Music in the air

August 27, 2014

This morning Babess was ready to go a little earlier than I was, so I sent her out to get her scooter ready to go to school.
After a short time she came running back in, breathless with excitement.
“Mum! Guess what’s outside?!”
“Um, I saw the neighbours are taking down their old fence,” I said, “I think they’re going to put up a new one.”
“Well, but there’s Something Else!”

I am continually amazed at her ability to enunciate capital letters. It’s a great skill to have. “Goodness me, whatever could it be?” I played along.
“On the driveway, there’s a… Harmonica. Wing!”

I blinked. A what?

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand. What did you say, sweetie?”
“A harmonica wing!”
“A… harmonica?… wing?”
“Yes, a harmonica wing. Like, harmonica butterfly?” C’mon, Mum, stop being dense!

“Oh! A monarch butterfly wing?”
“YES! Come see!”

And so I did. (It was a Red Admiral wing, actually).

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

… and breathe …

July 7, 2014

We’ve been home nearly a week, and finally I feel awake enough in an evening to write something. I could fold laundry instead, but I’m sure that won’t go anywhere (sadly).

The teacups - a beloved classic

The teacups – a beloved classic

Minnie Mouse!

Minnie Mouse!

Princess Anna from Frozen

Princess Anna from Frozen

We had a lovely time in our last two days at Disneyland. It was very hot, but we found enough shade and indoor activities and icecream to keep us reasonably comfortable.  Fainjin repaid the girls’ patience while he queued to meet the Avengers by (somewhat grudgingly) lining up to meet princesses and fairies. We all rode the teacups, and the Buzz Lightyear ride again. We discovered ToonTown, explored the Pirates’ Den, saw the Parade, met Alice and the Mad Hatter, took Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, and just generally did whatever took our collective fancy as opportunity arose.

Waiting for the parade

Waiting for the parade

Hi Snow White!

Hi Snow White!

The flight home went very smoothly. We were all worn out from a day at Disneyland, and Fainjin was asleep before we even took off. He slept at least 9 hours before waking – I wish I had that sort of skill! The girls took longer to fall asleep, and slept about 6 hours or so I think. Pearl was upset when she woke to discover her glasses had fallen to the floor and she couldn’t easily locate them. A lovely lady sitting across the aisle from her (I was on Pearl’s other side) helped us search through the tangle of blankets, pillows and headphones. Eventually I sent Fainjin down between the seats on his hands & knees and he found them quickly. Small children can be useful, even on airplanes!

We arrived home in the morning, sorted out a few things, and headed to school for pick-up time at 3pm. The kids were very excited to see their teachers & friends again, and enjoyed the brief celebrity status accorded by their prolonged absence. But we were all asleep by about 6:30pm I think!

We’ve settled more and more as the week has gone on. We managed all three days of school and work but were very grateful when the weekend and school holidays came along. Morning wakings have slid from 4am towards 7am, and lasting longer in the evenings.  The cold and dark aren’t really helping, but the weather hasn’t been all that bad, and it’s so good to be home.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Home

July 1, 2014

The Big Trip is over. We arrived home this morning, after a full day at Disneyland followed by a long overnight flight to New Zealand. The flight went well – no delays, little turbulence, the children slept reasonably well, and no-one was ill.

We’ve had a fairly busy day rediscovering home toys, refilling the pantry & fridge, doing laundry and catching up with a couple of close friends who don’t mind fuzzy jetlagged conversations!

I still have stories to tell & photos to share of our time in California. I hope to get those posted here in the next couple of days.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Fainjin’s personal Heaven

June 28, 2014

Today was the day that Fainjin has been waiting for, for months. Legoland Day.

We got a bus from Anaheim down to Carlsbad, a very comfortable & convenient way to travel with pick-up and drop-off to our hotel at each end of the day. On the longer trip home (due to traffic) the driver played a DVD to keep the kids (and adults) entertained.

Pearl & Babess dozed on the trip down this morning, still exhausted from the previous two days’ adventures. Fainjin sat next to me, quietly humming with anticipation.

We met Emmett & Lucy from the Lego Movie, and saw the actual set where some of it was filmed. Then the kids got their Lego driving licences and drove around the test track. We went on various rides and saw lots of Lego sculptures, but it was at MiniLand that Fainjin found what I think he had been looking for. Entire cities (or representations of cities, anyway), made of Lego.  While Babess asked why the model boats were floating in real water (instead of Lego water, I guess), he was nodding in approval, soaking it all in.

There were opportunities to build, and more rides, but by the end of the day all Fainjin & Babess wanted to do was run around on the adventure playground on Castle Hill. So they did, and were content, and arrived back at the hotel exhausted once again, asleep as soon as their heads touched their pillows.

(photos are refusing to upload; I’ll attempt something when I’ve had some sleep myself!)

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Disneyland!

June 27, 2014
Babess nonchalantly eats a strawberry while Captain Hook signs her autograph book

Babess nonchalantly eats a strawberry while Captain Hook signs her autograph book

Breakfast With Minnie was the start to our day, with Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles and made-to-order omelettes while characters dropped in to chat, sign autographs and pose for photos. Peter Pan was heaps of fun – the only character we saw today who talks. I came back from the buffet with my own breakfast to find him perched on my chair chatting to my younger children.  They were all so cute together! Babess had obviously asked him lots of questions, because she was telling me all about where Tinkerbell was and other bits and pieces after he’d gone.

Peter Pan perches with a pen

Peter Pan perches with a pen

We rode some rides – Babess & I enjoyed the famous teacups – and wandered the park. The kids found the cars in Autopia hard to steer, enjoyed the Small World, and loved the Buzz Lightyear shooting game/ride.  Fainjin glowed with delight meeting Thor and Captain America, having dressed especially for the occasion in his Avengers t-shirt (which both of them noticed and commented on).

We returned to the hotel in mid-afternoon for a break. After dinner I asked whether they wanted to go to bed or back to Disneyland. Back to Disneyland! was the cry. We went to Downtown Disney to catch the monorail, but had to stop in the Lego Store and examine the Build-a-Bear outfits first. When we eventually got back to Disneyland it was time to join the crowds in front of the castle for the fireworks. It was dark, and the kids got droopy. Before the show even started Fainjin & Pearl were begging to go home, but we were pretty much trapped by the crowds. Our view of the fireworks was obscured by some trees, but it was still spectacular. As soon as it was over, we made our way back to the hotel again, leaving rides unridden for another day (luckily we do still have a couple).

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

A California Adventure

June 26, 2014

We are nearly home! And what better place to pause and celebrate our amazing trip than Anaheim, California?

Yesterday was a very looooong day.  We flew from Baltimore to Los Angeles via Chicago.  We allowed lots of time to get to the airport and go through security, so we had an early morning.  The first flight went smoothly enough, but we were delayed in Chicago for over an hour, and had to fly around “some weather” so arrived about 90 minutes late.  Babess & Fainjin both fell asleep in the shuttle to our hotel.

This morning we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant (kids eat free! all of them! as long as I order from the menu, which isn’t expensive – breakfast cost me less than ice-creams did later in the day at the theme park) then walked to California Adventure via Downtown Disney.

Almost as soon as we walked into the park we were having our photos taken with Mickey Mouse & Goofy… and the day continued in similar vein.  We rode rides, watched shows, posed with characters, and simmered in the hot sun – 29ºC today, but at least it’s not humid like Maryland.

The kids’ favourite ride… hmmm, it’s hard to pin down.  Perhaps the “floating tire” ride in Cars Land – the giant tires are hovercraft and a bit like bumper cars so great fun.  They also loved the bumper cars in Bug Land, and Ariel’s Grotto (even Fainjin liked it!).

The least favourite is much easier to name: “It’s Tough to be a Bug” was labelled “may frighten small children” and it certainly did. Babess sobbed for a good 5-10 minutes afterwards.  Pearl didn’t like it much either, screaming her head off at the spiders (she was by no means alone in that) but able to laugh about it after the show.  Fainjin thought it was pretty cool though.

We have come back to the hotel after a long day out, eaten, washed and the kids have fallen straight asleep.  I’m planning a less-intense day tomorrow, hopefully with a rest in the middle of it so we can see the fireworks tomorrow night.

There are some photos of today – but both cameras we had with us ran out of juice during the day, so they are charging at the moment & I will upload the photos later.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Ever so clever

June 23, 2014

Babess is six. I have no idea how that happened so quickly.

We had a lovely day. She opened her presents in the morning – a bookmark from Pearl (from Iceland), a big Lego set from our hosts, and a small book from us because we agreed her “big present” from us is more pocket money to spend in California next week.

Then we went to our friends’ wedding which was absolutely lovely.  The bride gave Babess a posy of her own in recognition that it was a big day for both of them, and Babess beamed with joy.

Babess & Fainjin spent the afternoon playing with the new Lego set and entertaining our hosts while Pearl, The Dad and I went to the wedding reception.  When we got home, Babess had had so much fun that she had fallen asleep!  So we woke her up to take her out for dinner, where we were joined by a few friends including Babess’ best young friend from here (whom she first met as a baby three years ago and hasn’t seen since until this week).  The kids had a wonderful time doing puzzles and colouring in and sticking stickers, and then most people came back “home” for cheesecake and tea or coffee.

Babess had originally asked for a home-made cake, which I was happy to provide, but on a trip to the local supermarket we pointed out the bakery cakes – which are very impressive – and she decided she’d have a bought one instead.  We said she could choose whatever she liked, within size limits, prepared to pay to have one decorated if she so chose.  Initially she liked the look of a plain tray of cupcakes, but then she spotted a package of mixed cheesecake slices – four slices each of plain, caramel, chocolate and berry.  Ever practical, she decided that would be perfect because then everyone could choose the flavour they wanted.  Very nice it was too!

It was a cooler evening, so there weren’t many fireflies,  but I think she’d had a pretty good day even so.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Re(w)a(r)ding

June 21, 2014

Today’s weather was just about perfect. It was sunny with a light breeze, not too humid, and about 28ºC. It was wonderful to be out and about and able to enjoy it!

Yesterday we had visited a bookstore, and seen that they have a summer reading reward programme (or program, I guess). Schoolchildren take a “reading journal” form from the store, fill in the details of 8 books they have read with a recommendation – whom they would recommend the book to as well as why – and then they can claim a free book when they return the form to the store.

So we took three forms, read them carefully and found there was no residency requirement, and gave them to the kids.

This morning blissful peace descended after breakfast as they all worked on listing and recommending books.  They’re such bookworms we had no trouble at all remembering 8 books they had each read recently – a mix of library books, e-books, their own books and borrowed books while travelling. By late morning they were done, so we took them to get their free books.  There was a short list of available books for each age group, but everyone found one they liked. I found it noteworthy that one book in each list was in Spanish – it is very commonly spoken here and elsewhere in the US of course.

Then we took advantage of the lovely weather and spent some time at a local playground. The Dad’s phone pinged a reminder and he laughingly told Fainjin it was time for his Saturday morning music lesson. This sparked a quick discussion of the concept of time zones, which the kids are already fairly familiar with, and suddenly Babess gasped, “It’s already my birthday in New Zealand!”

In recognition of this auspicious occasion (and because it was 28º) we all went and had icecreams before returning home.  And because it was a lovely evening and a Friday, everyone was allowed to stay up a little bit late to watch the fireflies.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Chillin’ (not literally)

June 20, 2014

Yesterday was very very hot again.  We were meant to go berry-picking with friends, but all decided that the weather was not conducive to outdoor activities AT ALL.

Instead we (three families) gathered at one house, the kids played and watched movies and got on very well indeed while the parents chatted and enjoyed each others’ company, then we went to the berry farm’s own restaurant for dinner, which was excellent.  Babess was particularly impressed that “jello” was an option for a side dish (not just on the kids’ menu, either).  She had chicken nuggets and raspberry jelly for dinner, and a cup of fresh-picked strawberries for dessert, and was in her own little heaven.  The restaurant made plain white toast with butter & jam for fusspot Fainjin, so he felt very well catered-for as well, he also got jelly but we called it dessert in his case.  Pearl, having had a grown-up meal, was allowed a small sundae for dessert and was over the moon.  The waitress did very well, keeping track of all sorts of odd orders at random-ish times during the meal and entertaining the six kids and listening to their stories.  It was a lovely relaxed and fun evening.

Today we took the kids to see the house we used to live in, and marvelled at how high the trees have grown.  We’re not really in contact with any of our old neighbours, so it was just a drive-by.  Then we went to a pet shop.  It might sound like an odd tourist attraction, but pet shops in America have the most amazing creatures.  There was a chinchilla, and of course hamsters and guinea pigs (no gerbils at this one though, Stimey!).  But what we really came to see were the snakes and spiders.  We saw a ball python all curled up in… well, a ball, I suppose.  And there were three different sorts of tarantula, which Fainjin found fascinating and Pearl found appalling.  We were amused to see on the information signs that two said “avoid handling” but one said very definitely “do not handle” – I’m guessing that’s the more venomous of the trio!  There was a chameleon, and lots of exotic lizards.  There were also lots of budgies, labelled “parakeets”. Which they are, I guess.

Fainjin loved watching all the fish, especially the teeny-tiny sharks.

Today’s weather has been cooler, thank goodness.  We might be able to go outdoors again tomorrow.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.

Melting in DC

June 18, 2014

Today we took a drive to Washington DC to see some sights.  I have learnt a thing or two on this trip, and our to-see list only had two things on it: the Air & Space Museum, and the White House. If we had more time and energy than that, we could ad lib.

Babess was very excited by the Air & Space Museum, although she would have liked to have found more information about “air” (ie the atmosphere).  It’s entirely possible we just weren’t looking in the right places – it is a big museum and we certainly didn’t see it all.

It's important to remember to look up, at this museum

It’s important to remember to look up, at this museum

We did see some very early planes and conceptual models (my favourite is La Minerve, a balloon with a ship hanging from it, complete with church on deck, and a cannon for signalling), and walked through the cabin of a 1950s airliner.  Then the kids enjoyed a computer game where they had to make decisions to get a mail plane safely through its route despite bad weather and failing instruments.

All three cooperating to get the mail through

All three cooperating to get the mail through

We saw an exhibition on the Wright brothers’ plane(s), and walked through a SkyLab module.  There was a big room about the lunar landings, including a lunar rover, but the space shuttle gallery was closed.

Fainjin "flies" a simulation of the wings of the Wright brothers' plane (it was broken before he got there, honest)

Fainjin “flies” a simulation of the wings of the Wright brothers’ plane (it was broken before he got there, honest)

Then we headed off for lunch.  The day was very hot and sunny, and the temperature had risen steadily while we were in the museum.  By the time we got to a restaurant we were very hot, and grateful for the air-conditioning and iced water.

After lunch we braved the heat againto see the White House.  We were outside for maybe 20 minutes, perhaps a little less.  We saw the White House (through the fence) briefly and posed for photos, then took refuge in a certain fast-food restaurant for ice-creams. Poor Babess was beet-red, not just her face but her arms and legs too, and we were all drooping and sweating from the heat.

I declared extreme weather conditions, and we took the metro back to where we had parked our car at a friend’s place. Even though the metro was air-conditioned, we all needed more iced water and even ice-blocks to suck on by the time we got there!  It was 35°C and humid, and even the locals were suffering.

If only we could get to the fountain to splash in the water...

If only we could get to the fountain to splash in the water…

We had a long drive back through rush-hour DC-and-surrounds traffic – we’re glad it’s not our daily commute!

© UpsideBackwards 2014.


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