Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hana Hou*: Sea World Trip 2

*Hana Hou - Do it again!

Having had so much fun at Sea World last Friday, I let the girls talk me in to taking them again yesterday. Now remember, San Antonio is a 4.5 hour drive from here - each way. So this is not a trivial undertaking.

But it's Christmas Break, and although I have a lot of work to get done during my time off, I've really just been in the mood to play.

It was fun going again. The girls rode the little roller coaster, and I talked them into riding the Steel Eel with me.

Actually, I didn't talk them into it so much as I bribed them with ice cream. Anna didn't die, and Alyssa buried her head in her arms, which were wrapped around the safety bar. I wasn't able to talk them into a second ride. It will be interesting to see what I have to do to get them back on during subsequent trips.

Today we are undecorating. Decorating for Christmas feels like getting all dressed up for a fancy event, and undecorating feels like finally changing out of formal clothes and into something a little more comfortable. Ahhhh.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sea World Believe Orca Show Video

I edited up the raw and rough video from the orca show we saw at Sea World yesterday.

If the footage makes you dizzy, you should be grateful for the things I edited out.

Sea World San Antonio Day Trip

Yesterday, true to our word, we took the family to Sea World. This involved getting up at 5:30, driving 4 1/2 hours to San Antonio, spending over 5 hours in the park, and then driving 4 1/2 hours back home. Crazy? Probably. But it worked out pretty well, and we're all doing OK today, so I guess it didn't wear us out too bad.

Here are Kara and Anna at the park entrance.

Here is the trainer in the orca show diving off the nose of a killer whale.

Orca back flip. These animals really are amazing.

I crammed myself into a little twirly paint can for a ride with the girls.

This is the dolphin tank where you can feed and pet the dolphins.

Alyssa used her Christmas money for a Super Shamu Sundae.

Here the girls get ready for the Viva beluga whale and dolphin show.

Unfortunately, the show was more acrobats than animals. I expected to see much more of the dolphins.

Here's a shot of Anna with the beluga whale trainer.

Kara and the girls get ready for the sea lion show. Anna decided ice cream was a good idea - the day was overcast, humid, and nearly 80 degrees. After the recent cold snaps we've seen, I had to really work hard to convince Anna that she would want short sleeves.

Sea lions learn about Christmas. This show was pretty good, because it was all about the animals.

Penguins in their habitat. I like the way this was set up - you got on a moving walkway at the beginning, and just cruised along to the end.

Since it's a Busch park, we saw the Budweiser wagon.

A Shamu shaped pretzel. Anna thought it looked more like a ghost.

"Do you have to take my picture while I'm eating?"

As you can see, we had a great time. I'm going to try and piece together a short video from the footage we got. Our apprentice videographer was running the camera, and it looks like San Antonio was suffering from an earthquake the whole time we were there. But there are a few good shots, and I think I can pull together something watchable.

She's getting video lessons later today.

My biggest concern was for the drive home, but we all did really well. The park closed at 5:00, and we left a little bit early. We were home by 9:30 and in bed by 10:30, and today we're feeling pretty good and ready to go again!

Maybe on Monday...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Tears from Anna

In our quest to avoid a bunch of "stuff" for Christmas, we decided our big gifts would be activity-based. Alyssa got a family membership to the Ft. Worth Zoo, and Anna got a family season pass to Sea World San Antonio.

Check out the video to see what Anna thought of this gift.

How We Spent Christmas Eve

I made pani popo.

Kara made turkey...

...and strawberry jello cream (based on Elizabeth's recipe).

Anna cleaned the guinea pig cage.

Alyssa took a bath...

...and went to the park.

Here's our Christmas Eve dinner...

...and the Christmas Eve diners. We like doing our dinner Christmas Eve, so Christmas is a much more relaxed kind of day.

After dinner we played Wii games, read the Christmas story, and watched Miracle on 34th Street (the 1994 remake). We had a great Christmas Eve, and hope you and your family did, too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lights at the Gaylord Texan

Last night we took the family to the holiday display at the Gaylord Texan resort. This hotel has a very large atrium, and it was all decorated for Christmas.

We saw trains:

A rotating Santa and trains

A Christmas-y cabin

More trains

A life-size gingerbread house (made with 5,000 square feet of gingerbread)

More trains

More lights

And Mrs Claus (with a rather unhappy-to-be-here reindeer.)

Santa was there, too, but the line to see him was waaaaaay too long. If I thought there was Any chance Alyssa would have actually sat on his lap and talked to him, I'd have stood in it. But given her history of hiding from the Big Man, we decided to pass.

In all, we had a good time. We left home about 4:00, and it took us nearly an hour to get there. Getting in to the hotel and parking was not really a problem. We left about 90 minutes later, and in that time the the line of cars coming in was backed up way out the entry and was pretty much at a standstill. Coming early turned out to be a very good thing

It was fun, but only time will tell if we decide to make the Gaylord Texan an annual tradition.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Seen and Heard - December Edition

Seen: The neighbor boy in his exclusive wardrobe - shorts and a T-shirt - despite the 40 degree weather. I have never seen him wear anything else. Note Anna in the purple parka, with a mock turtleneck and sweater underneath. It really was quite chilly, especially by Texas standards.


Seen: Alyssa eating Christmas Nuggets at school. They sounded so good, I had to join her.


Seen: A couple of "elves" in the living room, wrapping up Christmas.

Heard (just before Alyssa's bus got home): "OK; now what are we going to do with all these presents?"

Seen: Presents stuffed into every corner of the master closet.

Heard: "Why this?" as Alyssa, who's eye level is different from everyone else's, points at a present hidden in the closet

Heard: "Why does the closet smell like Scotch tape?"

Welcome Shari

Kara's friend Shari has recently begun renting our spare room. Shari is recovering from toxic mold exposure, and wasn't doing very well at the "safe" housing over in Dallas, due in large part to the huge, moldy old house next door that was being demolished. She will be staying with us for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For Your Christmas Viewing Pleasure

Today our Activity Advent said we should watch Frosty the Snowman and the original, animated Grinch.

Those activities got vetoed by the kids.

So instead, I dug up "Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean" on YouTube and we watched it instead.

Judge us how you will - we howled with laughter.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Surprises - I'd like to go without, thank you.

Tonight was Anna's 6th grade band concert. There are 149 beginning musicians in the band, and in all it was quite the event.

Anna did really well, although she was pretty down on herself afterwards. She's the first chair baritone, and had high expectations for her performance that apparently she didn't quite live up to. Hopefully this will just be more motivation to practice hard do better next time.

We pulled out the old video camera (I think we win the prize for largest, oldest camcorder at the school) and after adjusting the packing tape holding the eye piece in place we set to work recording the concert.

About half way through, Alyssa started to cough. Long time readers of this blog know that an Alyssa cough can be bad news - she tends to cough and cough until she throws up.

We made it to within three feet of the toilet. She almost missed her shirt.

Anyway, it's a good thing that Kara was taping the concert. I look forward to seeing the rest of it.

Afterwards, we rushed out to the van in the biting wind (it was 75 degrees yesterday; 25 degrees tonight), got everyone loaded up and drove home. When we were unloading the van, I discovered that my cell phone was not on my hip. It must have fallen off when I was hustling Alyssa to the bathroom. It does that some times.

I got everyone into the house, and sped back to the school. I thought about having Kara call my number to see if someone would pick up, but of course, as we were at a concert, I had switched the phone to vibrate.

Just as I parked the van, the lights in the auditorium foyer shut off. I bounded from the van and ran to the front door, barely catching the people coming out. The let me in, and told me to go back to the band room where someone would be able to let me into the auditorium.

The auditorium is big, and I hoped I would be able to remember the row we were in. As I looked near the row where we were sitting, I saw a cap sitting on the back of the chair. At least I'm not the only one who lost something I thought. Then I realized it was my hat - my good one with the Diamond Twin Star embroidered on the front. I ran and got it, and there under the chair was my phone. Hooray!

Although everything worked out in the end, I must say I'm about done with surprises for today. Well, except for the Christmas fudge the neighbors surprised us with. I'm still not done with that yet.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is That Santa on TV?

Alyssa was watching a Christmas video today. Santa came on. This is what she did.

A minute later, she had her hands over her eyes, peeking out between her fingers. Unfortunately, the camera was full, and by the time I made room for another shot, the moment was past.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Real Life Blog Award

My friend Jewel, over at Pink Ink, gave me a blog award:

This award is for bloggers that blog about real life. I'm not exactly sure what Marie Antoinette has to do with real-life blogging, but hey! I'll take it.

I'd like to thank all of my blog readers for their support and comments, even though I don't get nearly as many comments as some other bloggers I'm aware of. Still, I know you're out there reading, and it motivates me to keep writing. (And I know I'm behind at least two tags - I'll get to them soon!)

I'd also like to thank Kara, Anna, and Alyssa, for giving me lots of great topics to blog about. I'm not going to thank the van, because I don't want to blog about any more car trouble.

Now I come to the trickiest part of the award - nominating 7 others. It's not that I can't think of 7 other blogs to award - quite the opposite is true. I follow over 100 blogs, and many of them would certainly count as being award-worthy. But narrowing the field down to 7 is not an easy task.

OK - I've decided. The blogs listed below are always good for a fun, honest slice of life. I had a much longer list, and really had to work to trim it down to 7. I'm left with a good mix of family, new friends, long time friends (notice I didn't say old) and people I've met only through the blogosphere.

A Good Day - My long time friend Nicole talks about her life as an Army Wife and Disneyaholic.

Christensen Happenings - Another long time friend Elizabeth shares the fun and humorous happenings of her family.

Cranberry Corner - Jenna is a friend of a friend (of a friend?) and I always enjoy her insights and antics

Life with the Rich's - I came across Sheila and Keoni's blog while doing research for my book (I mention it here - item 2) and have really enjoyed following along. This is where I got the idea for the Activity Advent Calendar - thanks, guys!

Noreen and Allen Macbean - This is my sister and her husband. I do many fun things vicariously through them.

Wendy's Tiki Hut - I also came across Wendy doing research for my book. Wendy is an Air Force wife stationed in Hawaii, and her blog regularly makes me smile.

What is a Sundial In the Shade - Josi shares hilarious stories and excellent writing advice - two things I can never get enough of.

There - that wasn't so hard, after all. To the winners - thanks for making my life and Internet browsing just that much more enjoyable. I'm supposed to tell you to pass the award on to 7 others, but then I would feel like I'm being overbearing and bossy...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tired of Tires

Thursday night after our writing group, I noticed the car wasn't rolling very well. Fearing transmission trouble, I was slightly relived to discover the rear driver's side tire was flat.

I had almost brought my heavy coat and hat that night, and as I worked in the rapidly falling temperatures I regretted my decision to leave them at home.

But at least the stupid little doughnut spare was in good shape, so after 10 minutes of huffing and puffing and jacking and lug nutting, we were good to ride home.

My plan was to take some time today and get the tire fixed at my convenience, but then I was reminded of a Primary activity in Granbury, 35 minutes away. Driving on the doughnut that far was not an option, so I got up early and made my way to the tire store at 7:00.

Good news! I was done by 8:00, they were able to plug the tire, and didn't charge me. Hooray!

Unfortunately, getting up early to do the right thing didn't pan out in the end. Half way to Granbury, WHAMMO! we had a blow out. Same tire, although I saw the plug and it looks like that was intact. Not entirely sure what happened.

So for the second time in 48 hours I was huffing and puffing and jacking and lug nutting - this time on the side of a busy 2-lane highway. We were already late to the activity, but now we had a good excuse.

Fortunately, I had planned on staying in Granbury while the activity raged on, so I had brought my lunch. Bad news is less bad on a full stomach.

I went to my second tire store of the day and got the tire replaced (not for free) fairly quickly.

Fortunately the ride home was completely free of flat tires. Let's hope the van stays that way for a while.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Activity Advent Calendar

This year we are doing a different kind of advent calendar. Each day is associated with an activity for us to do together as a family. I read about this somewhere - I think one of the many blogs I frequent. (If it's your blog, let me know and I'll give you proper credit.)

This is our calendar wall - we started the day before Thanksgiving. Behind each picture is an activity. Today's activities included taking the girl's Christmas portraits (see below). Some other activities we have to look forward to are making cookies for friends, looking at Christmas lights, a few Christmas parties, and singing carols as a family.

Many of the activities involve watching a favorite Christmas video. I want to try keeping the favorites locked away this season, only watching them once, rather than over and over, ad nauseum infinitum.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Christmas Portraits 2008

As promised, here are some portraits of the girls in their new Christmas dresses.