Sunday, January 27, 2013

Noel Revisited

We have the plague at our house and I'm in need of a pick-me-up.  Anyone else in the same boat?

So!  More of Noel, but with her mom this time:

How can that little bundle of adorableness not make you smile?

But in case that didn't do the trick, here's a kiss from Nick:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Caribbean Cruise - Day 4 Part 1 (Grand Cayman)

If you missed any of the other installments, you can find them here:

Day 1 - Boarding in Galveston
The Diet Soda Debacle
Day 2 - At sea
Day 3 - Cozumel


Day 4 Part 1 (Grand Cayman)

Grand Cayman is a place where you have to ride smaller boats (tenders) from the cruise ship onto shore.  We waited in line kind of early so that we got tickets for the first tenders that morning.  The first thing we did once we got ashore in Grand Cayman was walk just a little ways to the south of the port to Eden Rock for some more snorkeling.  The shore was really rocky there and we climbed down a metal ladder into the water.  On the concrete edge there were a bunch of cute little crabs!  Can you see them in this photo?

There was much more to see snorkeling here than where we went in Cozumel.  Here there was a true reef and it was only about 50 yards or so off shore.  But the weather in Grand Cayman was even cloudier and grayer than it had been in Cozumel, so it was even harder to get any photos from the point-and-shoot camera inside a waterproof bag.  Sorry.

Note the actual reefiness.

Look, a blue... thing:

So yah, taking pictures didn't turn out so well.  In fact, it was drizzling a tiny bit while we snorkeled.  And the reef was fairly deep down so there just wasn't much of the gray overcast light getting down there.  This picture almost kind of turned out:

We saw a puffer fish and a flat fish. But no photos of those. This was a cool black trigger fish:

We saw TONS of different fish, but I don't know the names of most of them. And then, of course, there were lots of sergeant majors again:

They were getting super close to us again.  Here you can see how many were swimming between M and me:

But the most noteworthy thing was this:

The fish were amazing, but after awhile it was like we just kept seeing the same super cool stuff again and again. So after a couple hours of not very warm salt water, we were done.

As we walked back toward the port in order to catch a taxi, we picked up coconut water from a street vendor to quench our thirst:

M was so excited, he wet himself:

M is probably gonna hate me for joking about that.  So yah, just to clarify:  Really it was just that our swim suits were still wet from snorkeling.  And of course, of course, any wetness anywhere on your body always seems to manifest itself in the general crotch region.  Why is that?  Probably to maximize embarrassment and keep us humble.

Day 4 To Be Continued...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Is There a Social Skills Fair?

Last night I went to a TAG (Talented and Gifted) Project Showcase with Claire. The kids brought big posters about the projects they had done and the parents were supposed to walk around and look at them and ask questions. Kind of like a science fair, but for a variety of enrichment projects.

It was totally weird.

First of all, they wanted me to walk around and talk to strangers about stuff. The fact that the strangers were children didn't really help. I mean, I'm not particularly fond of children unless I know them. Knowing the kids makes it tolerable. It's even better if they are MY children.

Look, I'm sure it's a great experience for the kids, but I'm not good at that stuff. I was super uncomfortable. But I was supposed to wander around some strange middle school's library and lobby to look at a bunch of posters. And then I was supposed to feign interest in totally lame and boring projects about things like how 17 different kids wish they had a hamster for a pet. I was even supposed to come up with relevant questions so I could get EVEN MORE information about something I didn't care about to begin with.

So after getting Claire all set up at her post WAY in the back corner (only place with space left) (where I'm sure hardly anyone came to talk to her), I wandered off to mill about and try to find something that actually looked interesting to me. I was walking along, trying hard to look up and off in the distance.

Don't make eye contact with the little kids...
Don't make eye contact...

But then I had to navigate my way around some chairs and I accidentally looked in the general direction of a couple of little boys.

Dang it!

One of the boys immediately asked (WAY too eagerly, I might add), "Do you want to hear about my project?"


But you can't actually say that, so of course I had to say yes. He started telling me about how his project was on windmills. He was SO over-eager and prissy and unnatural for a kid that it was driving me crazy. I just wanted to grab him by the shoulders and yell, "Go play some video games or something!!!"

I could see they had some sort of demo they had built. So I asked him what they had powered with a windmill. Because silly me, I thought the point of windmills was to do work. But he explained that the demo was to show how the windmill had gears inside so that you could change the speed of rotation. The only work their windmill did was spin 2 paper clips at 2 different speeds. So actually their entire poster was apparently wrong and their project was really about gear ratios. But whatever...

Once I was free of the gear-ratios-mislabeled-windmills boys, I saw one or two reasonably normal projects. Then I had a little girl who was standing in front of a laptop ask me if I wanted to see her project.


But again I gave the expected yes. So she proceeded to start up a power point presentation. I didn't mind the power point so much as the fact that instead of the girl who was standing right there actually talking about her project, it started playing a recording of her voice. A bad recording that was much too quiet for the noisy room full of people that we were in. So I had to stand there and watch her slides go by and make up some presentation in my head to go along with them since I couldn't understand a word of the recording.

Again after that I got to see a few fairly normal projects. Then I was confronted with a little girl all dressed up in a fancy dress standing in front of a poster about Helen Keller. I said, "So you researched Helen Keller?"

She looked at me and then without saying a word, pointed at a little line of dominoes all standing in a row with a sign in front of them that said, "Push here." Slightly puzzled, I obliged her and pushed them over. Apparently that was the little girl's cue to launch into a memorized speech about the fairly mundane dates and figures of Helen Keller's life. It was like her aspiration in life was to be a recording in some museum that you activate by pushing a button. Or in this case dominoes. It was SO WEIRD.

Just then, I felt like climbing up on top of a table in the middle of the room and screaming, "All of you! Go outside and play. Now."

And then to top it all off, the second half of the evening was a presentation by someone from Mensa. I was pretty reluctant to go because my perception of Mensa is that it's full of people who are overly full of themselves. Everyone in it is either not THAT smart and are trying to prove something or they're smart in that obnoxious way that glories in lording over other people. I mean, if you have to join a club to prove to yourself that you're smart, you clearly have issues.

Anyway, I was really hoping that this lady who presented was going to be nice and humbly intelligent and prove all of my preconceived notions about Mensa people wrong.

She didn't.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Caribbean Cruise - Day 3 (Cozumel)

If you missed any of the other installments, you can find them here:

Day 1 - Boarding in Galveston
The Diet Soda Debacle
Day 2 - At sea


Day 3 (Cozumel)

We decided to play a game with our room attendant.  He left us a towel dog watching cartoons, so the next morning we left the towel dog sleeping in the bed with a "Do Not Distub" sign:

Then we headed ashore in Cozumel, Mexico.  Outside the port we got in line for a taxi and got a ride to Chankanaab National Park.

First we watched the sea lion show:

We each got a kiss on the cheek from a sea lion too!  It was decidedly un-liability-paranoid-American the way they let us walk out across a slippery walkway to the stage and be right next to the animals like that.  But I don't have a photo because the only photo they allow is the one they took that they want you to pay an arm and a leg for.  I decided my memory of the event would just have to suffice.

We walked around some gardens and archaeological replicas, then went on a short tour of their dolphin encounter area.  Again, no photos allowed but here is a shot of one of the dolphins that I took before we went out on the tour:

The cutest part was the baby dolphin!  It was about 2 months old.  But mostly we got to watch other people (who I'm pretty sure must have had to leave their first born child as payment) get in the water and play with the dolphins.  It was actually pretty fun even to just watch.  Also on the tour were a couple of manatees.   Very cool.

After lunch on the beach, we rented some snorkel gear.

Warning:  From here on out, the photos are going to get even crappier.  Already we had only taken the point and shoot off the ship with us, but now the point and shoot is in a waterproof bag.

Here is a view from where we snorkeled of the cruise ships in the distance:

Here we are rockin' the snorkel gear:

This is me, G, in case you couldn't tell.

And this is M, in case you couldn't tell.

The snorkeling was gorgeous:

This was probably the clearest photo we got.  They just go downhill from here, sorry.  It was a partially overcast day, so most of the time there just wasn't enough light.

This is the other clear-ish shot.

Everywhere we went were a lot of these sergeant majors:

They were totally not afraid and would often swim along with us.  More than once they got so close we would end up bumping into them.

And there was totally a school of... something:

This photo is the best I could get. (If you saw the others, you'd think this one was pretty good.)

And then just when we felt like we'd pretty much seen everything and were going to head in, we saw an eagle ray:

It was a very fun day.

And in case we had so much fun that we lost track of the days, never fear!  The elevators back on the ship were always there to remind us of the day of the week:

The outside of the elevators were pretty cool too:

We finished the evening with some time in one of the hot tubs!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Meet Noel

A week before Christmas, my parents came home and found that a lamb had been born:

It's a girl, and since she was born so close to Christmas, they named her Noel.

The lamb was born to one of the more newly acquired sheep, and she must have already been pregnant when my parents got her.  Sorry Shaun, you're not the father...

We'll see, but it looks like most of the sheep are pregnant.  Some look ready any day now, so I think we'll be seeing a lot more adorable lambs over the next few months.  Squee!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Perfect Way to Spend a Cold Rainy Day

I didn't realize how much I missed hot chocolate tea parties with Claire now that she's outgrown them.  But today I rediscovered them with Kate:

Kate and I were stuck inside today while she waited for antibiotics to finish de-contagious-fying her strep throat.

The cups are so tiny they are almost impossible to hold.  Kate spills everywhere - the mess is horrific.  The tiny sticky teacups are a total pain to wash (by hand I might add). The hot chocolate is so full of creamer and vanilla syrup and marshmallows that it's practically like taking shots of syrup.

The only thing sweeter than the hot chocolate is Kate's excitement.

Totally worth it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

With a Drizzle of Crazy

Random weekday cake balls:

I seriously need school to start back up...

Caribbean Cruise - Day 2

If you missed any of the other installments, you can find them here:

Day 1 - Boarding in Galveston

The Diet Soda Debacle
Day 3 - Cozumel


Day 2 - At Sea

Our stateroom really was quite comfortable, but let's talk about the bathroom.

I didn't expect anything huge, don't get me wrong.  In fact, it had more space than I expected what with the medicine cabinet and the shelf under the sink.

But the shower.

The shower was rough.

I mean, I understand that space is at a premium, but I enjoy being able to retrieve the soap if I accidentally drop it.  In this shower if the soap falls, then unless you are a contortionist, just let it go, man.  Just let it go.

I might be exaggerating slightly.  But it was definitely no walk in the park to try and figure out how to shave my legs in that thing.  Especially if I had any dream of not getting my hair wet.

But anyway.  Onto fun stuff.

After leaving Galveston, we spent the whole next day at sea.  We explored the ship a bit.  Here is the "main drag" inside the ship:

We did a few fun things around the ship, but not very much out on deck.  It was a very windy day. The wind made mini golf less a game of skill and more a game of luck!  (Thank goodness too, because if actual skill was involved, I probably wouldn't have beat M!)

We spent the day eating, reading, eating, exploring the ship, eating, watching the ice skating show, eating, looking at art, eating, watching a music and dance show, and eating.  Did I mention that the food was really really good?

Then we got all dressed up for the first formal night and went to eat some more!

The main dining room was pretty cool:

3 stories high!

We were on the 3rd floor in the "Sound of Music" dining room, with tables decorated thusly:

We got to watch these fresh alstroemerias open up in the vase on our table all week:

Because it was the week after Thanksgiving, the ship was all decorated for Christmas and it was really pretty:

When we came back to our room for the night, we saw the first of the towel animals our stateroom attendant left us - a little dog:

He was watching cartoons: