Monday, June 3, 2013

Playing Catch-up - Birthday and NY Trip

I almost forgot that we were in NY in mid-April. Which, of course, means that M got to see his grandparents 3 times this year (so far). One time was when they drove to NC for M's 6th birthday, making it just in time for his birthday party. Then there was this April trip, a return visit for Grandpa's birthday. And the most recent trip we just got back from.

I have hardly any pictures from M's 6th birthday party. Which is pretty sad 'cause it was the first big party for him and he was very excited. See, M's birthday is in early February, the time when many kids come down with sniffles, coughs and all sorts of viruses. In the past, we had years when all M's friends were sick and we had to cancel, when Grandma was sick and we had to cancel, and when M himself was sick and we had to cancel.

But thanks to a very mild winter this year there was not a sniffle among M's little friends. And so the party was on. For various reasons (ok, just one overwhelming reason), we had to do the party at home. If you've been to our house, you know it's a small one. There's not one room with lots of running-around space. There's no dining room and the dining table in the kitchen is barely large enough for 4 adults.

That's why we had to limit the number of friends M was allowed to invite to his party. Still, we ended up with a list of 15 kids, mostly boys, and all 7 years old and younger. M wanted a Star Wars themed party. Well, ok, so I got this idea of setting up a padawan training camp for the kids complete with light sabers made out of pool noodles. Sounds perfect, right? Well, have you ever tried buying pool noodles in late January?!

That's why we ended up using heavy cardboard tubes which was not idea from the safety standpoint. Nope, nobody got hurt and kids had great fun. But it took all my vigilance and effort to keep things from getting too crazy. As a result, no pictures, except this one before the party started (M wanted to dress up as Boba Fett. Also notice Darth Vader poster on the wall)

I think next year I'm just going to host a party at a park, rain (or snow) or shine. And ask everyone to bring Nerf guns.  
Since the weather was so nice and the grandparents were in town for a few days, we did all the usual fun. We took Grandma on scenic walks and treasure hunts. And we tried to invite Grandpa along, but he said he'd rather nap.
Then just a couple of months later it was our turn to drive to NY to Grandpa's birthday. And again, we did the usual stuff. M and Grandma gardened, baked and played with Guinness, a super-smart and super-sweet chocolate lab Grandpa was pet sitting.
 And Grandpa got to talk to Chris (here seen holding a couple of birch logs for future craft projects).
 And Chris got to eat mother-in-law's food. Always plentiful, practically always delicious.
 And M got to spend a lot of time digging through his favorite space in the Grandparents' tiny house, the attic. There are all sorts of fascinating things there in addition to the regular assortment of seasonal clothing, my brother's camping gear, and dusty books that Grandma plans on reading "right after she retires". It's also a place where I keep some toys, games and books for the times when we're in NY and have nothing to do. There's also an old kids drum set there. M wanted it downstairs, but no way!!! We compromised by clearing some floor space in the attic and letting M go wild there with a song he titled "Loded Diper" (if you read "The Diary of the Whimpy Kid", you know).

 Fortunately (for our eardrums), M would get tired of the "Loded Diper" song and come down to either cook with Grandma or play the treasure hunting game, again with Grandma. The original game was too easy, even boring, so Grandma made some of her own rules. But she also came up with tons of little "treasure" rewards. So when it was time to leave, M had several small boxes of tchotchkes he collected.
 Fun times!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Playing Catch-up - Beach Outing

I'm still playing catch-up after disappearing from this space for like forever. And I'm just now downloading pictures from my camera. So it looks like we got to go to the beach a couple of times so far, both times in April. Which is funny 'cause then we tried going the entire month of May, but it was always too cold or rainy or the weather service forecast called for thunderstorms on the coast.

Anyway, first M and I went together with two other Russian moms and their kids. So we had a little field trip - 3 adults and 4 boys. We were outnumbered! But the kids had fun. And, thanks to a friend, I discovered a beautiful beach not far from Raleigh. It's as close as Carolina Beach, but is way more interesting, especially if you are not into relaxing with a book or your kid is not into building sandcastles for hours on end.

Our first trip to Kure Beach was amazing. The water was still too cold for swimming or even jumping in the waves. But it was ok with us because we found some amazing and pretty rare shells. And then we found sea urchins and starfish, some dead, but others very much alive and bobbing about in the shallow warm water.

Now, that was super exciting and I decided that we should go back as soon as possible for more awesome finds. The second time we went, it was purely a family outing - Chris, myself and M. The day was a whole lot windier and colder, so we didn't see any starfish or sea urchins this time. There weren't even that many shells. But we did find lots and lots of crap claws, all different shapes and sizes. Most were very stinky, so we left them be.

Finally, we found one that used to belong to a blue crab. It was so beautiful that we decided to put up with the smell. We figured, we could bring it home and put it in the sunniest spot on the driveway or next to an ant hill or something. Well, to make the long story short, it didn't work out that way and even after a couple of weeks the claw remained too stinky to be allowed inside the house. And outside, if the wind was blowing at just the right angle, the smell would make you do a double-sniff followed by an inspection of the soles of your shoes and thoughts of seafood poisoning. We ended up throwing it away.

But it's not like we didn't find any other treasures that day. Sure, there were no live sea urchins, but we did find one and a half sand dollar (ok, one whole one and one half of the other one). And there were lots of pieces of a very beautiful bright yellow seaweed. Oh, and lots and lots of little pieces of brain corals, perfectly sun bleached.

We let M use our camera to photograph his own finds. It's a great practice for him for the moments when we need him to take a photo of the two of us. If he pays attention, he usually does a very good job. Of course, we still end up asking strangers to take the photos of the three of us. But just wait 'til we get a pet monkey and train it in the art of photography!

Well, that's about all for our beach outings to date. Wew!