Friday, June 29, 2012

What We Did

I wasn't going to let Robert's crazy work schedule keep me from having a little summer get-a-way, so I took the kids and some swimsuits down to Angela's house in Oakdale for a week of fun in the sun.

The one thing I can't quite get over is that I drove the 670 mile trip all by myself. Actually, that was 670 miles one way. So I guess I drove 1340 miles all by myself. I feel like I can do anything now.

We left last Thursday at 3:30 am. Crazy you say? It's not. Getting an early start was wonderful. I was perfectly awake (my sleepy time is always in the afternoon) and there were only truckers in the slow lane on the road. And by 7am, we'd already had 250 miles under our belts.

Making this trip by myself was a big deal for me. But we also did a lot of other things.

We went out for yummy sushi. All the kids like sushi except for Jonah, who was a good sport and tried some anyway. Isaac mostly likes California roll, so he didn't partake of the more exciting pieces. Which only left more for me. Yum!

The restaurant was new and while the food was excellent, there were several service issues. This bowl of chicken udon was one. I'd asked the waitress about food for my two boys who weren't going to eat a lot of sushi. "How big is the bowl of udon?" I asked. It was $9, so I assumed it would be a family-sized bowl. "Does it feed four?"

She looked confused so I said, "or does it feed two?"

"Yes, it feeds two," she said, and I asked for her to bring it out with an extra bowl so Jonah and Isaac could share. 

As you can see from the picture above, the bowl was way more than enough for two little boys. The bowl was so large, the spoon kept falling into it and getting lost among the noodles and chicken. I was irritated since it was so inconvenient and unwieldily. Could the waitress not have made a more appropriate suggestion?

After sushi we went out for Thrifty ice cream, which is really now Rite Aid ice cream. Then we headed over to Uncle Andrew's fire station. The kids got to sit in the trucks and even work the lights (but not the siren) on one of them. 

The next day we drove out to Columbia, about a 40 mile drive. Columbia is a preserved gold-rush town and was at one time, the second biggest city in California. It was really interesting and I could have easily spent more time there. 

Angela bought all the kids bags of chicken feed and we went to feed the chickens--the same breed that was originally kept in Columbia. Eggs were a valuable commodity among the argonauts, sometimes selling for as much as $3 each.

We enjoyed listening to a street musician play authentic old west songs like "Ring of Fire," and "King of the Road." Although none of the kids would dance, I emptied out my change and let them drop coins into the musician's bucket. I'm sure he was thinking he'd rather hear the silence of dollars dropping than the plink of quarters, dimes and nickels. Oh well. You get what you get and you don't throw a fit. 

We bought candy at Nelson's Candy Kitchen, and no, they don't give discounts to people who's last name is Nelson. We asked. Jonah was pretty excited about his milk chocolate California bear. I got rocky road fudge, Ethan got peanut brittle and Isaac got classic gummy penguins and frogs, just like the old miners used to enjoy after a hard day of panning for gold.

They offered stage coach rides for $6 each--$3 extra if you wanted to ride shotgun up on top. We passed on paying for the ride because we were going to get old fashioned photos done of the kids. However, when we went to inquire, there was a 2 hour wait. We will just have to do that another time.

Just past Columbia there is a trout fishing farm. They provide the rods, bait, net and that hook remover thingy and we pay by the inch after we catch the fish. We ended up with four lovely trout that Andrew prepared fabulously on the grill when we got home. 

Jonah was so excited when he pulled out his fish. "My first fish! My first fish! Mom! Get a picture!" (I did, but it didn't turn out very well.)

We didn't do much else at Angela's house. Except bowling, playing video games, attending a ward diner and seeing Madagascar 3. Oh yeah--and swimming.

We swam in the afternoon and in the evening. And we would have swam in the morning too, but it was usually too cool. 

There were lots of cannon balls and belly flops. We floated and dove and played sharks and minnows. (And when I saw "we," I mean "the kids." I just mostly floated.) 

The kids, for the most part, got along just fine and the minute we walked in the door from our 11 hour drive, Jonah asked if he could Skype with Calvin. Later that night, before bed, he came into my room and said, "Mom, I miss Calvin." And then, first thing this morning: "Mom, is it too early to Skype with Calvin?"

I should also mention that the food was delicious and Angela and I stayed up late doing digital scrapbooking and watching movies and attempting to watch North and South (I don't think Angela is convinced parts 2, 3 and 4 will be worth her time.)

What we did, was have an amazingly great time.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Jell-o Project: Feeding the Missionaries

Earlier this week we had the missionaries over for dinner so I made Grandma's Gelatin Fruit Salad. Who better to appreciate the subtle complexities of a nice, Mormony Jell-o salad?

Or so I thought.

A few days before our dinner appointment, I started to hear rumors about one Elder and his particular eating habits. Evidently, he is a picky eater and doesn't eat fruit or vegetables or any food that is foreign or unusual to him.

But Grandma's Gelatin Fruit salad has marshmallows and bananas. Who doesn't like marshmallows and bananas? Not to mention the creamy Cool Whip slash custard layer on top?

One elder from Far West, Utah had two helpings.

The picky elder wouldn't touch it.

The rest of the family ate and enjoyed the Jell-o, except when Ethan pointed out the crushed pineapple in the bottom layer. Then there was some complaining. Some even claimed I'd been deceptive with the crushed pineapple.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Super Awesome Summer Revelations

Spending a ton of time with your kids often leads to the procurement of knowledge you wouldn't otherwise have. They talk, you listen, things just kind of . . . come out.

Like this:
The boys have a secret outdoor pee spot.

I learned of this as we were backing out of the garage on our way to play mini-golf. Jonah suddenly declared, "I have to go to the bathroom!" He jumped out of the car, but instead of running the three, maybe four steps into the house to pee in the super nice toilet we bought, brand new last November, he ran around the side of the house.

Isaac filled me in. "He's going to the secret pee spot."

"The what?" I said, praying I'd misunderstood.

"The secret, outdoor pee spot. So we don't have to come in the house to pee."

(Yeah, because that is so inconvenient.)

"Where is the secret pee spot," I asked.

"You know that blue barrel on the side of the house?" Isaac asked.

"You mean our emergency drinking water storage barrel?"

"Yeah. The blue barrel. The spot is right next to that."

"You're peeing next to our Emergency Drinking Water." I said, hoping the irony would not be lost on the kids. It was totally lost.


"Where we are going to get our water should there be an emergency? That's where you chose to pee?"


And so the conversation went. They didn't get it--didn't see the problem. Even after today, when I happened by the blue barrel filled with our emergency drinking water.

It smelled like the urinal at a gas station bathroom that hasn't been cleaned since the 80's.

Evidently, gas station urinal stench is undetectable to boys under ten years old.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer: A Preemptive Strike

The Science Box 
If I learned anything from Steven Covey, it's how to be proactive. I can forsee problems and plan to meet them head on. In anticipation of the daily summer refrain, "I'm bored," I created the Science Box.

Using the book, Totally Irresponsible Science, I made a list of supplies needed for nearly every single experiment and gathered them together in one box. When the kids complained of boredom, I planned to direct them to the box (which is kept outside) and let them have at it.

I know. I'm brilliant.

Best of all, my supply of baking soda and vinegar would go untouched because the kids would have their very own.

My Science Box includes the following items:

Empty milk jug (not pictured)
paper towels
empty paper towel tube
plastic spoons
rubber gloves
rubber bands
plastic cups
old CD's
a funnel
salt and pepper
aluminum pie tins
zip top bags
construction paper
bamboo skewers
ping pong ball
2 votive candles
baking soda
empty film canisters
corn starch
food coloring
white glue
thumb tacks
dish soap

I'm still trying to gather a few more supplies, like 6% hydrogen peroxide. It's kind of hard to find. I'm also interested in some silly putty and black iron oxide for this cool substance. And magnets. I need some magnets.

However, when I showed the kids what I'd assembled, the reaction was not worthy of the effort I'd put forth creating the Science Kit. Ethan said, "We've already done all the experiments in that book. I want to make a Soda Bottle Rocket Launcher instead. 

So, on the first day of summer break, after a trip to Home Depot for a few supplies, Ethan made his own soda bottle rocket launcher. The man who helped us find everything at Home Depot said he'd already helped about nine other kids find supplies for the same project that day.

So, summer begins. I've got my stack of books and my boys have all the tools they need to play and be creative. 

Jonah and Isaac are outside now, digging into the Science Box, so I guess it wasn't all for nothing.

*update - the first project they chose required a styrofoam block; one of the few things I didn't get into the box. Figures.

Friday, June 1, 2012

In Which I Don't Have to Know the Word For Ice

by Billy Collins

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna. 

And here is Mr. Collins reading it himself: