Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Break Adventures III: Galveston

I had totally planned to stay home on Friday, the last real day of Spring Break, and clean house.  I had laundry to do, dishes to wash, and cheese cracker residue to scrape off of every non-permeable surface in the house.

This did not get done.  Princess announced after breakfast that she wanted to go to the beach, so Sven prepared to take Princess to Galveston for the afternoon.  Sven Jr., seeing them leave, began to cry.  Sven sighed dramatically and put shoes and socks on his son.  In other words, Sven was preparing to take both children out of the house for several hours, leaving me there alone.

Like a complete and utter fool, this prospect filled me with dread.  I wanted to be there if Sven Jr. got to walk on the beach for the first time.  I wanted to know if Princess said or did something adorably precocious.  So, instead of taking advantage of the solitude and cleaning the house or napping, I said, "Wait for me!" and joined them in the car.

It was totally worth it.  Galveston still shows a lot of damage from Hurricane Ike, but it's coming back.  Here's a picture of Princess and Sven on The Strand, the historic district next to the pier on the bay side of the island:
The mark above Sven's head is the water mark from Ike's storm surge.  Sven is about 6' tall, so you can imagine how much damage there is to repair.

The good news for me: Galveston Bookshop, my favorite used book store, located on 23rd Street right off The Strand, is fully re-stocked and looking great.  GB had 7' of water in the store, completely wiping out the first floor, but they now have brand new shelves, a beautiful new tile floor, and replenished stock.  Anyone who reads my blog who goes to Galveston needs to check out this excellent book store.  (If you click on the link I provided, you can see pictures of the new look as well as right after the storm.  Very impressive.)

The better news for me: I got to see Sven Jr.'s first time on the beach, as he played in the sand with his sister:
I guess it's okay that the house is a mess.  I think I made the right call.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Break Adventures II: Sea World San Antonio

Or: Deb Discovers She Cannot Heckle Shamu

It began weeks ago: Princess approached me and laid her adorable head on my knee, and, bottom lip quivering, said:

"Mama?  I want to go and see Shampoo."

"You want a bath?" I asked, thoroughly confused.

"No," she answered, rolling her eyes at my stupidity.  "I want to see Shampoo the WHALE."  (You must imagine this last word spoken in 3-year-old Texan dialect, so it comes out WAY-yull.)

"Ah," I said, throwing a helpless glance at Sven, who, helpful as always, shrugged.  "Well, sweetheart, we have some vacation coming up, so we'll see if maybe we can go and see Shamu."

"Not 'Shamu,' Mommy," she patiently corrected me, "Shampoo.  Shampoo is the whale.  Shamu is the baby brother."  My misinformation sufficiently corrected, Princess went on her merry way, satisfied that her mommy would take care of it, so there would be no need to bring it up again.

Ha, ha!  Clearly, I jest.  Princess has mentioned Shampoo and her need to see him at least thrice daily for the last three weeks.  Last year it was caves.  I'm thinking this year may be the Year of the Whale.

So, like any parents with a firm and reasonable grip on their children, Sven and I planned a trip to Sea World: San Antonio because we wanted to go.  Not because Princess made us.

I must confess: I truly, truly wanted to heckle the Shamu show.  It's called "Believe!" and it is the cheesiest, most cliche "story" imaginable.  It starts with a movie.  There's a little boy who loves killer whales, so he looks at them in a book, then whittles a whale tail out of wood and wears it as a necklace, then goes to the beach and sees a killer whale, and canoes out to meet it, and the whale says, "What's up?" and the music swells.  Then, the real-life trainer walks out, and he's wearing a wooden whale tail pendant!  Which is also available in the gift shop for $15!  How inspiring.

The problem is, I am literally awed to tears by the magnificence of those animals.  Before the show, the whales are all swimming around the pool, warming up or something, and the moment I see them I just start bawling.  When the necklace-wearing trainer points across the water and Shamu leaps up, I am genuinely moved, despite the cheesiness.  They are amazing to watch, and Princess and I were very happy, though I think Princess was a bit embarrassed by my enthusiasm.

"Mommy, stop it," she said to me as I sobbed into my souvenir Shamu bath towel, a bargain at $10.

"Did you see that?" I asked her, tears streaming down my face.  "Did you see the whale give him a kiss?"

"I want to sit with Daddy," she replied, edging away from me.  

After I had sufficiently recovered from Believe! we went to Viva!, billed as an amazing interaction between acrobats, dolphins, and beluga whales.  This, I could have heckled.  Unfortunately, Sven Jr. was so emotionally drained from Believe! that he was asleep in the stroller, making it necessary for me to stand at the back of the theater and only glimpse the show between the heads of children who were standing on the seats to better see the show.  However, I think I caught the gist...several vaguely fish-costumed acrobats fall in the water, and they bring out the dolphins/whales every ten minutes or so.  I won't mention that the fish costumes were skintight and very unforgiving, particularly on some of the auxiliary fishes.

Princess was soon bored with Viva!.  I wanted to go and see the Penguin Encounter!, so we did.  We stepped on an automatic walkway, the kind you see in major airports, and very slowly went by a room full of penguins.  It made you say, "Wow.  Look at the penguins."  I bet they think we're idiots.  In fact, I bet the penguins think that walkway is there for their amusement, and if we could understand their language, we would here snarky comments from them about fashion choices and hairstyles.  

After the Penguin Encounter! we went to Dolphin Cove! where we can feed and pet real live dolphins.  Except it was so crowded they had cut off the food, and the dolphins were not interested in being petted by Sven Jr., much to his dismay.

"Hoo dey?" he demanded, pointing imperiously at the dolphins.  "Eee ta."  Translation: Bring me a dolphin to pet, and I shall reward you with a moist kiss and pull your hair for an hour.

"Honey, they just want to swim," I answered.

"Oooo," he answered disapprovingly.  Translation: Those rude dolphins.  Don't they know they exist, as does everything else, for my amusement.

"I'm sorry, sweetie," I said, wincing as he grabbed my hair.

"Pa bo," he replied.  Translation: You're all right.  I may kiss you later.

After Dolphin Cove! and the Coral Reef! Princess demanded to go back and see the Sea Lion Exhibit! and fell asleep before the sentence was out of her mouth.  Sven and I raced to the car as quickly as we could while Sven Jr. poked princess with impunity, and we headed home, exhausted.

I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Break Adventures: We Go To The Zoo

Since Sven and I are both teachers, we have a lovely "bonus" week of vacation every year: Spring Break.  We pull the kids out of day care for the week and spend every waking moment together, reminding me why I work outside the home.

Kidding!  Really, I am.  I love my husband and my children and the time I spend with them is very precious.  The kids are growing so fast, sometimes I'm afraid I'm missing so much by having to leave them in day care, so any chance I have to spend time with them I take.

Today, Sven and I packed up bright and early (10:00-ish) and took the kids to the zoo.  This is an outing we rarely tire of, and since we purchased a zoo membership this year, we can visit as many times as we like for "free."  (The zoo's definition of "free" is, of course, free admission, which is wonderful, but food, drink, souvenirs, parking, and miscellanea usually put us in the $500-$600 dollar range for a three-hour visit.  Yes, I am exaggerating, but only slightly.)

Among other highlights: we saw a 46-day-old baby giraffe, and Sven Jr. snacked nonstop for almost 5 hours.  I'd like to think it's due to teething...

Mindful that I am the keeper of my family's memories, I took the camera.  Here is our visit, as it will live in the annals of my increasingly demented mind:

Princess, at the duckpond shortly after arrival.

"Mama, there was a duck!  I saw it!"

"I don't trust that bear."

"That bear is definitely up to something."

Sven and Princess look for the baby elephant.

Princess shows her love...

...and Sven Jr. goes in for a kiss.

Maybe it's time to go...

We out.

Monday, March 16, 2009

All Signs Point to Grown-Up

Yesterday, I was with my two wonderful children at church, having weathered another Sacrament Meeting with only myself, my dear mother, an assortment of stuffed toys, repulsive toddler "candy," and purple knock-out gas to get Princess (3) and Sven, Jr. (15 months) through the service without causing more distraction than a medium sized elephant crashing through the cultural hall (what we LDS call a gym).

My mother teaches the adult Sunday School class, so after Sacrament Meeting, I hand Sven Jr. off to a dear friend, Calliope, and Princess and I go to Primary (ages 3-12) where she attends class and I play the piano.

This is our routine, and I've become accustomed to it.  So accustomed, in fact, that it flabbered my considerably exhausted gast when I was approached, during the hand-off, by a member of the Bishopric, Brother Coolguy.

"I need to talk to you," he said to me.  My eyes widened.  "Oh, yeah," he said, "your eyes should get wide.  I hope you've enjoyed your break, we're going to put you to work."  Calliope looked on, amused.  "But I have to talk to you first," Brother Coolguy said to her.  Ha ha!  I was amused at Bro. Coolguy's admirable diversion, but my stomach was still in knots, wondering what was coming.

You see, in the LDS church we all kind of split up the jobs, rotating them so that everybody gets a chance to do everything eventually.  We're asked to do the jobs by a member of the Bishopric.  No one is paid in our church, and no one is forced to accept an assignment.  However, when a member of the Bishopric approaches you with that special look and says, "Say, I'd like to talk to you in private for a minute," you get those butterflies that say to you, "things are about to change."

So, yesterday I was asked to accept a new calling.  It's not official, so I can't go into specifics, but I will say this: this is the first time since the age of 18 that I've gotten a calling that does not involve playing the piano.  I am super excited.

But, this new calling makes me realize something: this is a real calling, like the grown-ups have.  I remember my mother having this calling.  I remember all of the wonderful ladies I grew up admiring having this calling.  This calling means I am now a grown up.

In timing that I'm not at all sure is coincidental, Princess is getting her grown-up bed today, and last night Sven, Jr. slept in his toddler bed for the first time.

Is this how it happens?  Yesterday I was piercing my own nose and sighing with plaintive angst over the Cure.  Today I'm a mom of two researching teething remedies on the internet and comparing the effectiveness of iron supplements.

It's all as it is supposed to be, I know...but the time is going by so fast.