sad little conversation and I wish I hadn't watched the movie with him because the whole idea of divorce would still be foreign to him. But I guess that is the theme of all of these intense chats during the past week. My son is growing up and the reality is that he lives in a world that isn't perfect. Is anyone else out there struggling with similar issues/discussions? It isn't easy to explain these hard parts of life.

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