The end of February brought the kids' first live theatrical event. We took them to see "Dora the Explorer" onstage in Stamford. We had front row balcony seats, though Jack sat totally enthralled on Jim's lap for the whole show. The kids loved it, but we found it pretty cheesy -- the sets were cheap, the costumes had definitely seen better days. But I suppose when you're packing them in four shows a day, six days a week, something has to give.
Through the Mom's Club we've become particularly friendly with Marika LeFevre and her two children, Kayla, who is about six months older than Anna, and her brother Hakan who is a couple of months younger than Jack and who is his best buddy. In February we were kind of at loose ends and looking for some way to entertain them all. Jack and Hakan are both nuts about trains so we decided to hop the Metro North and go into New York. We'd have time to stroll over to Times Square for lunch before heading home for naps. The train we got on was jammed and it was obvious that we weren't going to get any seats. The conductor told us that there was a local running five minutes later, so we got off at Stamford and boarded the first car on the later train. We had that car to ourselves and settled in behind the driver's compartment so that the kids could look out the front as well as the side windows. When the driver saw us, he offered to let everyone have a turn at the controls.
So the kids were hugely excited, and then when we got into the city they were just in awe of the noise and the crowds and the bigness. We met a policeman on his horse on our way to the Olive Garden for a quick lunch that ended up not being quick because we had the new waiter who didn't seem to know where the kitchen was. If we'd had time we were hoping to visit the giant ToysRus store but had to cut that plan so we could make the return train.
After last Summer's pool escapades we've been taking Anna to swimming lessons. The classes are run by Joan LaClair who taught the de Spoelberch boys when I was watching them back in the Seventies. We go down to the Marriot in Stamford during the winter to their indoor pool, and in the warmer weather it'll be at Joan's Rowayton house. After only two sessions Anna has built up much more confidence in the water -- she kicks really well and can actually put her face under, albeit for only one or two seconds. Now if we can only get Jack toilet trained so that he can join her....
In the winter months life is all about finding activities the kids will enjoy and that'll hopefully ensure a nap for all of us. Current favourites include the play area at Trumbull Mall and Playvillage up in Monroe where they can dress up and go on the indoor gyms, play supermarket or trains and basically run themselves ragged for a few hours.
2006 may become known as the year of Anna horribilus. She's going through several phases that are gnawing away at what's left of our sanity. In November it started with her bed routine. I would usually say the same couple of phrases each night and she started saying them back to me and then wanting me to repeat them back to her. This was quite an insidious process, and before long and before we realized what was happening, she was demanding repetition constantly, in the same tone of voice and at the same volume she used for whatever phrase or word had just come up. If Anna said "Okay", then we would have to say it back to her, properly, or hysterics would be sure to follow. With the bed routine, she managed to scare away a babysitter who didn't have the narrative down in the proper sequence. When we came home that night at 11, Anna was still up and crying for her rhymes.
Now in February, I think she has gotten over most of that habit, though it still comes to the fore when she's particularly tired or cranky. Actually, that's quite a lot.
But her new game is to see how many times during the night she can make us get out of bed. She is fully potty trained (or she was), but she will wake up multiple times each night and come to us saying she needs to use the potty. I think she's waking up and assuming that what woke her was the need to pee. I'm hoping it's not a control issue. At least now we've gotten her to come to our bedroom to tell us, rather than screaming in her room until we go to her -- which of course wakes up Jack too. (Another story).
Anna is four! She had a great day, wearing her Snow White costume all day long and pushing her new two-wheeler around the family room. On Saturday we had a Princess party for her -- all rather last minute as I'd kind of hoped she wouldn't notice if she didn't have a party, but that was not to be, so with a week to go we rushed out invites and pulled it together. We ordered a princess cake from Stew Leonard's and it had four little model princesses on it -- Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, and Aurora. Wouldn't you know, those were Anna's favourite things amongst all the other presents she got. I don't know where this Princess thing comes from -- we certainly didn't encourage it, but she is totally in love with anything Disney Princess. And it helps even more if it's pink. Oh well.
A big month. When we were in Scotland last year I'd been talking with Carrie and Deirdre and the conversation got around to school reunions and why didn't we have one. When we got home I emailed Gillian Cowan and ran the idea by her, and off she went. In the following eight or nine months she managed to track down about 50 of our old classmates as well as several staff members (now in their eighties) and put together a 30th reunion at Jordanhill. Since it was all my idea I couldn't very well not attend, so kids in tow I left for Scotland on May 2nd.
I'd thought that as a way of saving some cash we would fly Aer Lingus from New York to Shannon to Dublin to Glasgow. Never again. Ever. Next time either we will fly direct or Jim comes with us. And it wasn't just all the stops that made it so bad. The flight over seemed to be staffed with attendants who were all novices. When dinner service came around my request for a glass of wine was met with "We only serve water with dinner." What? We were lucky enough to have a bulkhead seat so I had hopes that Anna and Jack would take naps since we'd be flying overnight. Anna lay down on two of our three seats and I began fighting with Jack to get him to sleep too. I put him on the floor with a pillow and blanket and scratched his back endlessly until he was just falling asleep. At that moment the seatbelt sign went on and on of the attendants came over to tell me that Jack couldn't stay on the floor. She suggested a bassinet strapped to the wall, and even though I thought he'd be too big I agreed to give that a try. Right enough, his feet were hanging off the end and his head was crunched in but he did seem to be falling asleep. Then the seatbelt sign came on again and a different attendant told me Jack would have to sit back on the seat because they couldn't be held liable for bassinet safety. That was the end of any hope I had of his sleeping. He whined and cried for the next three hours. Finally on the Dublin/Glasgow leg he passed out for the 45 minutes the flight took. When we got to Glasgow there was no skyway at the gate, so we all had to leave the plane by stairs onto the tarmac to be carried by bus to the terminal. As usual as soon as the plane stopped everyone made a mad rush for the doors. We stayed where we were until the way was clear. All those poor people who had charged out had to wait on the crowded bus till I staggered on, laden down with sleeping Jack, three backpacks, and dragging a crying Anna by the thumb
Coming back was much, much worse.
But once safe in Bearsden we settled into our attic bedroom (all three of us in the big bed, though I did manage one night alone in the single). The first night I woke up and couldn't find Jack or remember which bed he'd started out in. But he'd quietly and in his sleep rolled 10 feet away to the other side of the room and was still sound asleep all curled up beside the door. It took the kids the standard week to adjust their timeclocks, so they were late to bed and early up. Naps were a tough sell too.
We had the first day to recover from traveling, and then on May 4th, TaDa! The wedding. After 18 years, Jane and Mary had decided to make it legal and along with Sandra and Charlie Macgregor we took ourselves along to the registry office and saw the deed done, witnessed for posterity by Charlie and myself. Followed by a lovely lunch at Mulberry's, a terrific restaurant hidden behind a petrol station on Great Western Road. Whereat the waitress appeared with pencils and papers to keep the kids busy and even took Jack on a tour of the kitchen (I of course having negelected to bring along anything for them to play with).
Then another day off before the big reunion on the Saturday. Jane had volunteered to watch the kids and the three of them drove me over to the school, via a quick look at Munro Road. As we were going up the Jordanhill driveway, there were four people walking in front of us, and I was thinking, "Oh God, who the hell are they? I'm not going to recognise anyone at this thing." Then when we turned the car around to the doors and I saw it was Carrie Cox and Sheila Napier, I was shouting at them out the window, trepidation forgotten. Stephen Newlands and Andy McElroy were with them.
The reunion was a great success. I'm just sorry that I didn't have more time to talk to everyone there. I gave a speech outlining how the whole thing had come together. I was surprised that I recognized almost everyone who attended, but hardly anyone knew who I was. For the speech opener I held up a lifesize head shot of my fifth year school photo so that everyone would know who was talking at them. Then Gillian took the floor, after which we toured the school and marveled at how little had changed, though there is a lot more colour and open space in the classrooms. After the school jannie chucked us out at 4, having left Carrie, Sheila, Deirdre, Kirsten Hopkins, and myself to toss all the remaining food, we strolled down to Crow Road, threw Kirsten in a taxi to catch her return flight to London and caught our own taxi to the Grosvenor, where we stayed till 1:30, moving from bar to bar as each one closed. There was a highland wedding going on in the hotel and lots of nice young men with good legs. We laughed non-stop. We did eat too. At various points during the evening we were joined by other classmates -- the boys having taken a pub crawl down Byres Road. Ishbel Herd stayed with us to the bitter end, and kept appearing with more bottles of wine. The poor thing had to drive back to York the next day. I got back to Bearsden, quietly, but busted nevertheless, at 2.
On the Sunday, Jane and Mary had a crowd of about 50 over to the house to celebrate their union and the fabulous new kitchen and conservatory. A wee bit of rain was no deterrent. Betty and Zander, Ginny and Russell along with wee Russell and Suilven who I last saw when she was 2 months old, Jeremy and Natalie, Judy (briefly), and Gerry were all there too.
One evening the kids were watching a movie in the living room while we ate in the conservatory. Darkness came and along with it a thunderstorm of epic proportions. By this time Jack was in bed, but I went to check on Anna and her movie, thinking she'd be scared of the weather, but she was in awe of the lightening. The four of us spent the next hour in the conservatory watching the show in the sky. Since then Anna has been a big fan of thunder and she likes to listen to the weather report in case there's any coming our way. Funny, too, that both of our last Scottish visits have included these massive thunderstorms...
I took Anna and Jack for a stroll down Byres Road and then on to the Transport Museum where they were falling over themselves when they saw Daisy, the bus from Balamory. Of course Jack was also daft about the trains too.
Being good little travellers we planned to be at Glasgow airport two hours before our flight left for Dublin. Too bad that the airline wasn't there to meet us. Aer Lingus didn't have their own desk so we had to wait 3/4 of an hour till their rep showed up and found an empty check in spot. Of course we were first in line and attempting to get ourselves a row of bulkhead seats, but she told us we'd have to arrange that in Dublin since she didn't have access to the trans-Atlantic flight on her computer. Humph. So up to the departure gate. No departure. At least not when it was supposed to be. Another 45 minutes go by and then they announced for small children and those needing assistance. Up we went and were directed down a non-functioning escalator to "Tommy will see you to the plane". No skyway of course. Tommy opened the door to the tarmac and disappeared, leaving us to figure out which of the nearby planes would be ours.
Finally under way to Dublin. The check in at Glasgow had at least put us in a row of four seats, an empty seat between us so it wouldn't be likely that anyone would sit with us. Just in case we couldn't arrange a bulkhead when we got to Dublin.
Quick flight to Dublin then run like crazy to the gate to try and get bulkhead seating. Bloke at the gate said the Glasgow wummin could have arranged that for us, and there were now none left since they'd all been assigned to passengers getting on at Shannon. So we're stuck at the gate till the plane is ready. That took 4-1/2 hours. During which time I got a free call to Jim to swear about what was going on -- I was just about ready to turn back around. They gave us a 5 Euro coupon which was enough for one beer. The kids had no naps and only junk food since we couldn't go back to the airport proper. Finally the missing part for the plane arrived and we're allowed to board. The flight crew this time was pretty apologetic and even gave me a free split of wine for my dinner. So onto Shannon. After sitting at the gate for 20 minutes we're all told we need to disembark and go through U.S. Immigration. And we have to take all our stuff with us. So bundle up kids, toys, snacks, DVD player, and backpacks and stand in a queue waiting to get off. 15 minutes later, "No, we're not going to bother. Everyone back to your seats." So back we go, only to find out after we're all re-settled with toys, books, juice that the good folks at Shannon have put someone in the empty seat between Jack and me. "No, you can't switch, you'll just have to reach over him to your boy." Mental. Luckily there was an empty seat somewhere and the poor bloke managed to get himself moved.
After that it was fairly uneventful. There was no sleep for anyone and Anna was getting increasingly whiny. After we landed and got stuck in the never-ending line at Immigration she cried and screamed for close to an hour before we were allowed to jump the line. Finally into the car and on our way home. She threw up as we crossed the Whitestone Bridge....
Anna's language skills continue to improve. One day, not long ago, she was feeling a bit under the weather and told me very solemnly, "I goat know what's wrong to me. I goat know, I goat know." She's also told me that she doesn't like the hopstable where the sick people go. Anything that happened in the past, whether it was five minutes ago or a week ago happened "last night". "Last night we went to see Auntie Jane." Last night I was sick and had to go to the hopstable." Likewise, anything in the future is "next year." "Eating carrots makes you really helpful and strong." "Cousin June lives in Hopewell Dunkins."
I've been missing having a cat around the house but I wanted to wait till we were back from Scotland before doing anything about it. So on a damp June Sunday I took myself up the local shelter and asked about kittens. Things have changed in the 16 years since I got Buzz. Back then all it took was $20 and a handshake. Now there are forms to fill out and references to be given. After a wait (I assumed while they called my references) I was told that because of the kids, I wouldn't be able to have a kitten but would be welcome to take an adult animal. I'm selfish. I like kittens. So I took myself up to AID in Wilton where I got Buzz, and where they had a roomful of kittens. I made no mention of the kids, though I think they liked me enough that I would have been fine anyway, and so Chips joined our family. He's an orange tabby, though more buff coloured than tabby. He's got big paws and a big head, so I'm hoping he'll be a good big lap sitter. The kids love him and are remarkably well behaved with him (I should call that other shelter), and Dalla is in heaven having a "baby" of her own to play with. She'll take his head completely into her mouth and slather him with licks without hurting him at all. Chips (who started out as Gus, then Ogilivie, then Doc, then Barclay (which is a perfectly sensible progression if you're one of my siblings), before Anna decided he looked like a chip) takes it all in stride. He might think that he's a dog -- whenever he hears Dalla's food bowl rattle he comes running from whatever comfy spot he's sleeping in to help do the eating.
His best game is to lie quietly on the floor in front of the family room windows while Dalla is outside. When Dalla gets close to the window, Chips will leap straight up in the air and fall back to the ground, driving the dog crazy. Dalla will smoosh her nose up against the glass in a futile effort to get her mouth around the cat, while he lies in wait for another leap.
Anna's been having a great time at the West Norwalk Nursery School around the corner. In the Autumn she'll be moving up to the 4's class five mornings a week and Jack will be starting two mornings a week with the 3's. They run a Summer Camp in July each year so we signed them both up for some fun. Jack's been desperate to go to school with Anna and I think this'll give him a good idea of what to expect and he'll hopefully not repeat Anna's tearful goodbyes when we leave him each morning.
Lisa managed to snag tickets for us to go see the 4th of July fireworks up at Waveny in New Canaan. Surprisingly Anna and Jack both loved all the noise and excitement.
And something I am going to mention very quietly in case I jinx myself: they have both taken to playing. By themselves. In their own rooms. For more than two minutes......
Jack's third birthday, already. For the boy who's now in love with Lightning McQueen, his first remote controlled car. A pirate ship that floats from Jane and Mary, Tonka trucks from Sherry, a building set from Tyler and Ryan, but the favourite seems to be the remote control dinosaur from Hakan. At the small party we had outside, that was all that anyone wanted to play with, though they did take a few minutes out to eat. We had usual party fare -- nuggets and potatoes -- which were heating up in the oven, when in a fit of pique the door of the oven locked itself with the potatoes still inside. Nothing we could do would open it, and it was a week before a service tech came out to remedy the problem. By which time the potatoes were a new colour and had a less than appetizing smell. But the party went on and the Thomas cake went down a treat.
Now I'll fast forward to
because September was the month I had sinus surgery, the recovery from which has maybe been the most painful experience of my life, and seems to be lasting way too long. So, the less said, the better (except thank you, thank you to Jeff for drugging me up, Carol, Maggie and Karen for watching the kids and bringing food over, Lisa and Sherry for patient transportation...poor Lisa with her one day old car driving me home, unaware that I was this far away from throwing up all over her new leather upholstery up at the least bump in the road).....
I managed to get myself onto the committee for the WNNS Fall Festival, which was much more fun than it sounds. After a fairly bleak morning, the day turned itself into a lovely one and we had a good turnout. Jim came down with the kids and ended up staying for a couple of hours while they picked and painted pumpkins, jumped endlessly in the moonbouncer, played games and rode the ponies. I was over at the cake walk desperately trying to get rid of a giant box of pumpkin muffins.
The next day, Louie, Rob and Alex arrived for a few days in between visits to family in Baltimore and Utica. I haven't seen Louie since our wedding, so we had lots of catching up to do -- we'd just gotten into the swing of things when they had to leave, but it was so good to see her again, and I can't believe that Alex has gotten so big -- I was still thinking of him as the little ring bearer from the wedding.
For Halloween this year I was full of good intentions, meaning to actually make the kids' costumes. But during an outing to Old Navy, Jack saw a dragon suit that he just had to have, insisting it was a dinosaur. And it was so cheap that I could never have made anything comparable. Then when we got it home, nothing would work but Anna had to have the same thing. So this year we had two wee dinosaurs.
Just back from Norwalk Hospital where Anna has had a benign tumor removed from her left eye socket. She's had it since birth, and it was suggested to us that now would be the ideal time to go in and get it taken care of. We went in early in the morning so that her not eating wouldn't be too big a problem. And she was a little trouper -- went through all the pre-op with no complaints. When we got to the operating room and she was lifted onto the table was when I started to get wobbly. Rather than give her a shot to put her under, they were using gas and had said that she might fight the mask a bit. But she's so used to her nebulizer that it didn't bother her. As the gas took hold though, she started to struggle against it, and that's when I started crying. But it was quick and she was under. For the two hour wait I met up with Lisa (now running the Norwalk Hospital Foundation) and twiddled my thumbs. When Anna came out I was allowed to go to her in the recovery room. She was so small in that bed. And as she woke up she was crying with no let up (which was a side effect of the anesthesia). After an hour we moved back to her little room and waited to be checked out. While we were waiting at the pharmacy for her pain pills she happened to catch sight of herself in a mirror and said, "Mummy, my face is cracked!"
A far cry from the Hogmanays of my not too distant past....This year we were completely without a New Years' Eve plan when I read about First Night in Westport. This is a family themed event which includes everything from horse and buggy rides to face painting, giant train track layouts, fireworks and bonfires, all ending by 8 pm with repeats later on for the older crowd. So off we went. We bagan our big night looking at the model train setup in the library then headed across the road to get Anna's face painted. Jack wanted nothing to do with that. Then a good dinner at Bobby Q's and back to the face painting for me (which gave Jack the nerve to get his done too). Our big adventure ended in a cool fireworks display over the river and a ride around town in a horse drawn cart. Anna and Jack were in bed by 9, while Jim and I managed to last until 12:15 before calling it quits. And it was fun, but a far cry indeed......