Friday, August 26, 2011

Teeth and Feathers

No, this blog is not about an encounter with an alien bird.  It's about Emily.  This past spring Emily's permanent teeth started growing in over the top of her baby teeth.  Emily is not one who likes to have her teeth pulled out.  If they are loose she just lets them gradually get loose enough to basically fall out of her mouth by themselves.  In this case she did nothing (and would let me do nothing) to help those baby teeth along until they finally got wedged into place.  When we went to the dentist in July he gave her until this week to get them out on her own.  If they weren't out before we left, they would have to be pulled.  Needless to say, she did not get them out.

Emily is also my child who has a thing about the dentist and about needles.  She doesn't even like to get her teeth cleaned and freaked out about getting a TB test this week because it involved a needle (she gets this from her Dad!)  I was not looking forward to what this extraction was going to entail.  When the hygenist got her in the chair I noticed she had a feather in her hair and I struck on a great idea.  Emily has been begging me all summer for a feather.  I said NO WAY!  But, I told her as she sat there waiting that if she cooperated, did what the dentist asked, and didn't put up a fight I would let her have the feather.  And IT WORKED!  She cried a bit as they put in the novacaine shots but she didn't close her mouth or wiggle around or kick her feet or try to use her hands to stop the inevitable.  And last night after she gummed down her dinner she got a feather.

Emily with FIVE teeth in her little tooth box

Emily with the all-powerful green feather
It went so much better than I could have ever hoped.  I will have to remember to keep some special requests reserved for special occasions in the future.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Take me out to the ball game!

Sarah and Chris generously offered us their baseball tickets last night, and on Sarah's overly busy 40th birthday!  The girls and I headed out for a last bit of Americana before heading back to Almaty.  Even Madeline got to go (after I, her mother, called to get special permission to take her, my daughter, out of the dorm for the evening.  Sometimes they are a bit over-the-top with the rules.)

We knew it would be hot.  We were on day 58 of 100+ temperature days this summer.  Luckily the seats were in the shade and they gave away Ranger Fan fans.  Olivia had her own way to cool off:

Here's the temp as the game started
(105 if you can't read it)
And then all of a sudden this weird wind blew through

The temp dropped 14 degrees in 15 minutes
It's sad when you feel great relief to be sitting outside in 91 degree weather but it did feel nice.  By the time we left the game it was a cool 84 degrees.  Some parts of Dallas actually got rain!

Sadly, the weather seems to have had an adverse effect on the Rangers game.  They fell apart in the first inning just as that wind blew through.  They never recovered and lost 13-2 to the Red Sox.  And there were way too many Red Sox fans at the Ballpark!  We left after the 7th inning to get some Braums ice cream - a cool treat to end the night.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Good Eats

We celebrated Sarah's 40th birthday last night with a family favorite - homemade ravioli.  Sarah says the last time she had it was for her birthday 12 years ago when she announced she was pregnant with Anna.  Since I was not there for that I know it's been even longer for me.  It's a time-intensive meal requiring rolling out the dough with a pasta machine and then filling them (and we made alot.)  But, we all got together on Sat afternoon and worked on it together.  On Sunday we made sauce, salad, bread, and cake and it was a really tasty meal.

Cheer Maddie Cheer!

I have lucked into making it to several of Madeline's school events by being in Dallas through the end of Aug.  Today Madeline had her first day of school, I went to the Senior parent lunch to hear all about the events for the year, had a meeting with Madeline and the college counselor, and tonight I'll get to attend the parent open house where we meet the teachers.  On Friday night St Marks had a scrimmage and the cheerleaders got to participate as well.  So, I got a chance to see her cheer also!

She goes up....

She comes down....

We had a whole cheering section there for her: me, Olivia and friend, Avery, Emily and Anna, Marcy, and Austin.  We wore Maddie cheer buttons (including old ones from 8th grade!), Emily brought a bubuzela (or is it a vuvuzela?), and the girls chanted "Let's go Maddie".  She was a bit horrified (especially by the 8th grade buttons)!

Part of the Maddie Mount fan club
The game was truly a scrimmage with coaches on the field and the teams running plays under different scenarios so we were definitely there just to watch the cheerleaders.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

48 hours in Madrid

Our cruise this summer left from Barcelona but since we arrived a couple days early we decided to take advantage of some low airfare and squeeze in a quick trip to Madrid.  Madrid is one of those places I have always wanted to visit.  I'm not sure where or when that desire originated.  Not sure what I expected out of the city or what I was expecting to see but it didn't really live up to hype I had created in my own mind.  Not that I didn't like it but it wasn't an outstanding city that I feel like I need to visit again.  Oh well!

Much of that activity and sight-seeing seems to center around the multitude of parks and squares.  We spent most of our time outside.  The first stop was Retiro Park with extensive gardens and a small boating lake.  (Emily and Marcy really wanted to rent a rowboat but it was hot and neither Frank nor I would agree to row them around.)

Right outside the park is the city gate - Puerta de Alcala, built in 1778.  Being that it is one of the most photographed  monuments in Madrid I photographed it.

Next stop - Puerta del Sol which supposed to be a hub of activity, especially for tourism.  Unfortunately, there was some kind of demonstration going on and people had set up tents and temporary shelters all over the square.  Did not provide a very welcoming environment.
There is a famous statue there which is supposed to be a symbol of Madrid.  It's name translates to the Bear and the Strawberry Tree.
But, I happen to know that strawberries do not grow on trees because we have all kinds of strawberry plants in our yard in Almaty and they grow very close to the ground.  Emily and Marcy harvested strawberries all spring.  We got a bowl-full like below everyday for about 3 weeks:
Moving on!  Day 2 we decided to do the hop on - hop off bus because we really just couldn't figure out what there was to see in the city.  The bus would help focus our sightseeing.   We stopped first at the Plaza Mayor.  Here's what we had been looking for!!  This is a big square with a market set up in the middle and restaurants with outdoor seating along the outside.  We were a bit early for much activity but we came back later for a great lunch of paella.  Here are Frank and girls heading out for the next stop:

We hopped off at the Royal Palace and Almudena Cathedral.  We decided the palace tour prices were a little steep so we viewed it from the outside.  But, we lucked into being first in line when tours opened for the cathedral viewing platform.  We got great views of the city and the palace next door.  And we got a close up look at the many statues on the roof of the catherdral.

Wow - now we're tired!  Frank needed a nap and the girls wanted a chance to visit the playground at Retiro Park again.  So, Frank fell asleep under a tree, I read  under the same tree, and all the girls -even Madeline - played in the park.

Feeling refreshed, Frank realized that if we took the 2nd bus line we could get out the the Real Madrid stadium so off we went.  While we decided that a palace tour wasn't worth the price we didn't blink an eye at the stadium tour which cost even more.  Priorities!

Emily, our soccer player, got the most out of the tour
(and came home with a Renaldo jersey)

We got to go down on the field, sit on the team bench, walk through the locker room, and visit the press room.  (And of course the team store.)  Madeline, Olivia and Marcy were more than ready to leave by the end.

Marcy picked up her own souvenir in Madrid and proceeded to wear it to dinner almost every night on the cruise.  She has decided that she should collect local costumes during future trips to go along with the Spanish costume below and her belly-dancing costume from Istanbul.

Phew!  That was a long post for a quick visit.  Well worth the quick trip and even worth the flight delay that got us back to Barcelona at 1am the night before the cruise to find the hotel had given away our rooms for the night (it was a long night)!

Future LPGA star!

Marcy participated in her very first (and definitely not last) golf tournament today.  She played 18 holes for the very first time and finishing was an accomplishment in itself.  Making things extra hard is the Texas heat this summer.  It was 105 degrees when she finished.  She scored 124 which didn't win her any awards but she was the youngest golfer out there.  Now she has a score to beat - but I don't think she'll want to play 18 holes again for awhile.  We'll set her front nine score of 60 as the score to beat on the next nine holes of golf.

She played with the only two other girls in the tournament who were both 11 years old.  But, it was their first tournament as well so they all learned together.  I caddied for Marcy which mostly meant I carried the bag and kept score.  I was hot and tired so I know she was exhausted.

Warming up on the driving range

Marcy and her tournament partners

Frank is so excited that Marcy likes to golf.  Won't be long before she can hit the links with him.  And today was proof that golf is a wide-open sport for girls.  Tournament stats today - 3 girls, about 20 boys!

Friday, August 19, 2011

A place to start

I've been planning to post all about our Disney Mediterranean Cruise since we got back.  But where to start?  Chronological order?  On board events vs cruise stops?  Favorite stops first?  As they come to mind (as I've done so far)?  Today I just decided to pull up all my photos, randomly scroll down, and mouse over a photo.  The winning post subject.....PALERMO!

Palermo was our 2nd stop on the cruise and if I remember correctly it was a replacement stop for Tunisia which was cancelled earlier in the year due to unrest.  We weren't real sure what to do in Palermo so we decided to do one of the hop on-hop off bus tours.  That took care of transportation, some "guided" information, and major highlights easily visited.  As it turned out there was not alot to do in Palermo so this was a perfect way to spend the day.

We lucked into arriving early enough to catch the direct shuttle to Monreale - about 45 minutes outside the city.  There we got to see the Monreale Cathedral which was built in the late 1100s and is famous for its extensive mosaics, surpassed only by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. 

Mosaic - Monreale Cathedral

Mosaic - Hagia Sophia in Istanbul
(from our trip in April)

Wowa especially loved this cathedral and counts it as her favorite spot on the whole cruise and that says alot considering all the stops we had.  She especially loved the mosaic border, thinking it would make a great quilt pattern.  It's always about the quilting!

We were able to climb to the top of the church for a great view of Palermo.  Monreale is up on a hill so you could see quite a distance.

After catching the bus back into Palermo we went looking for a market.  That was a real bust.  It turned out to be a shady looking street with some junk, er.... antique stores.  We gave up on markets.  While there were several on the bus map none seemed to pan out as anything worth visiting.  Next, food.  Another tough find - how could that be?  But, eventually we found a little restaurant and had some really tasty pizza.  And it was way off the tourist path so really cheap!

After a long walk to get back to the bus route we made a quick stop at the Palermo Cathedral.  Not as impressive as Monreale but still something cool to see.

We called it a day and headed back to the ship but not before finding my favorite thing - a little grocery store.  I just love to peruse foreign stores for interesting food items.  I got some candies and some pasta herb mixes and was happy with our Palermo stop!

The Disney Magic docked in Palermo

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I scream, you scream....

This blog title could refer to the decibel level most frequently heard at our house but it's really about ICE CREAM.  Earlier in the summer Marcy, Emily and I took a "cousin" day trip to Brenham and Washington-on-the-Brazos and College Station.  Sarah and I drove down from Dallas and Samantha drove up from Houston.  What a great way to see everyone.

Highlight of the trip was the trip to the Bluebell Ice Cream factory in Brenham.  We grew up eating Bluebell and you can't get it everywhere in the US so it was fun to see how it's made and hear how they decide which flavors to produce on a daily basis.  But, of course the best part was the free scoop of ice cream at the end of the tour.

After ice cream we drove to Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park.  We visited Independence Hall which was the site of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836:

Then we went to the living history farm which represents farm life around 1850.  The kids fed crickets to the chickens, tried some games, and did some chores:

Lastly, we went to the museum where the front desk lady made it very clear that she doesn't like children very much.  She gave them all the rules (no eating, no drinking, no running, no touching, no climbing, no screaming, no leaving parents) and then told them she would be watching them on the cameras all over the museum and she would yell at them over the PA system if she caught them doing anything.  Scary lady!  Thankfully, we found the "kid room" of the museum where we spent the whole 40 minutes until closing.  (But, then she came in and told us we better put everything back exactly like we found it!)

After all this, everyone was hungry.  We had planned on BBQ right outside the state park.  But, it was closed.  Sarah pulled out her phone and found another place close by, but it was closed.  We ended up at Hullabaloos in College Station which was open and had been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.  Great food with HUGE portions - a lucky find to end the day on a high note!

I wish we could have tried for another trip midway between Dallas and Houston so we could meet up with the Thompsons again.  But, most everything requires being outdoors and it's just too darn hot this summer to consider that.  We'll organize another next summer!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fun with the Guilfoyles

Our trip to Ohio not only gave us a chance to visit with all kinds of family but we also got to see our good friends from Singapore - the Guilfoyles.  We haven't seen them since we moved from Singapore more than 5 years ago.  But, lucky for us they moved to Cleveland a couple years ago.  We met up for the day and spent some time at the Lake Erie beach at Cedar Point.  So good to renew an old friendship.  I dug through old photos for this post as well.  So fun to see some "then" and "now".

Marcy and Emilia


Emily and Ellie


Olivia and Maggie


While all these girls match up so well, we each have a 4th child that is just as important as the others.  Madeline was in 5th-6th grade when we lived in Singapore and already didn't want to hang around with us and JJ was not born and newborn.  (In fact, JJ may be the reason we became friends because poor nauseated Stephanie was always catching a ride home with me instead of walking home from preschool drop off!) 
Madeline and JJ
NOW only
It was great to catch up and to see all the kids enjoy each other as if it hadn't been 5 years since they've seen each other.

Hopefully it won't be five more years before we see them again!  Thanks for coming to visit, Guilfoyles!