Saturday, May 31, 2008

mucho meat

for kisu's birthday, we went to a new restaurant called gaucho brazilian steakhouse. it's an interesting concept. flat pricing for all you can eat meat.

men in traditional costume were walking around with giant skewers of roasted meat and giant knives in their hands. you communicate your need for more meat via a two-toned token placed on the table next to you. green for 'bring it on, baby!' red for 'whoa, i need to stop and think this over.'

the service was excellent, the entire staff was very attentive and our specific server was amusing and charming. the meat itself was good, not exceptional. when you have that much available to you (15 cuts of beef, pork, chicken, and lamb) it all starts to taste the same. it was definitely experiential dining. i wouldn't need to do it again.

i would be willing, however, to return for the amazing salad bar. 'salad' is kind of a misnomer. it certainly doesn't do justice to the variety and complexity of dishes presented. everything from soup, pasta, and prepared salads (chicken salad, potato salad, etc.), to marinated vegetables, fresh prosciutto di parma, and a giant wheel of parmesan cheese on display for your appreciation and consumption. wow!

they also offer dessert, which for me was not a factor in the decision to go there. i only wanted something if it was authentically brazilian, which we did receive in the form of a cranberry flan. delicious.

kisu was very appreciative of the fact that they did NOT come and sing happy birthday, although they did put a dollop of whipped cream topped with a single candle on his plate.

all in all an excellent evening, especially in the company of friends.

Friday, May 30, 2008


14 months! bug is developing more and more personality.

she is starting to pick up on more of those cute little kid things like blowing kisses, playing peek-a-boo, putting things away. she learned to give 5, turn off her lights (both the nightlight over the crib and the room light), and say "ta-da!" with her arms in the air.

she loves wearing her shoes. they helped her balance a lot. she also loves to lay herself down on any pillows, blankets, or towels that may be on the floor. it's so adorable.

she has finally outgrown the infant carseat. we are finally able to put her in a big girl seat, although she still has to face backwards. it's a mixed blessing. now she'll fit better, and we won't have to lug the carrier around, but it also removes our best option for confining her when we are someplace we don't want her rampaging. like a restaurant. because she will only deign to sit in a high chair and eat for 5 minutes, then she wants to go, go, go. she's so petite that the straps on a high chair will NOT contain her.

in this and other ways, she is still very much a pistol. she is quite different from the toddler pooka was, and we love her just as much.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

grads and goals

last night was pooka's kindergarten graduation/spring musicale. i'm proud of the fact that i didn't actually cry, although i did tear up during the patriotism segment. the star-spangled banner, God bless america, something about the army (one little girl started bawling during this one, maybe because her dad's in the air force?)

the most entertaining part of the show was watching the little ones and how they react to being on 'stage'. some take off back down the aisle to find their parents; some stand like a statue, frozen with fear; some follow their own routine, gyrating on the floor in front of the risers; some use this time as their personal photo shoot and proudly give their cheesiest grin and fonziest thumbs-up for the cameras; while others just...sing. it's ironic that the ones behaving the oddest are usually the teachers' kids.

after the performance, they supplied the children with a wide selection of sugar in lieu of real dinner. it was so hot in that place, that we just wanted to leave. we opted not to go out so that we could have the girls fed, bathed, and in bed by game time.

as we pulled in the garage, we realized that we left pooka's gear at school. it wasn't crucial, so there was no problem getting it the next day, but pooka was very upset. she ended up sulking in the truck for 20 or 30 minutes. when she finally decided to come in, whining the whole way, i rushed her into the shower (bug was already done and in bed) with a short time limit to discourage dallying. that only caused more drama, so an executive decision to withold dinner was made. (hey, she had a bowl of ice cream already--that's plenty of calories to get her through the night.)

pooka went to bed, howling, and we went downstairs to watch the red wings.

i think we made the wrong decision--not for pooka, but for the wings--pooka watched the first period of both games 1 and 2, which resulted in spectacular shutouts for us. last night we lost.

as far as pooka's result, the lack of dinner actually made her MORE agreeable in the morning. she was more awake, helpful, and motivated and less whiny than she's been for the last 2 weeks. i thought it might have had something to do with actually getting to bed early, but she sat up complaining for at least an hour before falling asleep. it must have been the lack of dinner. who knew that less food could equal better behavior?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


today was almost a wasted day at work.

when i arrived, the parking lot was only half as full as usual, and when i entered the building i realized why: no electricity.

i guess i should have figured that out when i saw the power lines down in front of the main building. of course we're supplied by the same grid they are.

we got the official word to check back at 10 to see if the power was restored or if the day was to be written off.

well, i wasn't about to drive 25 miles back home just to turn around and come back--not at $4.09 a gallon!

so i set about thinking of things to do in the area. a lot of people decided to go to breakfast, but i ate before i left home. i thought i could get my workout in early, but as it turned out, the gym had no electricity, either. my next choice was the local library. strike two, as they are on the same grid as the gym and work.

hmmm, well, i guess i'll go eat. i headed over to the east side version of our local diner to see our favorite waitress. and... strike three. although they had power, bona no longer works there. i did end up eating, thereby necessitating an even longer workout at noon.

when i returned to work, i discovered that someone had brought in yummy treats. (tack on another mile on the treadmill!)

after my very sweaty effective workout, kisu called because he couldn't find his keys. don't you know they're in my truck? he can't go to work unless i leave work. again, i'm not making a round trip, so we compromised: i depart a little early and he arrives a little late.

between the events of the morning and the afternoon, i think i worked about 4 hours today. woohoo!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

heart & sole very tired

today was the 5K. i was nervous this morning.

nervous? what's up with that? as if i had any chance of actually winning.

i was also very concerned about the cold. the predicted high was a mere 59 and overcast. i only brought workout shorts. yikes!

the sun was peeking through a little by start time, but it was still darn cold. cold enough, in fact, that my nose was dripping like a faucet. i couldn't take more than 5 strides without snot sliding down my face. since i didn't want to look disgusting (for the footage the company was capturing) i used the tissue i had had the foresight to jam in my pocket. how clever of me to be prepared. how foolish of me to not be prepared enough--i could have used a whole box!

this situation was one of the many things that threw me off track. the snot made it difficult to breathe through my nose, which is, of course, the proper way to control your breathing. breathing through my mouth caused cottonmouth and my throat to feel like it was closing up. it was distracting to have to clear my nose constantly, though. also, the cold affected my body. it took half the course for my body heat to thaw out my arms from the elbow down. and another factor was pacing. i usually only run on a treadmill, which sets the pace for me. i don't know what 4.5 mph feels like on the road. i didn't feel like i was going much faster than usual, but who knows how the temperature skewed my perception. i must have been going faster than usual, however, because i finished in 34:15. and i didn't even run the whole course! i figured i walked roughly half a mile of the supposed 3.1 mile course. the superfast time to completion made me suspect that the course planners were a little stingy (or generous?) in their layout.

i later drove the path and came up with approximately 2.8 miles. ah-ha! just as i suspected.

overall, i'm happy with how i performed under the conditions. i didn't manage to run the whole thing, which was my initial goal, but i did complete it in decent time. i definitely have a target for next year.

for now, i'm not running for at least a week. in fact, i don't think i'm going to the gym at all for the rest of this week.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Camp Q Family Weekend

CMU is awesome. the people have been great, but the primary feeling is: "man, maybe i should have gone to a state university."

the cafeteria with the cereal bank, salad bars, juices. the activity center with 2 pools, a dozen racquetball courts, basketball, volleyball, floor hockey, pool, ping-pong, bowling!, weight room. the computer center with all the major gaming systems, several macs and pcs, 42" plasmas to watch movies. suh-weet. i guess these are the goodies you get in exchange for becoming a numbered cog in the system.

nah, i enjoyed the sense of community, the getting anywhere on campus in 5 minutes or less, the one on one relationships with professors.

anyway, the camp q stuff:
we started out friday night (after a 2.5 hour drive) with cake and ice cream made with liquid nitrogen. ultra cool. it was fairly bland, though, and melted almost immediately once the vapors disappeared.

then right off the bat we were introduced to the computer center/game room. i can't believe pooka stayed up until midnight playing weeee. i also can't believe she played before i ever did. kisu will be similarly bummed, i suppose. she was playing olympic events with some other girls, specifically swimming, when i wanted to take a turn. it's a lot harder than it looks. i actually did not do as well as she had done. maybe it's a generational thing.

this morning, after waking waaay too early, we experience the cafeteria. pooka wasn't interested in the special tour of the zibiiwing native american center and i was too tired to fight her, so we just hung out in the suite until it was time to find the horse ranch. pooka was led around the corral on two separate trips and i even got a ride. we also saw the miniature horses, the goats, and the rabbits. they had a monstrous rabbit named 'moose'. i think the rabbit was as big as bug.

we ate our sack lunches and then headed back to the dorm. what had started out as a nice sunny morning turned into an overcast, windy noontime. bug fell asleep on the way back to campus and i convinced pooka to let me catch a catnap in the parking lot. finally, we got our suits and went swimming. they can raise and lower the floor of the pool!! it's normally 4 feet deep, but today it was only about 2. bug could just barely stand, but any waves made her drink, so i ended up sitting and having her stand in my lap. that worked out well until her lips were purple and we had to get out. then we moved to the not-so-hot tub until the lifeguard pointed out that kids under 6 were not allowed. bummer. by then pooka was done, so we got changed. we tried our hands at pool and ping-pong, too, before coming back for dinner.

after dinner, there was a group bowling event. i sucked bad the first game. in the 7th frame, though, i finally got used to how slippery the shoes were and i started scoring. the second game started out awesome, but they had to shut the lanes down before we could finish it. we came back to the game room for a pinata, games, and movies. and blogging. i am beat and pooka wants me to go play yahtzee. i want to play snoozeee.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

walk for wishes recap

the walk was pie. it sure didn't feel like 2 miles, and it went by really fast. i started out behind a partial throng and ended up, by my reckoning, the 4th person to finish. it seems a lot of people were actually looking at the animals. since pooka ended up staying home and bug fell asleep 10 minutes in, i figured i would just motor. that way i could get home, take a nap and a shower before keving and marianne showed up.

that plan worked out, except i decided to stay and see what the announcements were, and then i got introduced to the sister of one of pooka's wish volunteers. the sister works at the same company i do. we got around to talking about the 5K coming up, and ended up agreeing to run together.

the announcements revealed the top fund-raisers in each category of individual, team, wish family, school, and business. i was near the top for individuals, but not even close to the total. i managed to pull in $844, but the top person raised over $4000. wow. she was part of the top wish family, too. they were walking in memory of their daughter who died at the way too young age of 9. yes, i teared up. i don't think i was the only one, either.

in total, the event raised $225,000. it's amazing what people can do when they open their hearts. for raising more than $750, i even got my name on the back of the shirt. since they sorted alpha by last name, i'm the first listed. now i'm immortalized.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Monday, May 12, 2008

running down a dream

work is hosting a 5K next week in partnership with and to support the American Heart Association.

i wasn't necessarily planning to do something like this, but since i have been training anyway, and since this is my year of personal growth, i am going to attempt it. i even signed up as a runner, although the canny thing to do would be to sign up as a walker and then run half to insure that i win my category. but i wouldn't do that....

my personal goal is to run the whole thing. i know i can walk it. 5K = 3.1 miles = not that challenging of a walk. but running? that's another story.

i have never been a runner. even when i played sports in my younger days, i would beg out of running. (that made soccer practice pretty lame.) in a matter of seconds, i would be wheezing and gasping for air. because it was so uncomfortable--and embarrassing--i never worked to make it better.

this year, though, all that has changed. i am easily running 10-15 minutes at a stretch and have even pushed myself to 20 minutes on more than one occasion.

i know, it'll take longer than that to complete a 5K. that is why today, i was determined to complete the whole distance at the gym. maybe not run it all, but at least get a feel for the mileage. turns out, i did pretty well. i actually ran for 30 minutes straight, for 2.25 miles, and then i walked .5 mile, and ran another .25 mile, then walked the last little bit. it took me just under 43 minutes total.

i was so proud of myself. i have one week to improve on my conditioning and time, but now i know i can do it. add to that the support of a newfound friend who will run with me. we can push each other to finish strong. i am always more competitive when i am with someone else.

the only concern i have is hydration (as per usual with me). running that much, my shirt should have been soaked. although my scalp was damp, and the tighter areas of my shorts were wet, i was otherwise un-sweaty. my face was actually bone dry and red as a stop sign. clearly, i need to drink more water.

within an hour of returning to work, i wasn't feeling so great. it wasn't anything i could pinpoint, but i kind of thought it might be hunger. i got myself a sandwich (second lunch!) and i felt much better. i guess when you run that much --burning 400 cals in the process-- your metabolism speeds up. i don't usually experience that kind of after effect from cardio workouts. weights, yes, cardio, no.

hopefully all this intense cardio training will also result in better weight loss, especially better shaping. i wouldn't mind losing another couple inches to show off my nicely toned muscles!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

mother's day

so how was your day?

i'm not normally a flower person, but when it comes with a note such as this:

who can resist? i knew my husband had a poetic soul, he just rarely lets it out to play.

he made me cry.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Irene; 19 years gone

Husband gave his life and soul
to fight for homeland’s self-control.
Stranded, she took on the charge
to solve the problem looming large.
From a war zone she escaped
her children’s future to reshape.
Alone she brought her family
to foreign lands across the sea.
Lacking language but not grit
failure she would not admit.
Once arrived she would not rest
pushed each child to do their best.
Fought for that which she believed
with faith and hard work she achieved.
Her fondest dreams were at arm’s length
when she unleashed her inner strength.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

baby shower

bug wasn't particularly dirty tonight. i only put her in the bath because her poop-caked dupah was too sensitive to scrub. i thought she would like to soak in some warm water for awhile to ease the redness.

silly me, i forgot that bug doesn't sit in the bath anymore, she walks back and forth repeatedly. silly me, again, i didn't think she had more poop in her. when she dropped a bomb, as she does 4 nights out of 10, from on high (since she was standing), it was easier to just switch to the showerhead instead of refilling the tub (after cleaning it).

this was the first time she'd experienced the spray. she loved it. she laughed her fiendish giggle when i aimed at her dupah and she liked me to spray the water into her mouth. it prevented her from having to do all the hard work involved in filling up the bath toys and drinking from them.


after several days of snotty-looking discharge from her eyes, i took bug to the doctor this morning. it was diagnosed as: snot. her nose is so backed up it is coming out through her tear ducts.


it's no big deal, when the cold goes away, so will the discharge, but in the meantime we have some antibiotic ointment to prevent an opportunistic bacterial infection in her eyes. she doesn't mind it, actually, and after 3 applications, her eyes look a whole lot better.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

day 5: one for the road

we took another walk to start the day. this time the nature path at her nearby park. we surprised a few bunnies, but unfortunately never did see any snakes. after the walk, we went out for some breakfast. this was a crucial decision that saved us later.

i was already packed, having gotten up waaay before the other sleepyheads in the house, and that allowed us to goof around and ride the motorcycle until it was time to leave. i haven't driven a (real, with gear shift) motorcycle in almost 9 years. in fact, i haven't driven since i earned my license endorsement two weeks before my wedding. i was a little nervous that it wouldn't come back, but those fears, like many, were needless. i went around pam's neighborhood several times and loved the feeling every bit as much as i always have. my downshifting was as jerky as ever, too.


the capper for the trip was to be blood donation. pam is terrified of needles, so it was fitting that she confront her fears as i had confronted jumping out of a plane.

we ended up taking 6 people to the blood bank. not only was i challenging pam, i felt like a successful crusader for the cause of blood altogether. we were accompanied by pam's hubby daniel, danica, danica's boyfriend chris, and jessica. chris and jess had never donated before, either.

we were working on a very tight schedule to get me to the airport in time. we made appointments, but from my experience with the Michigan red cross offices, appointments mean bugger-all. i warned the others that if the office was crowded and we couldn't get everyone finished in time, that some might have to just wait there until after i got dropped off at the airport.

fortunately, the office was empty when we arrived and we began the registration process. this was not the American Red Cross, it was an independent blood bank and they do things a little differently. apparently, people down there are so apathetic about donating, they need to bribe donors. every second donation earns you a $10 gift card to the olive garden, and all successful donors (at least that day) received a free t-shirt.

pam was in the system as a failed attempt, so they checked her iron before doing any paperwork. wouldn't you know, she was too low. she claims she 'forgot' to take iron supplements leading up to this weekend. we all gave her a really hard time. she later emphasized to me that she really was going to do it. she was going to cry, but she was going to submit to the needle. well, the others in the group assured me that they will be force-feeding her steak and potatos for the next two weeks and bringing her back to try again. i look forward to those pictures.

the iron counts on everyone else were good, in fact, we joked about how they all fell in line: danica at 43, me at 44, daniel at 45, jessica at 46, and chris at 47. daniel and danica went first, with daniel finishing probably in record time. danica didn't look real great as she finished, but she sat around for a few minutes until she felt better. by then i was hooked up, and shortly afterwards jess was, as well. she was a little bit nervous. (donating was not her idea; it was a punishment inflicted by pam for jessica's not going to school that day.) she yelped when the nurse stuck her, and when the nurse said, "it's probably just the alcohol," jessica responded, in true jessica attitude, "no, i'm pretty sure it's the needle!"

the donor room became our personal theater for awhile, as pam performed photog duties, and we laughed and harassed each other.

by the time chris got hooked up, the rest of us were done. daniel went next door to the bird store and pam, jess, and i went outside to the car. danica stayed inside with her 'baby'. after about 10 minutes, she came to the door and yelled, "chris fainted!" displaying our family's classic compassion, pam tells me to get the camera, while she and jess run back inside. when i got inside, she was taking pics of him lying on the floor (yes, she had the camera when she told me to bring it). he was put on a bed and then we noticed that suddenly jess wasn't looking too good. she had absolutely no color in her lips. so she was put on a bed.

at some point during all our hilarity, two other people had come in to donate. they were sitting in beds waiting to get hooked up when chris and jess went down. it did nothing for their confidence. we tried to make them feel better by telling them that jess and chris were first-timers, but they said they were also.

at this time, chris called out weakly, "danica passed out." right on top of chris. pam and i were getting a little antsy about the time by now, so she went over to danica to try and get her out of the building before the nurses noticed and insisted that she stay. they got as far as the lobby doorway before danica crumpled to the floor. daniel dragged her to another bed.

now more than 50% of our donors had passed out. this was not looking good for those other two people. then we realized that the kids had not had any breakfast. DOH!

at that time, though, pam and i decided to leave daniel there with the kids and head for the airport. jess was recovered enough to go, too. it was 2:50pm. my flight was scheduled to depart at 3:44pm. we were 30 minutes from the airport.

i made it just in time to be the 4th last person to board. i ended up running a little bit so i'm fortunate that i didn't pass out somewhere along the way. the takeoff was pretty rocky and i was sitting there thinking: of all the daring things i've just done, i'm gonna die on the way home.

obviously, i made it home safely. i had an exceptional time with my sister and her daughters. coty was a butthead and was hardly around. pam is already making a list of things to do next year. top of the list are the surfing and horseback riding we missed this time around. i can't wait.

Monday, May 5, 2008

day 4: heights and hi-lites

we started the day with a nice nature walk at gemini springs. i forgot to bring my camera, which was a terrible shame because we got a good close look at a scarlet ibis and i caught the tail end of what i'm pretty sure was a river otter. we also saw several cottontail rabbits, although, as i told pam, i think it was the same one stalking us through the woods. we did not see any snakes, which disappointed pam greatly, until near the end of our walk when we saw half a snake corpse. she said that didn't count.

the conversation got deep during this walk: exploring the influence parental divorce and its timing may have on the development of a person's 'natural astrologically-based personality'. for example, her taurus persona is not supposed to be very spontaneous or flashy. according to the book, she should be a plodder and prefer functionality over style. sagittarius, on the other hand, is supposed to be much more flighty, given to action without forethought, and optimistic to a fault.

if you know us, you know that she is much more a seat-of-the-pants thrill-seeker, and i almost never do anything without a plan of action 4 levels deep. pam's rationale is that her early childhood enjoyed the stability of a typical family arrangement, allowing her the security to attempt activities she might not otherwise. on the other hand, the family structure was already fractured by the time my personality started to develop (i later argued that said personality never developed at all, but that may be another post) and led to my need for planning, if not in detail, at least in theory, every step of my actions and possible reactions to them.

and optimism? forget it. until i had kids and was replanted in the church, i was one of the most cynical and pessimistic people i knew.

the discussion that began on the nature trail ended at the waffle house, where i confused frank's red hot sauce and straight-up tabasco and nearly burned my mouth off eating scrambled eggs. after a good cry, we were ready to move on.

we decided to crash the senior center and take over the bingo game. pam has started to take after mom a whole lot, including her fascination with bingo. she even has her own bag and, until this day, a complete set of dabbers. the set may no longer be complete because danica said she saw a brown one, although pam is dubious. i'm sure she'll be on the lookout for it next time, though.

we had our own little table right up front and quickly got lost in the game. at intermission, they served coffee and sweets. what is it with old people and eating nothing but dessert? i guess they figure there's no point in eating healthy anymore. respectfully, i suppose they've earned it.

a couple times we were one number away from a win, but victory kept eluding us. late in the session, i sat needing one number for about 12 balls. of course, the way things go, it was one of the first numbers called the next game. bingo is nothing more than a game of sheer chance, but sometimes you wonder. one woman won 4 different times! in the penultimate game of the day, danica and i both were 1 number away; hers actually came through. she was quite excited, but she complained for the rest of the day that her $50 winnings were in singles.

i wanted to dye our hair on this wild trip, but pam forgot and did something before i even arrived. i still wanted something radical, though, so when we were not busy not winning at bingo, i took the hot pink dabber and started coloring my gray patch. i couldn't see it very well, though, so pam took over, which was not unlike the olden days when she would color my hair with her markers while i was sleeping. it looked pretty cool but was coming off when touched so we decided to stop and get real dye to do it right. i think it looked better with the dabber, though:

we finished that just in time to head over to the climbing gym. pam got an unexpected price break when we found out that it was students' night. 5 people climbed for 11.99, including rental shoes and harnesses. we had to take a quick class in knot tying and then away we went. it worked out pretty well in that two people could climb while two others belayed and one took a rest. jess mostly rested for some reason, but danica was like a monkey. she climbed those walls so fast we could barely keep up. oddly enough, pam was terrified. the woman who wanted to do somersaults at 11,000 feet froze halfway up her first climb because she didn't trust that i would keep her from falling--what sisterly bond? after she did a 'test fall', however, she was more confident and did a better job. i did pretty well, too, if i do say so myself.

there was one path in particular that danica scaled that gave the rest of us trouble. chris tried it, but his shoulder gave out. when i attempted it, i had trouble coordinating my moves. i came off the wall twice but went back to it. i got only as far as chris had before my hands starting cramping and i had to quit. a little later jessica tried it, just to say she got higher than chris and i, i'm sure. she started to have trouble around the same place i did, but i wouldn't let her down. she stuck with it and once she was clearly higher than we had climbed she gave up, too. pam never did attempt that one.

danica did encounter one path she couldn't conquer. although it wasn't the most difficult one she attempted as far as verticalness and hold placement/frequency, the holds that were lowest just were not good for fingers. especially not fingers with freshly manicured half inch-long nails. acknowledging how well she did despite those talons was kind of
embarrassing for the rest of us who had no such handicap.

i finished off the night with a great climb. it was a complete vertical and took some serious maneuvering. i did stray off the color-coded rocks for that particular path, but i made it to the top. hey, whatever it takes. when you're a rookie you don't worry about style, you just want to climb.

we all had a very good time, but we ended up with stiff necks from looking straight up all night. add that to the soreness i had from volleyball and i was feeling it. that was one thing my training couldn't save me from. we discovered that the best way to watch other climbers, provided that you weren't responsible for belaying, was to lie flat on the floor. we watched some (much) more experienced climbers do lead rope work in the shrine-like cavern. we were in awe of their sculpted backs and shoulders. i think pam actually drooled a little.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

who's the bobby fischer of cribbage?

pooka has tried to 'help' me play cribbage against poppa before. it's never worked out very well. today i tried to grab some time with her to go over some fundamentals of the game outside of the actual game setting. i knew poppa was coming over for dinner so i thought we could surprise him a bit.

she has come a long way with her simple addition, so she picked up really quickly on how you earn points. for the first time i actually explained the elements of the game, instead of just having her jump in in the middle. it worked much better this way. i was so proud of the way she assimilated the concepts. i thought it was adorable the way she called a run a 'run-up'. i don't know where she got it from, but i think i'm going to adopt it. she started to see where we earned points without me showing and prompting her.

we played a few open hands and then a closed one, although not in true game order, before she got tired of it and then we switched to candyland. after dinner and a walk for ice cream, we played against poppa. this time we used true game procedure, but we didn't keep score. it was too late to play a full game, i just wanted to let her show off her newfound grasp of the basics. she did pretty well. she took a little longer to add cards up this time, but i know she was tired, plus she wasn't wearing her glasses (she doesn't mind wearing them, but she does try to take them off whenever she can).

i was just so darned proud of her. cribbage at 6.

additionally, her behavior this weekend has been much improved. the 'reset' i was hoping to achieve over the vacation didn't seem like it happened as of tuesday night when i returned, but since then it has kicked in. we are getting along much better and having more fun because of her decreased whining and general crabbiness. i am so thankful i am getting my pooka back. i told her that if the coming week sees her consistent good behavior, she will finally earn that new bike we bought her for Easter. hopefully that incentive, along with our pleasant interactions, will be the right motivation to cement the idea of good behavior in her mind. if not i'm gonna have to find some child-sized shackles.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

day 3: boating on land

having decided not to tempt the sharks or the rip currents by surfing, we went for an early morning walk and did some grocery shopping before we went looking for an airboat ride.

i found a place online, but a phone call landed me with voicemail. since the website said he worked 7 days, i didn't bother to leave a message. silly me.

we headed out (every place down there feels like a long drive to me. must be the acres of wildlife instead of urban sprawl.) wouldn't you know, when we arrived, the airboat man was nowhere in sight. the wait staff at the jolly gator fish camp said they hadn't seen captain bruce all day. pam called and actually left a voicemail for the captain. we had no other plans (except an appointment at the wallymart picture studio) so we were willing to wait for an answer. we sat for about 15 minutes, which was enough time for my alabaster legs to attain some color, namely: pink.

we decided to spend our wait at the daylilly farm we had passed (did i mention that my sister is a hortiphile?) but a woman informed us that there was another place to get airboat rides further down the road--away from the nursery. we figured we could get the flowers on the way home.

at loughman lake, the captain was on duty, but out on a tour. the price was higher and the wait was longer, but we weren't worried about the pictures. if they could blow off a day, so could we. we killed time playing pool, horseshoes, and walking along the beachy promontory. just casual fun. about an hour later, we were blowing our way across the st. johns river and its various marshes.

we saw a million birds and, as promised, gators. pam lost count of how many we saw. it was a bit different from the canoe trip. it was a surreal feeling to be in a boat traveling over land. when we made the transitions from water to land, we anticipated a thump and a stranding. instead, we floated smoothly over everything, including the wildlife. i think the captain intentionally aimed directly for any animals in our way. i'm used to being in boats with submerged propellers, so i felt bad for all of the gators that we ploughed over. we lost many races with fleeing birds. a few times i flinched when it looked like we might actually overtake one or one would cut across our path.

the airboat was one of our backup activities, in case the primaries didn't work out. it was fortunate that we had so many things planned, overbooked, as it were, because several activities did fall through, like the surfing and the horseback riding. the boat ride turned out to be one of the absolute highlights of the trip. we saw awesome sights, the weather was beautiful, and it played to a family hobby: riding a fast-moving vehicle. all around it was an excellent time.

pam didn't forget about the damn flowers, though. burned, hungry, and tired, she dragged us to the nursery to stand in the sun while she debated which one of a thousand varieties she was going to take home. jess and i quickly got bored with that and went to sit in the shade with the cats.


fulfilling as the boat ride was, the day was not done. after scarfing dinner (pam's infamous chicken soup) we grabbed the other kids and headed for the open gym and volleyball!

when i requested this activity, i was thinking more along the lines of wallyball with just the family. friendly, perhaps awkward, but somewhat private. what i got was competitive community volleyball, with aggressive adults and cocky teens. i haven't played in years, to say that i was a little apprehensive would be an understatement. i was more nervous about looking like a buffoon that i was about jumping out of an airplane.

after warming up i felt a little bit better, and a little bit worse. i remembered how to play (duh!) but i had also seen more of my competition--and my teammates. yikes! we were all rusty. (love you guys!)

it didn't take long to exorcise the jitters, though. getting six-packed on the first play helped me loosen up. it can't get worse than that, right? it turned out not to be a severe injury, although i gave pam a hard time about it, and lamented the fact that we had (still) not gotten those pictures taken. i figured i'd have a shiner by morning. my serves were still fast (and inbounds), my setting wasn't horrific, and i had a successful block or two. not bad for an gray-haired lady.

it was such a rush playing again. i never was a top tier player, but i was good enough for community play, or so i thought. pam said that a lot of people left early that night because our team was not up to their level. oh, well, more fun for those of us who did stay. it really made me want to find an outlet up here; i know kisu would love to play, too.

Friday, May 2, 2008

day 2: how close do you want to get?

plans got a little scrambled when we found out the horses we intended to ride were going to be at a show instead.

so we packed up some snacks and headed for blue springs, there to canoe on the st. johns river.

i was very excited. i had been training for the past two weeks specifically so that i could endure hours, if need be, of paddling. i wanted to reawaken all the knowledge and skills i'd gathered during 6 years of summer camp, too.

we got our paddles, maps, and a laminated guide to florida wildlife. the lady who clocked us out (canoe rental by the hour) recommended a route that would take 1-2 hours. we disdained the exploration of the tame lagoon as too easy. we wanted adventure! then we promptly got lost looking for the canoe launch.

we launched with pam in the bow and myself in the stern. once we got out of the launch area we headed upstream. we wanted to go against the current while we were fresh so that we could let the water do the work later when we might be spent.

we turned into the channel where several canoes were exiting and spent the next 30 minutes exploring the shoreline in great detail. we heard the mating calls of several gators and tried, unsuccessfully, to get a peek. it took that long for us to realize that we had, in fact, entered the lagoon. it worked out alright, though, as our navigating skills were quite rusty. i felt responsible for steering in the stern, but i couldn't get it figured out. most of the time, i resorted to ruddering which killed our momentum. finally i suggested that we switch positions, so that 'power' could be in front and 'steering' in the back. heh. we managed to complete the switch without swamping, which was a feat in itself.

we saw lots of birds nesting on an islet in the middle of the lagoon. we approached so that i could get some nice pics but the birds did not like it one bit. one dove on pam and she swears she saw another sharpening its beak for battle. hitchcock would have been proud. i was just glad we didn't get pooped on.

we were circling around to start our real journey, when we spied a gator in the middle of the water. we slowly started heading for it as i asked pam how close she wanted to get. it wasn't a choice we had the power to make, however, as the gator sank when we were no closer than about 50 feet.

our exit from the lagoon was a chaotic meandering mess. pam could no more get a grip on the steering than i could. she finally admonished me to stop digging so hard and to paddle casually. what i ended up doing for the rest of the trip was taking 1 stroke for every 2-3 of hers.

we worked our way upriver, nibbling at our snacks. at some point we found a shady spot and just laid to for almost 30 minutes letting the creatures get accustomed to our silent presence. it was idyllic and effective. after awhile, the bird calls increased (i could only identify the rat-tat of a woodpecker) and the turtles returned from whence they had disappeared after being scared off their basking logs. we never did get a good look at any gators, although we heard more than a dozen total. we saw lots of minnows, plenty of birds (a cardinal and possibly a ruby-throated hummingbird), and a handful of turtles. i didn't need the wildlife guide to identify the great blue herons, but i eventually needed internet help to identify the turtles as peninsular cooters.

when we returned to the launch area, a strolling guitarist asked about our trip. when we told him we saw no manatees, he pointed out the floating mechanism in the river behind us. on our way out, pam commented on it and i thought it was some kind of current measuring device. this man claimed that it was actually strapped to the back of a manatee called 'hurricane'. it seemed unlikely, since hurricane hadn't moved in the three hours we'd been gone.


we were both pretty tired when we got home. beautiful days in the sun tend to drain your energy. i found the red wings game and sat on the couch, eventually drifting to sleep, only to wake up to a news story about a shark attack at a nearby beach--the beach where we were supposed to go surfing.

we spent the late evening in the hot tub debating whether to risk the shark infested waters the next day.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

day 1: float like a butterfly

land like an elephant.

nah, it wasn't that bad. it was a fairly delicate landing. and a completely safe one.

despite having to wait all day for the opportunity to jump, i didn't spend the time writhing in anxiety. i was pretty calm. we did some other things earlier in the day. we intended to get pictures taken for mom and we wanted to do it before our activities could have any, shall we say, unphotogenic ramifications. we were denied, however, because the studio personnel never showed up to work. we headed off to see the psychic, who also was not there. we were starting to look at this day as a bad omen, but after grabbing some lunch we returned to the psychic and got our readings. that was interesting. i'd say she was about 85% accurate regarding me. the one glaring error was that she didn't see child lines in my palm. hmmm, i know i had them here somewhere....

finally, around 330 pm, we made it to the airport. after we checked in for the jump, i endured the 40-60 minute wait calmly. we spent the time enjoying the sun and watching the landings of the flights before ours. there were some other tandem jumpers, but the vast majority were singles. they looked so peaceful and landed gently. many of them actually wore helmets, for what reason, i never figured out.

there was a tent nearby wherein a guy was repacking a chute. he spent a loooong time getting it right. i later saw some other people who seemed to go faster, but i think it's worth the effort to get it right-- it could be a matter of life or death.

there was a young marine doing a tandem jump along with pam and i. the instructors were very helpful with their instructions, but also full of lame jokes meant, i'm sure, to lighten the tension for first-timers. there was no need, however, as i was quite serene and both pam and the marine were eager to get up in the air. there was an official photo/videographer, plus i had a niece manning my camera.

we were packed into the plane like sardines, with one person sitting between the legs of the person behind. the plane rose very steeply, but i maintained my calm. a group of jumpers went out well before the rest, apparently they were a team that made formations in the air. then we climbed some more. at approximately 11,000 feet, the door opened again (man, it's cold up there!) and the rest of the jumpers started leaving. at that point, although mentally unruffled, i did experience a moment of physical dread in the form of a racing heart; it quickly passed. pam and i were the last ones out (the photog actually went between us). she wanted to do flips in the air. since we went out upside down, i saw the plane nosedive for earth once we were clear. or maybe that was just a trick of perception.

after landing, pam asked me what was going through my head during the brief seconds staring out the door at the ground far, far below me. honestly, nothing. or at least, nothing i can remember. i was preoccupied trying to get rid of the gum i had been gnashing between my teeth for the whole ascent. before i knew it, we were out. then my thoughts were about how cold it is, how dry my mouth was, and how i really wasn't going to pass out. then i was busy trying not to throw up as bob, my tandem jumper, started doing spins; i had expressly told him no flips.
shortly after he deployed the parachute, my stomach caught up with me. i developed a mild sense of nausea that didn't really go away until more than an hour after landing.

the opening of the 'chute was not as violent as cartoons make it look. bob had me grab the handles and i tried veering to the sides and speeding up and slowing down. i wasn't interested in speeding up much. while i controlled our descent, bob was busy loosening my harness. at one point he had me stand on his feet; he unbuckled something and i fell at least an inch. that doesn't sound like much, but when you're still thousands of feet in the air, it will make you nervous.

we had an excellent view of central florida-no we could not see the mouse house, although we could see a wildfire. i was tickled by being able to see the shadows of the clouds on the ground, while the clouds themselves were at eye level.

we drifted back and forth over the airfield and i was a little dubious when he said we were going to land in the sand pit. i didn't think he could pinpoint the landing so closely. it took a severely gut-wrenching 180 degree turn to make it, but we came down right in the pit. pam immediately rushed me before i had even gotten my bearings.

an amazing feat that will, in all probability, not be repeated. but i'm glad i did it. it was very empowering and gave me a feeling of invulnerability, at least temporarily.

later i called mom. she was not happy. pam and i thought, what can she do? it's a done deal. you know, easier to ask forgiveness than permission. we did not expect her to be as upset as she was, considering that we were already safe on the ground. never underestimate the anger of a woman whose children have disobeyed her by participating in a potentially life-threatening activity and risking condemning her grandchildren to a motherless existence.