Thursday, August 31, 2006

A toast for good luck.

A few weeks ago, B mailed his book proposal, so we all toasted its success with sparkling cider (aged in our fridge since New Year's Eve). So far, we've heard some encouraging news, but pending more definite approval, that's all I'm going to say. Since beginning the proposal, B has used his intermittent insomnia to get some good work done in the wee small hours of the morning. I'm so proud of him! I know his hard work will pay off!

Monday, August 28, 2006

The doctor is in.

R continues to do a fantastic job infusing his own factor. Every other morning, he mixes the vials, loads the syringe, finds a vein and infuses. It's amazing how well this 10-year-old can handle the responsibility!

Last week we participated in a research study, and the researchers observed R infusing. You might think it'd make him nervous to have strangers ogling his every move, but R handled the infusion with ease. He described every step of the procedure, and when the time came, he found the vein on the first stick.

We are so blessed to have the factor that lets R live a normal life, but we are beyond blessed to have this child who can handle hemophilia with such grace.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Skunks on a deck.

Yep. SkunkS. Plural. As in more than one.

Tonight, while playing our nightly game of Spot the Skunk, I was just watching Mr. S eat cat food. The flashlight on him didn't seem to deter him at all, which was really interesting to me. So I started darting the flashlight around the deck to see if the skunk would follow the light. Cats do that, right?

Well, that's when I discovered that Mr. S is not alone. A slightly larger skunk came from under the deck stairs to join Mr. S in his feast. I called B and the kids to witness this, and within seconds, we saw not just the two skunks chowing down, but a third skunk was barely visible. It looked like he/she was headed home--underneath the deck.

Excuse me while I shudder.

(I took this picture in a momentary fit of bravery/foolishness. Since the skunk was heading "home," I took a chance to capture the moment. Of course, that was before I knew we have at least three skunks in our yard!)



So after Googling, I learned that mommy skunks have their kits around June, and when those kits are around two months old, they start hunting with Mom. June plus two months equals right now. Grown skunks are solitary animals, so we must have a mom and her two (oh, please don't let there be more than that!) babies.

The Googled sites said to remove all unnatural food sources first, so we will now be feeding our kitties (not to be confused with the kits) indoors at certain times of the day. The Cat Food Cafe is again closed.

Speaking of the cats, they seem to be cohabitating quite nicely with the little stinkers. Right after we had the triple sighting, KitKat came up to the glass door--startling us much like ChaCha had last night. We opened the door to let her in, thinking she might be frightened, but she was no scaredy cat!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Houston, we have a skunk.

We first discovered him Wednesday night. B and I headed to the backyard to feed the kitties, and we saw that distinctive tail hightailing it out of there. He had been on our deck (where we feed the cats), but as soon as he saw us, he headed to the back corner of the yard. We freaked out! Major heebie-jeebies.

So that was Wednesday. Last night, we're thinking, OK, so maybe there's a skunk out here from time to time. Maybe it was a one-time thing. Maybe it's gone now. So B and I step outside to feed the cats and shock the pool. We're very brave, laughing about how funny it would be if we saw the skunk again. Just as B closed the backdoor, I flipped on the floodlights.

And there he was.

So up to this point, we've had two sightings, and both times we were "sighting" the one part of a skunk you really don't want to see from a mere 6 or 7 feet away. This time we muttered a few words, and FINALLY, after much fumbling, B was able to open the sliding door and let us put that precious piece of glass between ourselves and our striped friend.

Mr. Skunk was no dummy. By the time we got back inside, he was long gone, probably hiding under the deck. Later on, R was feeling left out so he got a flashlight and, from the safety of the sunroom, made a quick sweep of the deck. Bingo! Mr. S was back in business!

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that he has taken up residence here, and as long as we're keeping him fat and happy every night, he's willing to tolerate a few incidents with the hysterical woman and the tall man who can't seem to open doors very efficiently. His own personal cat food buffet is worth the screaming he must endure. My solution? Shut down the Cat Food Cafe. I moved the food from the darkness of the deck to our well-lit front porch. That should do it, right? We found the cats and helped them find their food. Now all we had to do was wait for Mr. S to take a hint and get out of Dodge.

But then tonight, after dark, I just HAD to shine the flashlight on the deck. Yep. This time I got to see his better side. He has such a delicate face and tiny paws. He really is kinda cute. And he looked a little sad that the cat bowl was gone.

Fast forward through the evening. K is playing across the street with the neighbor kids while the rest of us are in the house. A horrified scream sends the three of us out the front door, just certain some calamity has befallen K or one of her friends. But it's not that. One of our neighbors has just seen a skunk on our front porch! By the time we're out the door, K and her friend are back on the other side of the street, so B heads in their direction. R and I are still just standing on the front porch when WHOOSH! A black and white streak rounds the corner and comes straight for us. We do what any calm, cool, collected people would do: SCREAM!

It was ChaCha, and I'm sure our screaming scared her nearly as much as she'd scared us!

For the record, I won't be opening the front or back doors of our house after dark without psyching myself up first. The thought of seeing Mr. S--cute face or not--on our front porch just sends shivers down my spine. I'll need a REALLY good reason to open the door.

Thank goodness these things are nocturnal. Otherwise, I might never be able to leave the house!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Back to school: Through the years

Every year since K started first grade, we've taken the "backpack shot" on our front porch before the first day of school.

Looking at this sequence of pictures, several things hit me:

1. My kids are growing up so quickly!

2. K the Third Grader seems more than two years older than K the First Grader.

3. R is getting to be even more like his daddy.

4. K's hair is still as blonde as ever!

5. I really should've put K on the left side this year.

6. Maybe it's time to get a new doormat.

7. Can we never hide the garden hose from view?

As of today, school is back in session. Whew! We had a fantabulous summer, which makes it that much harder to get back to real life with its homework, early bedtimes, and early, early alarms. Because I'm back in school, too, I didn't get to walk the kids to class this morning, but I did manage to get our traditional backpack shot on the front porch. (Three years in a row! Woo-hoo!)

This year, our feline "fwiends" were around while we took pictures, so they got in on the photo shoot:

Even though I missed the first day festivities at R and K's school, I did get to meet the teachers last Friday night. K's teacher put us to work! K had a long checklist to complete, and after it was finished, I felt like she was really prepared for today.

R didn't have any checklists to do, but he did have to endure having his mother take his picture! In the hallway!!! In front of people!!!!!!!

Somehow R and K were also able to survive the unbearable humiliation that came from Mom FORCING them to sit still for this picture:

Monday, August 14, 2006

Vacation recap, Day 9.

Saturday, July 22

Our last full day of vacation. Whew! By the time this day arrived, we were plum tuckered. Since the kids and I spent one of our San Diego days driving back to Anaheim, this was our only chance to see the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Too bad it was also a day of record-breaking heat. (I don't know if the day's high temp really set a record, but it should have. As a native Texan, I have earned the right to assess heat, and let me tell you, it was HOT.)

We dropped B off at his convention and headed to Balboa Park, home of the zoo. Once there we began with the bus tour. Because the wait was shorter, we opted for the top of the double-decker bus. The folks who waited an extra 45 minutes to an hour may have had shade, but at least we had a better vantage point.

The tour gave us a fantastic overview of this immense zoo, and considering all the hills and valleys, I can't imagine seeing nearly this much of the zoo if we had been on foot. In fact, because of the heat, we ended up walking only a tiny portion of the miles of trails.

I did insist, however, that we sweat it out to see the pandas. When would we have this chance again, right? We walked the panda trail down, down, down, through an aviary, down some more. It was sweltering, but we were headed downhill to see the pandas, and moving sidewalks and escalators would get us back up. (Sense the foreshadowing there?)

We waited in line for our moment to see the pandas. It was odd, actually, to step into their habitat.

The animals don't like loud noises, so people were mostly staring silently at the creatures. A panda expert's voice came through the loudspeakers (softspeakers?) in hushed tones, whispering interesting tidbits about the pandas' eating habits.

The loudest noise there was the crack of bamboo as a panda was chowing down.

R and K were just melting, but bless their hearts, they hung in there because Mom just had to see the pandas. Her job as videographer kept K busy:

As soon as we made the walk through the panda area, we were all miserably hot.

It was time to go! So at the world-famous San Diego Zoo, we did the bus tour, made a quick spin through the herpetarium to see the snakes, and hiked a million miles to see the pandas.

Oh. About those million miles. When we headed out of the panda exhibit, we discovered that the escalator was out of order, and the express bus was nowhere to be seen. We ended up hiking up, up, up, up many stairs, back through the aviary, and uphill some more to the zoo entrance. Lovely!

Our trip to the zoo was disappointing but definitely not because of the zoo itself. Even though sweat was pouring into our eyes, we could still see how amazing it is. I really want to go back someday, preferably in winter! The heat, combined with our exhaustion from nine days of vacation, made this excursion the only downer of the whole trip. And even with the heat, I'm glad we got at least a glimpse of the zoo!

I had planned to take the kids to one of San Diego's famous beaches later that day, but we were sweaty and miserable. Instead, we went back to the hotel and swam in the nice, cool, chlorinated pool. I read a book while R and K made friends with other tourist kids, and before too long, B called, ready to be picked up. We found an authentic San Diego Mexican restaurant for supper (OK, not really--we ate at On the Border), wrote a few postcards and called it a day.

We were pooped! The next morning, we packed our bags and drove back to LAX, returned the rental car and waited for our flight.

What a week! I thank God that we were safe and healthy for the entire trip. I'm so grateful that we were able to take this vacation and make all these wonderful memories!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Vacation recap, Day 8.

Friday, July 21

Another day for B at the Comic-Con, and a third day at Disney for me and the kids!

When planning our vacation, we discovered we could save money by buying Southern California City Passes, which include tickets to Universal Studios, the San Diego Zoo, Sea World and Disneyland. Each pass actually included a three-day Park Hopper ticket for Disneyland and California Adventure, and even though we had only planned on spending two days in Anaheim, it was still cheaper to buy the pass.

That was the plan: Anaheim on Tuesday and Wednesday, then San Diego the rest of the week. But Wednesday afternoon we discovered the greatness that is California Adventure, and our brief taste of that park let us know that yes, we would indeed need a third day in Anaheim! There were plenty of fun things we could do in San Diego Friday, but we just couldn't pass up another Disney day--especially since it was paid for!

So Friday morning, we dropped B off at the convention center and headed north for the 90- minute (or so) drive. I was a little nervous about driving a rental car by myself with the kids (What if we have a blow-out? What if we run out of gas? What if I get lost? What if I lose all our money?), but the drive was so beautiful, I almost forgot my worries. With the Pacific to our left and the mountains to our right, I had a hard time keeping my eyes on the road. It was amazing to see the sights we'd missed driving into San Diego Wednesday night. It may have been the scenery, or maybe it was the traveling music (We listened to the High School Musical soundtrack), but we were there before we knew it.

First off, we wanted to ride our Disneyland favorites one more time. We really wanted to hit the mountains (Splash and Space) again, but time (and FastPass) constraints meant we didn't get another spin in Space. We did do Haunted Mansion and Buzz Lightyear again, though, and we took some "last chance" pictures, like this one in front of Splash Mountain.
After another lunch at Pizza Port in Tomorrowland and some more shopping, it was back to California Adventure! We LOVED that place! The lines were short or non-existent, and the rides were FUN! We skipped a few attractions like a bug's land and the Grizzly River Run raft ride (below), but we still enjoyed the view of the bear-shaped mountain. Pretty cool!

We did get to take plenty of turns on California Screamin':

And we also experienced the Sun Wheel:

I have ridden tons of rides at theme parks and carnivals, but this one really got me, thanks to the "swinging" gondolas. Most ferris wheels have stationary gondolas, as this one does along its circumference. This one has tracks inside the circle, and the swinging gondolas slide along those tracks as the wheel turns. ("Sliding" gondolas would be a more accurate description.) Of course, we waited in the longer line to ride in one of the swinging gondolas, which I stupidly thought would be fun. And they were. Until the ride started.

Once everyone was loaded up, we started to move and take in the sights. I pulled out the camcorder and had just pushed the "RECORD" button when--WHOOOOOOOSH! We started sliding! Since we basically were in a big cage with no seatbelts or lap bar, I just KNEW R&K were going to start flying around our gondola. Of course, they didn't get tossed around, but they were filled with glee because they could tell that Mom was SCARED.

With every turn, we slid some more. I held on tighter, but R&K screamed with delight. What fun. For THEM.

I don't know why that got to me. I love roller coasters; I'm not afraid of heights. There was just something about that sliding sensation that caught me off-guard.

I guess nothing brings siblings together like scaring the living daylights out of Mom:

In addition to the Sun Wheel and California Screamin', other Paradise Pier rides kept us entertained: the Maliboomer, Mulholland Madness and Golden Zephyr.

We also managed to catch Soarin' Over California, which allowed us to hang-glide over some of California's famous locales. It was incredible how we could feel wind on our faces as we flew from side to side, and as we flew over an orange grove, we could smell oranges! It was a true sensory experience.

Back in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, we rode the Tower of Terror again and tried out the new Monsters Inc. attraction. We also saw the phenomenal Aladdin musical. During our three days at Disney, we could barely walk through a turnstile or pay for a souvenir without being asked if we'd seen it yet, so we felt obligated to endure the long lines for this show. And yes, it was worth it!

The genie was hilarious with plenty of pop culture references, and the special effects (the parade, the flying carpet) were impressive.

Before leaving we caught the Electrical Parade, which used to be a staple of the Magic Kingdom. It was pretty funky with all the lights! By that time, we were pretty tired, and I still had a long drive in front of me. We took a few more pictures of Paradise Pier before calling it a night:

And that was the end of our third and final day at Disneyland and California Adventure. :(

Now it's time to say goodbye

To all our company.

M-I-C (See you real soon!)

K-E-Y (Why? Because we like you!)


P.S. Because he knew we'd be getting back to San Diego pretty late, B planned to spend Friday night with a colleague he'd met online. It worked out great! B and a couple of guys ended up eating dinner together and then hanging out in their hotel room talking about the convention and other things they have in common. It was probably close to 1 a.m. by the time the kids and I made it to their hotel to pick B up, so I was glad to know he was in such good company!

Thursday, August 10, 2006


On Sept. 11, I will be honoring Deepa K. Pakkala, 31, who was killed at the World Trade Center.

As the 2996 site says, "Bloggers honor the innocent victims of that awful day..." If you have a blog, you can go to the 2996 website to sign up. (If you don't have a blog, here's a good excuse to start one!)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Vacation recap, Day 7.

Thursday, July 20

San Diego! When we were "California dreamin'" way back in March, B mentioned that the San Diego Comic-Con would be honoring The Flash's 50th anniversary this year. B has collected Flash items for a LONG time and has forever been a big fan of the Scarlet Speedster. I did the math and figured we could easily add a side trip to San Diego if we went to Los Angeles. Besides, B had always wanted to attend the Comic-Con, THE convention for fans of comics, sci-fi and other media. Because of his writing gigs for Comics Buyers Guide and other publications, along with his past experience as a comics retailer (he used to co-own a comics shop), he was long overdue a trip to the Comic-Con.

Originally we planned for the kids and I to see the sights on our own for two of the three days we would be in San Diego. As the convention schedule was published, however, we realized that B wouldn't want to miss any of the Comic-Con! It was crazy, really, how many of B's favorites were celebrated in those three days: Flash, Forbidden Planet, Universal Monsters, and on and on. It was a good year for him to go!

So for me and the kids, here's what we saw of the San Diego Comic-Con:

We picked this spot for our shuttle stop because it's near the door where B initially picked up his press pass. For three days, we dropped him off at the Convention Center and picked him up much later. The kids and I had plenty of adventures, and at the same time, B was making some incredible memories. I'll post some of his pictures later.

While B got his first taste of the famous Comic-Con, we headed to Mission Bay to see the famous Sea World! We went to San Antonio's version a few years ago, but this one had different scenery.

We were able to see several attractions right away. The shark encounter was fascinating, and not just for R, the world's biggest Jaws fan. K and I enjoyed seeing the sharks all around us as we descended into the exhibit. The Haunted Lighthouse, a 3-D movie, was just as much fun as we'd remembered from San Antonio. During the day, we also saw a friendly snake and these starfish that the kids could touch:

We saw plenty of shows, including the sea lion, walrus and otter show:

the dolphins:

and of course, Shamu!

Naturally, Shamu is the star of this park. The kids' meals even came in Shamu-shaped lunchboxes!

The kids blew off some steam at Shamu's Happy Harbor, a huge play area just for kids:

This Sea World location doesn't have a waterpark like San Antonio, but it does have a different kind of rollercoaster: Journey to Atlantis.

Atlantis begins like a flume ride, but after the big, splashy drop, the boat floats into a dark area and is put on a track. From that point on, it's like a regular rollercoaster.

Except for not being able to find our rental car when it was time to go (SCARY!!!), our day at Sea World was delightful!

Vacation recap, Day 6.

Wednesday, July 19

During our second day at Disneyland, we had another chance to enjoy our favorites from Tuesday. Our first stop was Tomorrowland because we couldn't wait to ride Space Mountain again.

You could say the ride knocked our socks off, but it would be more accurate to say it knocked K's ears off! Before "liftoff," K carefully stowed her Mickey ears in the pouch in front of her seat. When the ride was over, all four of us were too excited to remember to grab her ears! It was disappointing, but we learned a lesson about hanging on to our stuff.

On Wednesday we also took a spin through Autopia, and K was especially pleased with the souvenir driver's license.

After a taste of Tomorrowland, we journeyed into Fantasyland to ride many of the storybook attractions. Of those, Peter Pan's Flight was our favorite.

The scenery in Fantasyland was fantastic, too!

(Can you see Mickey up there on the Matterhorn? We watched him climb to the top to plant a special 50th anniversary flag.)

(Yes, we bought K another set of ears [pirate ones this time] when we bought R's. We couldn't help ourselves!)

We managed to ride the Matterhorn and Splash Mountain again, and we just had to take another spin through Pirates and Haunted Mansion.

Back in Tomorrowland, we ate a late lunch at Pizza Port:

And then the kids got to meet Buzz Lightyear! When he saw their shirts, Buzz was quick to show us a "Hook 'Em"! It was so quick, I didn't even have my camera out yet. Buzz was one of many characters and Disney castmembers who flashed their Horns.

Before leaving the Magic Kingdom, we saw the 50th anniversary retrospective, which gave us an interesting look at the park's history. Since B wouldn't be with us for our third day at Disney later in the vacation, he got a good last look at Disneyland before we made our way to California Adventure.

Once inside California Adventure, we were amazed to see SPACE! It wasn't nearly as crowded as Disneyland. After walking under the miniature Golden Gate Bridge, we took it all in. It's all California, from the tile mosaic of California scenes to the California tunes playing on the loudspeakers.

Speaking of the music: Before we left home, I downloaded a bunch of California songs from iTunes. I brought the CD with us, so by Day 6, we had listened to those tracks over and over and over. So when we heard "California Dreamin'" playing over the loudspeakers, we knew every word and could sing along. On our CD, the song right after the Mamas and the Papas' hit is Al Jolson singing "California, Here We Come." Imagine our surprise when the next song to play at California Adventure was that exact same recording! The song may not be rare, but the Al Jolson version? Really?

Our first area to visit was the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. It was a little disorienting to head down a street and only then realize that it ended much sooner than we thought, thanks to a painted backdrop.

Our first destination was the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The ride, with its crazy elevator that dropped us several times, was made even better thanks to the Rod Serling intro video and the creepy bellhops who greeted us.

After that we saw Muppet*Vision 3D, which was a kick for us Muppet fans.

Across the park we found Paradise Pier, which had the California tunes playing, but this time in merry-go-round style. The highlight of this part of the park was the California Screamin', a phenomenal hypercoaster with a quick start, several good drops, and a loop right through Mickey's head.

Near the coaster was a stand with some yummy softserve ice cream. The ice cream combined with the Screamin' backdrop made this summertime scene:

For the second time during our trip, we had ice cream for supper! Only on vacation!

Before leaving, the kids met Max (from Goofy to the Max), and he, too, gave us a "Hook 'Em."

Because we were driving from Anaheim to San Diego, we tried to leave the park before it got too late. We were exhausted, but SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and the Comic-Con were waiting!