Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sunday Cook-Out

Thanks to friends and family that joined us for our cook-out/b-day gathering on Sunday! It was great fun, and our family looks forward to the planned pot-luck dinners over the coming months! Although we had already celebrated Destructo's b-day in Illinois while on vacation, we did get a really cool cake from Central Market and made it a partial birthday celebration. Spitfire was responsible for picking out the cake, and her choice may give some indication as to the type of cuisine we have at our house. I asked all the kids what the cake would taste like--a hamburger or a cake, and got a withering, you-are-silly-of-course-it-tastes-like-a-cake answer. We missed the Cullums! Hope you are feeling better, Melissa. :)

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Amphibian Issue

It's just a frog--I caught a number of them as a kid--but does it have to share dinner with us? Does it have to sit with beady, frog eyes staring at us while we chew mexican casserole and mixed veggies? I cringe inside every time the scaly green legs jump up and slide in oozing stickiness down the glass wall of its cell, while the kids exclaim with excitement and delight. Spitfire does not want said frog more than two centimeters away from her. I do not want said frog more than two centimeters close to me; and therefore, the line is drawn in the sand. The frog survives over night, sitting intimately close to Spitfire on her nightstand while she sleeps, and I catch a giant fly that is buzzing through the house and set it loose in the cage--my thought being that even poor, captive frogs need comfort food. But when Spitfire begins carrying our adopted amphibian around in the palm of her hand, and then generously allows Destructo to join in this stellar activity, I have to give the executive order to Free the Frog. It's just like Free Willy, I suggest--frogs do not thrive while incarcerated, and Mommy does not thrive while her kids handle a possible salmonella contaminated creature. Of course, all this falls on deaf ears, and I am going deaf from listening to the piercing sound of Spitfire wailing about the injustice of it all. I know I rode around completely unbuckled, even lying in the back window of my parent's car on vacations, busily making honking motions to passing truckers--and survived. I spent time scratching dirty bellies of chunky pigs in backyard pens, lived precariously without any contact with hand sanitizer, ate strawberries unwashed, picked straight off the vine. But still. . . I want slimy, warty, dirty frog to take a hike, and there is nothing that can console Spitfire when she hears the decision. Only time, and the arrival of a co-cospirator from across the street finally quiet the shrill sadness. As for me, I am relieved to eat dinner beyond the watchful eyes of frog, and hopeful that most amphibian poachers like him keep a very low profile in our yard.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Confessions of an Ungirlie-Mom

I'm not sure if I could have botched Spitfire's ballet recital event any worse than I did, but I will undoubtedly try again next year--I may not be girlie, but I am definitely bull-headed. On Tuesday night, I am preparing to take both kiddos with me to the dress rehearsal, for which I have decided that putting Spitfire's hair up in a bun consitutes enough of the "dress" part of rehearsal for me. She is wearing her jeans and ballet shoes, and I am fine with that. Sadly, she is too (already she must be duplicating my un-girlieness). She hates sitting still for my amateurish attempt at a ballet bun and protests soulfully for the ten-minute procedure, then we are out the door. I have to wrestle Destruco into his seat since he does not appear to be interested in anything related to ballet, but finally, we are on our way. When we arrive, I am immediately aware that we have come to the wrong venue--and that's not due to keen intelligence--it's simply because there are no cars in the parking lot! This is when I get that sinking feeling in the stomach and begin to weakly tell Spitfire we have five minutes to find the right auditorium. I make calls but don't reach anyone, so we drive home. Spitfire first angrily announces she will not be going to recital tomorrow (we won't if I don't find out where it is, I say naughtily), but then decides that being able to release the thousand bobby pins from her hair is not such a bad thing. For once, I am happy for the attention span of a five-year-old--it is all water under the bridge now, and a story to tell.

On Wednesday night, I labor on the bun again. Spitfire says she has never been more bored and I tell her to hold still and we repeat this about a million times. When I am done, I discover that the bulk of my work is resting oddly on the right side of her head, but I rationalize this--who said a bun has to be in the center anyway? My friend who lives across the street is kind and says it looks fine. We are dressed and ready to go. Spitfire's good friend and neighbor is going with us, but we decide to leave Destructo at home this time with Dart Guy, who breathes a sigh of relief.
When we arrive, there is no parking so we leave the car in front of a nearby house and walk. Inside, I step triumphantly up to the check-in desk, two highly excited girls in tow beside me. And that's when I hear the tiny voice--a little girl's voice just to our left--she tells us that Spitfire has her outfit on backwards!! I examine Spitfire critically, with eyes glazed over from years of ungirlish behavior. I just don't see it, but get an afirmative, mirth-laced, sympathetic nod from the check-in lady. Unable to find the bathroom, I strip her down behind a large, wooden door, then go back to the desk. The show must go on, right? Spitfire dances with her good friend, smiles all around. I get down on my knees in the front to take pictures, shamelessly clicking away, bending this way and that to get a view. Dart Guy shows up with Destructo, announcing that he wouldn't miss watching his girl dance. He is our hero, as always. We both enjoy watching Spitfire being just a little girlie.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vacation Pics

Mark Twain's Mississippi

Gpa and Gma Tiark's House in Decatur, Ill
Gpa Ed's Big Golf-Course Back Yard
Our Very Own Monkey
John Deere Birthday for Destructo
Lovely Peacock
Sea Lion Show at St. Louis Zoo

Spitfire and Destructo on the move at the Zoo

Friday, May 15, 2009

Vacation Post

On the evening our vacation begins, we buckle the kids in the car, turn on the DVD players, say a prayer to the child-traveling gods, and strike out for the far-away land of Illinois! With 800 miles still to go from Texas to Urbana, the idea for the long road trip does not appear to be as wildly entertaining and adventurous as it did back in the planning stage. In reality, it seems a little. . . Dumb. But Dart Guy rises to the occasion--he is the ultimate traveling companion--better than the tranquilizer gun I wanted to be shot with before we even got started (if I had one, that is). He has mapped out two pages full of convenient, roadside parks where we can dump ourselves out and run for the safety of our own company for a few minutes. We do this around seven o’clock on the first night at a small, but quiet little spread somewhere in Oklahoma next to a high school. The grass is tall and soaking wet, and it is raining. The kids look like the Ingalls girls running wildly as they make for any and all standing water as quickly as possible. They are crazed with vacation excitement and the scent of freedom. Destructo sniffs out the deepest puddle and races for it, jumping giddily and landing with a satisfying, splashing thud. Then he sits--the water engulfs the lower half of his body--and he looks extremely joyful. He calls for Spitfire to join him, and the rest is history. Dart Guy and I strip them down at roadside, install them in pajamas, bribe them with thoughts of the St. Louis zoo visit planned for the next morning, and hurry to swallow up the miles while the kids fall asleep.
The zoo is a highlight for the kiddos, though the adults are ready for the sanctuary of the car by the end. Spitfire loves the monkeys, the elephants, the reptiles, the brightly-colored, wide-spread feathers of the Peacock, and the ice cream we get just before we leave. Destructo mostly just wants to run--his favorite thing at the zoo would have to be the fabulous bleachers at the Sea Lion show where he tests their strength by stomping heavily up and down the benches at break-neck speeds. After a few hours, we are back inside our handy, mobile, jail cell on our way to the Land of Lincoln. Illinois or Bust.

The kids are overjoyed to be free from restraints and showered with love by Grandparents McCammack and Aunt Johanna when we finally arrive. It’s even better than the zoo. Ed’s dad grills yummy chicken and we have potatoes and veggies as a feast on our first night. A great start to what will be a very fine vacation week.
Spitfire is in full entomology mode at Gpa’s house, prowling in his big yard for rollie pollies, worms, butterflies, moths, and mosquito hawks (last night she informed me, in a dreamy, just-before-sleep voice, that she liked fireflies best, then ladybugs, then butterflies). She also loves to alert Gpa and Gma to the “invasion” of golfers in their back yard (their house backs up to a beautiful golf course).
“Gpa! The golfers are coming!”
Sunday is church, which we all enjoy. The kids love being with Gma and goldfish in the kids's room, and Dart Guy and I enjoy a class that Ed Sr. teaches. In the afternoon, our thoughtful hosts have arranged for a cake and an early birthday party for Destructo. We all have our fill of decadent cake with John Deere green icing that turns our mouths the same color! Thanks to Amy for wonderful pics of the event.
On Monday night, we visit with one of Dart Guy’s high schools buddies and his family. They have three boys for the kids to play with and are gracious hosts. We dine on steak and potatoes inside the screened patio while watching the kids play out in the beautiful, cool evening. Spitfire and Destructo are enamored with the battery powered car, which they are loathe to leave behind. Destructo doesn’t even mind riding shot gun instead of driving. Thanks to Travis and Joy, Tristan, Trevor, and Trey (sorry if I got the names wrong) for a very enjoyable evening.
Gpa’s basement is almost like another whole house, and in it, is one of the most addictive gadgets ever to be invented: the Wii video game. We laugh almost until we cry while watching Dart Guy try out his boxing prowess. The kids bowl, golf and play some sort of horse game. The adults get into aerobics, tennis, yoga, Tiger Woods golf, and skiing. We come away with a new respect for the power of the Wii, and the fun it can bring among families.
Our next outing is an adult get away to Parke county, Indiana, home of Historic covered bridges and Turkey Run State Park. The kiddos are left in the capable care of Gma and Gpa. Our destination is about one and ½ hour away ,where we have rented a cabin on the outskirts of the state park with thoughts of doing a little light hiking and enjoying some beautiful scenery. We are driving deeper and deeper into the woods, and I begin to notice very few signs of inhabitants. When we arrive, I immediately notice there is only one reception bar on my cell phone. The log cabin setting is picturesque, with little chipmunks scurrying and birds calling and a wavy, green, open field as part of our view--but surely there is a cell phone tower close? Did I fail to mention that I was a certified city slicker when booking--that I wanted to see beauty from the safety of city slicker accommodations, with cell phone access and internet access? I love the great outdoors as long as it is accompanied by a bit of luxury--er, I mean, a lot. I walk around the front of the cabin hoping for more bars to magically appear on the digital read-out.
“I can’t get any service,” I say to Dart Guy, my voice rising unpleasantly. “How are we going to call the kids?”
He gives me a dour look that says--what kids? Aren’t we supposed to be alone for two days? He holds up his own gadget, looking triumphant.
“Two bars. Right here.” He points to the ground below his feet.
I am suspicious of his announcement, but pretend to believe him.
Fortunately, the cabins turn out to be very nice--awesome really, equipped with a coffee maker, a small fridge, a microwave, and running water. I sigh with relief for these modern conveniences. Dart Guy urges me to have a drink. Or two or three.

But first, it's off to find fuel for the car and for us--we plan on cooking out and sitting bythe fire pit tonight. We decide to drive down the street to a little place on the map called, Marshall, but after making a sweep of the little town, wasting our precious, carbon-emitting gasoline, we stop next to a friendly looking Mom and kids and ask--gas station?
The answer is no, and we ask directions to the the next closest town.
“There are gas stations there, right?” I just want to confirm.
“Oh yeah. Quite a few--three or four,” she smiles a friendly smile. We thank her and head for Rockville, fabled home of three or four fuel stops. A few more words on our vacation later. . . Check out some pics! Thanks for reading. /div>