Here's a link to the most absolutely brilliant commercial for Sony TV. For those of you out there who think Glasgow is dark and dreary, take a look at this. Open this website and click on the "Paint" button to see Glasgow in a new light....
I suppose saying it's been a slow year would be no excuse for me to be typing this almost half way through it. And it hasn't actually been slow: it's been speeding like a freight train and time is speeding away with it. I did manage to get these two into their kilts -- this looks like an ad from Scottish Field magazine.
Though March brought another flood in the new part of our basement, it also brought Anna's FIFTH birthday! This year we had a breakfast party, with all her friends coming in their pajamas. We had pancakes with all the fixins and then 15 small girls and two small boys ran wild around the house in between games and cake. My Little Pony is the "in" thing at this age apparently, and Anna now has a Crystal Pony Castle with a flock of Ponies to live in it. We've set up a computer in the family room for them to play on, and a huge draw is the Webkinz site. Natalie Lopez gave Anna her first Webkinz, a unicorn named Merlin, and Anna can go to the computer and see his online version in his own little house. She can earn webcash to buy him food, clothes, toys, new rooms, baths, and all sorts. She can also chat with Natalie and her other friends through this site. It seems to be a very safe way for them to become tech savvy. And it can be a bit addictive for me too -- keeping Merlin fed and happy.
Anna has recently been sneaking into Jack's room after bedtime and we've found her asleep in his bed, and on several occasions snoring under his train table. She claims that his bed is more comfy than hers, so we might switch the mattresses since Jack has no problem sleeping anywhere we put him.
At the beginning of April we decided that we had had enough diapers. Jack really hadn't shown any interest in being toilet trained, and I had made two half hearted attempts earlier to get him into underpants, but I got discouraged pretty quickly and neither one of us had the patience to follow through. But this time was going to be different! So one Saturday morning we began. That day was a mess. Literally. Sunday started out the same and then suddenly around lunchtime he got it. By Monday evening we were done. Yes, I know I should have forced the issue earlier. But hey, you can't beat two days. And, Anna was the same age when we trained her. So Woo Hoo!
Lisa turned 40 this month. She told us time and again that she didn't want any kind of a big to-do, and threatened all sorts of trouble to those who disobeyed. So her mom Linda calls me and asks to be included in the plans for Lisa's surprise party. And we couldn't go against her mother.... So on a balmy June afternoon we set up a tent and bar in our back garden and hoped for the best. We told Lisa that Jim was hosting the Computer Troubleshooters annual picnic so the tent wouldn't throw her when she arrived later that evening to "help us finish off the leftovers". And the surprise worked. Even better was the look on her face when her Mom and stepdad came out of the kitchen, having flown in for the weekend. Lisa is still threatening mass retribution, but I think in the end she enjoyed herself.
Not being a born American, I wasn't quite prepared for the hoopla surrounding graduation, a June tradition. And I mean Anna's graduation from preschool. Hats, gowns, parades, the whole nine yards. The were practicing and rehearsing for weeks beforehand. The families were asked not to be there before 10:30, so I arrived with Jack at 10:15 and being a good soldier, I sat outside waiting for the appointed time. But after three people climbed over me I realized that I was the only one following instructions. When I got up and went into the church the seats were already full: some attendees had been there since 9:30! For a preschool graduation! But soon enough I got into the whole thing and had tears in my eyes when I saw Anna parading in with her friends. The gown and hat totally surprised me, but the ceremony was very sweet. Afterwards a few of us went over to Meade Park in New Canaan to let off some steam and have lunch. The picture here is of Anna and her best pals: Natalie Lopez, Lilly Chesler, Sara Smeriglio, Anna Hurwitz, and Miranda Neligan.
And for the first time in years we actually took a real vacation this June. Going back to Scotland doesn't count cause that's going home and seeing family and old friends. And this time Jim took time off. We decided at the beginning of the year that we were going to rent a house on the shore for a week. I must have looked at seven or eight hundred different rentals before we found the perfect house. We had thought of going to the Carolinas or Maryland, but in the end decided to stay a bit closer to home and try the Jersey Shore. We have so many friends who have vacationed there and loved it. I wasn't too sure -- when I think of New Jersey it tends to be of highways and chemical processing plants. And then it was Ocean City versus Long Beach Island. In the end LBI was the winner. We went down the last week in June with our friends the LeFevres, before the hordes arrived and the prices went up. The weather was perfect: hot but not humid, cool clear nights, and only one day when the wind was a bit too brisk to be on the beach. I had heard that there were several pods of dolphins to be seen frolicking offshore at sunrise, and duly dragged myself out of bed at the appointed hour, but not a dolphin to be seen. Lovely sunrise though. Then I went back to bed. We stayed on the first floor of Seagrass Cottage in Ship Bottom -- who could resist staying a town with that name? It was right in the dunes so we could go to and fro for food, beverage and bathroom breaks. There's not much to do on LBI other than go to the beach, though we did play mini golf and find several good restaurants. The first couple of days when we went to the beach, Anna wouldn't go in the water, but stood at the tideline trying to grasp the enormity of the ocean and where the edges were. By the final days she was the one we couldn't get out of the water. Jack was gung ho from the start, fearlessly leaping into the waves and getting tossed about. He would bury himself in the sand and then bury water in the same hole. He just couldn't understand why the water wasn't there when he dug the sand back up.
What we did on our Holidays.....
Create your own video slideshow at animoto.com.
We made friends with the long term renters downstairs who recommended a good fish place to eat so Jim and I checked it out. The restaurants down there are all BYOB, which tends to save some cash. We took our bottle over the causeway to the Mud City Crab House and perused the menu, which offered crab tenders. Now I'm not a huge crab fan -- too much work to get to the meat, so I thought this would be perfect -- little pieces of crab already shelled. Ha! Wrong! What arrived was a whole crab, in pieces right enough, but still in the shell, on a vast platter submerged in a butter, wine, onion and garlic sauce. I picked up one leg and daintily attempted to crack it with the provided hammer and get at the meat without covering myself in glop. Then I gave up. By the end of dinner I was sauced up to my armpits and desperately in need of a shower. Since the season hadn't officially started, a lot of the stores and restaurants were still only open for winter hours. Another night were trying to scare up a pizza and it took Jim half an hour of driving past pizza joint after pizza joint to find one open all the way up at the lighthouse. On our last evening evening we trailed down to Paradise Cove at the south end of the island and threw ridiculous amounts of money at the carnival rides, but we did find a shop called Anna Banana, where naturally we bought one of their T-Shirts which Anna wore the next day while flying her very first kite.
Jack is Four! This year we took him and his friends down to the beach to Stew Leonard's grill for a pirate party. And that's what we'll be doing from now on when it comes to parties. Letting someone else deal with it. No stress, no destructed house or terrorized animals. Of course, when he's a bit older it'll be pool parties, but that's a few years away. Down at Stew's we had our own tent and two fabulous helpers who had the kids playing, running, eating, and crafting non stop for two hours while we stood to the side. Jack loved it, and I think his buddies did too. I must remember to book early for next year........
I caught site of a Pileated Woodpecker in the back garden this afternoon.
Anna and Jack took part in a sports camp down at Calf Pasta. The leaders were students from Britain and they showed basic skills in a bunch of different sports -- a fun way to find something that the children like to do. Fun for me too: a beach chair, the newspaper and a large iced coffee in the shade.
At the end of the month we had a visit from Cousin Stacy and Arianna which we used as an excuse to finally to to the Bronx Zoo. Anna and Jack had a blast running through the Butterfly habitat and pretending to be Meercats. We'll have to go back soon -- it started to rain really heavily so we had to cut the visit short.
We are just back from dropping Anna off for her first day at "big" school. She was excited to be going: picked out a new dress to wear, hoisted her backpack and lunch box, and off we went. Though she has been saying how much she was looking forward to it, I had some worries that she might backslide and change her mind once we got to Fox Run and she saw how big it is and how many kids there are. But apparently I'm the only one with second thoughts. We got to Mrs. Malizia's class, Anna found her cubby and her chair, then caught sight of the painting corner and that was that. Happy as a clam. So we left. And now Jack and I are looking forward to a new year at WNNS. He'll be in the fours' class and I'll be an aide in the threes'. Go figure.
Got into the car this afternoon to the sound of my cell phone beeping. "Hello, Mrs. Burley, this is Mr. Treidel over at Fox Run and I have Anna here in the office with me." Oh god, what's happened? She's in the Principal's office already and the school year's only five weeks old! "I just wanted to let you know that Anna has been chosen as Student of the Week at Fox Run because she is such a hard worker, listens carefully and helps all her friends." Anna is SO proud of herself, and we're so pleased. It'll be a great boost to her self esteem. She gets to wear a special ribbon all week, and we have a certificate for her wall. Out of the whole school she was chosen. Cool Beans!!
And she's been going to Introductory Dance class along with some of her old friends from WNNS. Ballet, Tap and Creative. Of course, this buys into the whole Princess craze that the world's 5 and 6 year olds are mired in. But hey, it teaches good posture! I sneaked a look through the blinds and all the girls were walking with beanbags on their heads. This all leads up to a recital in June and then I think we shall move on to other extracurricular activities.
This year was the year of the pirate. Jack is totally fixated on all things piratical so of course he had to be Captain Jack Sparrow (or Spallow, as he calls him), of the Black Pearl. Any time a camera came near him he would sneer appropriately, and "Aaargh". Anna decided she needed to be a Fairy Princess, after some consideration of Elizabeth from the Pirate movies.
And in October we had the kitchen floor done. Again. First time around, our wonderful contractor neglected to fasten the subfloor properly, so the tiles shifted and the grout unattached itself. This time there is a new, level floor, with screws every four inches, upon which the new tile sits. They are not going anywhere until the end of time. I had hoped that we could use the same tile, but that style has falled off the face of the earth. What we eventually settled on is very similar though. Now all we need to do is seal the grout......
And then there was Christmas. What has now become a tradition is Auntie Sherry coming over and making cookies. This year Karen came too, and was in charge of the decorating. We had a lot of cookies. And we had a Smart Cycle, and a cash register, and cameras from Auntie Betty -- once again, too much stuff, but all fun. Anna and Jack were wiped out by lunchtime.