Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cones, bones, squashed pennies and dragonflies

Bunny the spineless, hopping dog.....2 days of torrential downpours in the jungles of zoo camp.... where the polar bears get a tasty twin....
Squashed Penny Passports...........
fun with Aiden and Ellie, Patty's kids--my across the street neighbor from 1st-12th grade....3 free Graeters ice cream cones, free blackberry chip smoothy samples, magnets and ice cream lanyards in their annual July coloring contest.....and art for $$ at a local toy store.


Last evening, we met up with the kids of my childhood, across the street, neighbor. Her son and daughter are one year older than my two, but the boys are pretty muchly head to head--except when Aiden tippy toes it and stretches to try to squeeze in a few xtra inches!

The daredevil from the flatlands of Chicago, discovered the joys of flying down HILLS on her RAZOR SCOOTER, breaking open the scab on her knee about 4 times and doin' multiple mud slide wipe outs in the grass.

Du-Jay also became progressively braver and faster on the hills, till he wasn't riding the brakes any more at all!
The kids all had a swingin', rollin', runnin', fossil finding great time together.

Usually, I'm not a fan of little dogs. They tend to be yappy little dust mops. Big dogs like our 100lb Akita are so much cooler. But I will say Bunny won me over.

My parents were dog sitting for a little Shih Tzu, who was born with a partially formed spine and no tail. The vet was ready to put her to sleep at birth, but the breeder intervened and began physical therapy with her. The determined little dog thrived and now gets around pretty well, walking and even running, with just a slight hop of her back legs--hence her name. My kids were thrilled to have a dog they could leash walk without being bowled over.

We're startin' the kids young with the art for fun and profit ideal. Both kids still want to be artists and veterinarians, so after they got their fill of animals in zoo camp each day, we had them enter 4 art contests.

Three were branches of Graters ice cream--the BEST ice cream in the universe, bar none, and pretty rockin' doughnuts, too! We're talking ginormous slabs of dark chocolate for chocolate chips and amazing flavors. Hey, I'm outta town here. I can splurge on ice cream, cheese crowns, good bakery custard doughnuts...... Back in Chi town I promise I'll do xtra time on the eliptical machine and eat raw veggies and low fat yogurt.

This year the kids had to draw their FLAVORite summer memory for a chance to win a tour of the Graeters factory, t-shirts and other prizes. Best of all, every
little ice cream shop location has their own drawing for winners, and every kid who enters gets a free ice cream cone when they turn their art work in!

Today we also took them to a small, but cool Clifton toy store, which has a monthly art contest for $10 gift certificates. They have lots of fun, educational toys and funky kid and baby clothes. I love the black and white skull covered Babylegs brand leg warmers and the Little Mismatched wheel of socks which make 36 different mismatched pairs.
It's a look! Zilla had me bring out her mismatched socks and put them in a basket to choose from for summer. Usually they hang in a plastic bag in the closet till the matches can be found.

At the cool toy store, we bought a couple of kid chopsticks attached at the top, with an octopus and seahorse on them.
Du got a surprise,wire sphere game. Then I surprised Zilla with a great paper crown of flowers and ribbons for our friend Danielle's performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

We'll head out after zoo camp tomorrow, to see her show and spend a midsummer night with Tim and Dani. If you're near the Columbus area, check it out! If not, you can click on the link above, to live vicariously and get a behind the scenes peek at the amusing quotes, quips, accidents and incidents in low budget, outdoor Shakespearian theatre.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

World Record Racin' Cheetah and Tommy The Cat

Tuesday, we had the unique opportunity to see Sarah, the cheetah, run at full speed. Cincinnati Zoo is one of the few places in the world with a cheetah run. Sarah's in training for an August 15th run for the world record, against South African cheetah, Zaza. Check out the web links for amazing videos.

We also got to meet baby Cheetah, Tommy the cat, and see him do a fun run. "Hey baby, do ya wanna lay down with me. Hey baby, do ya wanna lay down by my side....." Thank you Primus.

Baby cheetah, Tommy the cat

The show also included two house cats, a boar, and a cheetah deterrent dog. Pictured above, is a Serval, demonstrating how high big cats can spring for prey, and how they can reach into holes and burrows to fish out small rodents.

The kids' camp shirts this year say "Fun on the Run" and feature a cheetah. The back states "A zoo camper is a happy camper". Our youngest happy camper has been exploring the jungle, and Du-Jay is in "You are what you eat". Yesterday he got to hang in the animal Commisary, or kitchen, and custom make a menu for an animal. Tuesday he got a certificate stating POOP EXPERT, after studying various sizes, shapes and types of animal excrement!

Zilla hung with the jungle predators and met a parrot who sings all of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." She put her gymnastics expertise to good use as they moved up into the lower trees, or the understory, of the rainforest yesterday.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You say Ketchup, I say Catch Up

Ah, the end of July already. The past 10 days, I've had to swap out my Blogger Beret for my Chauffer Chapeau. The annual Blogher convention was in Chicago this past weekend, but I had to run the gauntlet of the coveted summer camps instead. I haven't yet perfected the "cloning myself in the basement laboooritory" experiments.

Sagezilla was at Eco Explorers for nature camp 9-11, requiring two daily trips north to Pulaski and Ardmore. Then Du-Jay was in Pioneer the World camp at the Swedish Museum in Andersonville from 9-2 daily. Since the Mama clone experiments were all to young to drive, and my kids had to be in different sectors at the same time, our friend Mike rode to the rescue and did the morning Pioneer run. Yay carpooling!

The same week, I also played taxi driver for play dates, an 826CHI writing workshop on Music and Lyrics, pottery and swim lessons (cancelled because someone just before us pooped in the pool!) and various events. Just before that we squeezed in hosting a brunch for our friends and their 10 year old daughter, who are back for the summer from teaching in Taiwan for a year. In a few weeks, they return overseas to teach for two more years. We also squeezed in a beach potluck and goodbye party for another family with 3 kids under 7 who are leaving to teach in China for 3 years.

Now, I'm again out of town for 7 days, visiting my parents, AKA Grammy and Gramps. In August, when I again have full access to my digi camera stash, back in Chi Town, I'll post more details and photos from the final weeks of July. North Park Nature Center and The Swedish Museum remain two of our favorite places to frequent and thats exponentially more true during camp week.

Zilla caught a rare, baby preying mantis--the first anyone had caught this season. She also caught frogs and jumping spiders, held snakes and waded in the pond up to her waist. Dugan flew in an awesome cardboard airplane, to Ghana, Sweden, China and Lima. He experienced foods, games, culture, crafts, language and dance from 4 continents, and was still home in time for dinner each day. I'll do a "best of" camps photo blog in August. The kids have also implored me to do a photo post for each of them that would encompass their favorite shots from Oregon. Since they've become quite the photographers, it should be fun.

I'll try to post some of our adventures in Cincinnati this week, and will have lotsa Lollapalooza soon. The kids are on a year round track, so they go back to school the 2nd week of August and I'll have much more time to catch up.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 1--The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure

Pirate swords and cherries at the airport pasta place. I was about 2 seconds from assaulting the nasty United agent with that tiny plastic sword, shortly after this photo was taken. Good thing I'm a diehard pacifist and have a lotta empathy for people stuck in customer service jobs, where they bear the brunt of disgruntled customers' anger. Otherwise there wouldda been an eyeball on that toothpick!

Day 1--Trains, Planes, Trains, Trains and Automobiles. Separate flights, United Divided, Portland at last, and gettin' the squirrlies out at an awesome Hillsboro playground.

Today's a traveling day. It's the much anticipated day we all go see Auntie Maia (or as Du wrote on her handmade b-day card ANTI MAIA).

AA doubled the number of flyer miles we needed to redeem, so we only had enough miles for Du and Dug to fly free. We were going to book the same flight, but it was hundreds more and 3 hours longer than a comparable direct flight on United. So, like the keepers of the secret formula for Coca Cola, we took different flights and coordinated them to arrive near the same time.

It was BEASTLY hot in Chicago when we left. The boys got a few hour head start on us. At 11am, Sage and I took popsicles for the hot, few block walk to the el and set out with backpacks and rolling baggage. By the time we reached the train, I had all the luggage and she was begging for me to carry her, too. It was hot.

I'll try to keep the saga short, but I hope to NEVER fly UNITED AGAIN. Here's the nut shell series of nutty events.

1--book flight months ago--pick seats

2--get e-mail flight has been combined with another--pick new, different, worse seats together

3--sign in 24hrs. ahead to get boarding passes--find both sets of seats we picked are gone and the ONLY seats left are two center seats across the plane in the EMERGENCY ROW. (Good plan people. Put a 6 year old ALONE by the emergency hatch.)

4--Little kid alone in the emergency row prevents us from getting boarding passes on line

5--We go 3 hours early to resolve the seating issues. Little kid alone in the emergency row prevents us from quick check in in the terminal despite no checked baggage.

6--Wait in huge baggage check line to find the agent at check in also can not reassign us seats. She makes a bunch of calls, to be told they're now assigning seats at the gate.

7--We go to the gate 2 hours early to resolve the issue. A nice agent takes our boarding passes, checks us in and tells us we can have two seats together, aisle, near the bathrooms and that they're still working on actual seat assignments, but we're taken care of and all set.

8--We head to a close restaurant for quick pasta, hit the bathroom, fill water bottles and are still back before boarding.

9--New nasty agent is at the counter and tells us we have to go to the back of a ginormous line, despite the fact we checked in 2 hours before. Midway through the line, they begin to board and she announces they've downsized the aircraft and 12 people will be bumped.

10-We finally reach the counter and she claims our seats have been given away despite the fact we checked in 2 hours before, and refuses to even check in the computer.

11--I persist. They say all other flights are booked till past midnight. Sage starts to freak 'cause we've already been at the airport 3 hours. I insist we checked in and were told we had seats. She insists all the seats are gone. She calls a supervisor.

12--A half hour, a near heart attack, and three agents and a supervisor later, they find the seats we did indeed have together, on the aisle, near the bathrooms. We are the very last to board the plane. But board we finally did.We sat behind baby Josie, who was a pretty happy kid. Sage was an excellent flyer. She put her hands in the air on take off and landing, like a roller coaster ride, and yelled out WEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! When we hit turbulance the kid grinned and said "Again, again."Things went smoothly on the much smaller Portland end of things. We met the boys in baggage claim and heard the saga of their scenic route through Dallas to get to Portland from Chicago. I vented about our near miss of our flight, and we hopped two trains for the last leg of our journey to Hillsboro, an hour and a half away. Midway through the train trip, both kids lost it. They were DONE with a capitol D!

Even the group of teens on the train, who fancied themselves vampires and kept biting each other and laughing, couldn't distract the kids for long. They were tired of all their in flight activities, hungry (but not for any healthy snacks we had), and thirsty (but not for our still half full water bottle). We somehow survived the second train and saw flashes of cool scenery between consoling the crabby kids.At last we saw Hillsboro at the end of the blue line and Auntie Maia drove to the station and rescued us. After a few hours of decompression, at the local playground, all was well in the world again. The kids got to run their squirrleys out. And, much to their delight, the kids found teeter totters and a merry go round--neither of which we have in any Chicago playlots we frequent. We'll all get a good sleep, breath some fresh evergreen air, and relish the fact that it's a good 30 degrees cooler here at night!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 2--The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure

Day 2-Friday, June 26th--
Mamma Mia, broken hands, traveling Docs, big chief Kno-Tah, double libraries and double playgrounds, and what ground score is never EVER to be used in an invention.

One day into our vacation and Dug has a broken hand and Sagezilla has blisters, from her too small traveling Doc Martens, that she insisted on wearing on one last journey!

This idyllic pond behind the big Hillsboro library is the scene of Dug's mangling. We were taking pixs while the kids made small boats of leaves and sticks to float over the rapids. Dug decided to hop across the narrow stream and underestimated the slipperiness of the moss covered rocks and took a plunge........... right on his butt.

Later, I felt horrible for laughing first and saying, "Are you OK?" after. Unfortunately, he broke his fall with his left hand and the rocks in turn broke his hand. Some of my optimism must be rubbing off on him, because he said "Hey, I saved my Blackberry and wallet."

Just prior to Dug's dunk in the creek, we had a great evening at a Mamma Mia movie/sing along at the local library. They really went all out with the kitch, even providing a snack "wedding buffet" complete with bride and groom ducks on a wedding cake! People were encouraged to dress as characters from the movie or in 70's ABBA style rock star attire.

We were endlessly amused by how serious some of the movie goers took things. We all even got a brown bag of movie props ala Rocky Horror Picture Show, that matched up with various songs. It included glow sticks, packets of honey, a clock depicting the time "after midnight", a tissue, and fake money.

Much earlier in the day, we made the acquaintance of Chief Kno-Tah, an enormous wooden Indian head, created by sculptor Peter "Wolf" Toth. It stands near a cool wooded play ground, next to the small Hillsboro library. He came to stand for Chief No-Touch, as we had one of those OMG parental moments, requiring extreme calm in the midst of an internal freak out.

My kids are constantly making inventions and recycled art works, so they like to walk and scavenge for invention pieces. For years this has yielded cool little gears, bits and pieces of cast off toys, broken electronics and funky possibilities. But today in the beautiful old growth forest of the Pacific Northwest, they were gathering invention pieces and picked up a syringe!

We had a calm, quick lesson about NEVER EVER picking up a syringe for an invention piece. I explained that people are sometimes sick and that the kids could get sick from pricking themselves with a needle someone else used. ACK! All our years of urban living in the heart of Chicago and the kids have never stumbled upon a syringe........

As I tried not to flip out and scream, it was a small comfort to know neither of the kids had gotten pricked. Maybe this unfortunate lesson will save them from a later encounter, where they might not be so lucky. We headed on in to the library where we checked out a bunch of books and movies, joined the local summer reading program and discovered the Mamma Mia sing along, slated for tonight at the larger local library. My sister and Dug had never seen it and in Dug's case he wanted to keep it that way. But the kids and I had seen it once and were jazzed to go.

We all did various degrees of 70's glam and punk dress, and I went as Meryl Streep, whom I've occasionally been told I resemble.

Sagezilla almost got left at home, when she threw a big old drama queen flurking snit, about having to wear shorts under her glam rock top. She pulled out of her funk just in time.

Here's Du-Jay in Greek fisherman/ 70's hippy garb--well camouflaged in Aunty Maia's green velvet chair.

We were amazed that the free movie included a pretty lavish spread of snacks and drinks, laid out to look like a wedding buffet. And we were amused that the front of the room was scattered with round, cedar dog beds, like we got at Costco, for people to lounge on. The kids happily piled up their plates and piled on the pooch pillows. We took the folding chairs in back.

My little sister, Maia, & husband, Dug, went as the black wearing, anti-disco rebel & metalhead, AKA: themselves.

The funniest moment for me was at the end of the show, when the little, old librarian toddled to the front of the room and after a big build up, excitedly told everyone to peer under their chairs to see who won the grand prize of a Mamma Mia DVD. It was the one person least likely to want to ever see the movie again... Dug! I'm so excited we can endlessly torment him with ABBA in the comforts of our own home. Mamma Mia indeed!

Zilla and I both wore our flowered Dr. Marten's punk/hippy boots. They were my youthful travelin' shoes and I've photographed them in weird and interesting places all over the world. I was elated to find a matching little pair for Zilla in a thrift store, a couple years ago. She's pretty muchly outgrown them, but was adamant about bringing them to Oregon for one last adventure. After this, she'll just have to grow into and inherit mine, and the little ones will be saved, in case of future generations.

The rest of the day, we just relaxed, blew bubbles and hit the local play ground. We are on vacation after all!