A New Addition to the Family

 We got exciting news over the weekend when our son, Neal, announced his engagement to a lovely red-headed lass named Shannon. A new daughter in the family! What a blessing!

It's almost like having a baby! Well, without the achy hips and weight gain. And I don't have to raise her! She's all done! Her folks did a fine job. We just get to enjoy her talents and sunny personality and we got to skip all the teenage angst and growing pains. If she had any of that.

And her talents are many- she's a classy country girl and it looks like she may be able to out-hunt and out-fish her future husband. She butchers hogs and makes soap like a true pioneer woman.

Which means she'll fit right in around here.

Make fun all you want, but . . .

I'm really disappointed that my daughter doesn't mispronounce the word "festival" anymore. Talking about festibuls all summer long seemed . . . more fun somehow.  She does still mispronounce a few things and we don't always correct her because . . . well, then we couldn't make fun of her behind her back. For example, when P is mowing the lawn, A will ask me if her dad is "mawn lowing."  With our mawn lower.  As in, "Daddy, Mommy almost backed over the mawn lower when she was pulling out of the garage this morning!" (Really, though, he shouldn't put it so close to my car.) She also still pronounces "mustache" like "moostache" so we still have that as well.

Anyway, we did kick off our summer festival season last weekend - we attended two. P stayed home because he's no fun. On Saturday we went to a local Memorial Day fair. She insisted on riding a few rides and, since she was too short to ride by herself, I had to climb aboard with her. Talk about taking one for the team. I tried to talk her out of it. "Do you really need to ride the Ferris wheel?  We just got back from Disney World!"

"There is no Ferris wheel at Disney World," she responded, and marched up to the line. She had me on a technicality.

We also took the opportunity to tuck into our first funnel cake of the season.  I showed some restraint and only took a few bites. Something about seeing the dough bobbing around in the grease . . . I dunno. I'd be more inclined to eat funnel cakes if I hadn't seen that. Ignorance was bliss. We listened to some music, did some of the kids' activities, and even won a can koozy and free tickets to the county fair in August. See, one festibul begets another!  We would have stayed longer except that it started to rain.

On Sunday, the kid and I attended a fine art fair after church. It was incredibly windy. I felt so sorry for the artists - particularly the ones who specialize in glass. I heard one artist say that she'd rather have rain than the crazy winds. I didn't have a lot of money to spend on art, but I did pick up a photo of a sea turtle.

On Monday, I went to yoga bright and early. The plan after that was for me and my daughter to go to the garden shop and then spend the afternoon planting annuals. We did go to the garden shop as planned. She carefully selected some petunias for the front yard. When we got home, I set her up with all the tools she needed to plant them. And then one of her BFFs showed up and she dropped me like a hot potato. So, I spent the rest of the afternoon gardening solo. I have a feeling this is a preview of the teen years. Looking on the bright side, I got a lot more done without Chatty McChattington at my side.

Grossing Kerri out!

Hubby and I are not really into public displays of affection, other than occasionally hugging and/or briefly kissing (usually hello and goodbye when we he leaves/comes home) in front of Kerri.  Yes, we may lean, or put our arms around each other, or rub each other's back affectionately, but it is all G rated and nothing that I would not expect Kerri to do.

So I was a bit surprised when yesterday I leaned over to give hubby a noisy smooch on the cheek, and Kerri screamed, covered her eyes and yelled: "No Shecks!  You are grossing me out!".

Apparently, we have finally reached that stage where our daughter thinks her parents are creepy freaks. 

I can have so much fun with this.

Life with Kerri is amused.

Best men.

Here is a picture of two of my favourite men taken at our wedding....Christopher and Corey. They are true gentlemen, brilliant, and very funny people. And I could not think of better role models for Kerri.

Life with Kerri is thankful for their friendship.

Teaching Kids to Enjoy Work

Our usual Memorial weekend project of planting the big garden, once again turned into an adventure for the future farmer's of America.

The biggest jobs can feel like play for the littlest kids when they are included in any kind of work.

There was not one complaint or negative attitude all day as boys and girls of all ages worked together on a task that took cooperation and responsibility. The future harvest for the family depended on their job quality.

We've used this method of child labor for many years and it has resulted in adults with a work ethic that gets them hired at any job for which they apply and glowing references from their employers.

"Work" may be a four letter word but it is not a bad thing. Children love to work and to feel a part of the team. They enjoy a sense of accomplishment in a job well done as well as adults do.

And having kids do the work just makes planting the garden for the twenty-seventh time a lot more fun.

The third time's the charm.

In June of 1999, Corey got on his knee and proposed for the first time.  I thought he was joking.  We were with a bunch of friends in Kingston, Canada, at a restaurant.  And he had bought all the girls roses.  The waitress was so excited, she made a ring for us from a green paper and wire twister (that she took off a package of bread).

On May 25, 2000, Corey proposed a second time with a beautiful ring and a cruise to the Bahamas.  But I never got to wear the ring, because the stone was loose.  The jewelry store chipped the stone when they tried to tighten it, and then failed to provide us with a replacement ring.  We had an engagement party in June and I wore my green wire twisty ring instead. 

After threatening the store with the police and a lawyer, they finally returned Corey's money.  In July, we took a trip to Argentina, and had a new ring custom made.  This picture was taken at our cousin's house in Buenos Aires, where Corey got on his knee a third time and proposed again.  My Aunt Dora fell in love with Corey, and all my cousins approved. 

So twelve years ago, I said yes. And yes.  Thank you my charming polar bear.  Your love and devotion to us is the most precious gift we have. 

And thanks to Corey and his persistence, we now have the most amazing life with Kerri.

Last Disney Post (promise!)

I'm writing these vacation posts partly just to bore you into a coma but also so that I can look back and remember what the heck we did on our vacation.

By Thursday, we had visited all four Disney parks (well, except the water parks, but we weren't planning to visit those regardless). So then it was a matter of which parks we should hit a second time. For Friday, we came up with a consensus: we'd spend the morning at the Magic Kingdom and spend the afternoon swimming at the resort. The challenge with the Magic Kingdom is that you can't just waltz in and out. First you have to take a tram from the parking lot. Then you have to get from the ticket center to the actual park. There are two choices: ferry and monorail. We took the monorail. You think you're almost off the hook at this point, but you still have to stand in the bag checking line (to make sure you're not carrying any contraband). Then you stand in line again to get through the turnstiles (this involves a fingerprint scan). Finally, you're in the park. I would not be surprised at all to learn that Disney took some of my DNA for analysis at one of the checkpoints along the way.

The kids rode a few rides. I think the parents were pretty much rided-out by then. Friday was a weird day. I was THIS close to drinking the Disney kool-aid and believing that nothing ever goes wrong there. But then a couple things went wrong. First, the ride that the kids were most desperate to ride broke down. Then, when it was time to leave, Disney used the B word on us. We were informed that the monorail was down and that the ferry was not running. We were instructed to get in line and wait for a . . . bus. We stood in line for an eternity, baking in the heat and watching families around us implode. One guy walked up from the back of the line to find out when the line would start moving. The guy behind me yelled at him, "The line is back THERE, buddy!" We watched bus after bus pull up, not take on any passengers, and then leave. Very strange, aye.

Eventually we got on a bus and made it back to the resort. We made it to the pool much later than we had intended, but we figured we'd live now that the kids could get their swimming ya-ya's out. Except that they couldn't, because some black clouds rolled in and the resort closed the pool. Gah! It re-opened a couple hours later and the kids finally got to soak up the chlorine like they wanted to.

Later, we went to Downtown Disney for shopping and dinner. It was raining like crazy, but we soldiered on once again. We stopped at the Lego store and had dinner at the House of Blues.

On Saturday morning, it was time to say good-bye to our friends. We had to check out of the resort that day. They were headed to Animal Kingdom and we wanted to go back to Epcot since our first visit to that park had been a fairly short one. So, we bid them adieu, packed up our crap (including our daughter's $15 light-up balloon pictured below) and drove to Epcot. We caught a few of the shows we hadn't seen the first time (such as Captain EO - talking about trippy nostalgia!). And yes, I let my daughter stand in the Chip and Dale line this time. And guess what? She was complaint-free the whole time.

It was hot, but we also walked around the lake and visited all of the various countries. We had lunch in France. It was pricey (but served by real French people, yo) but it was really good.  Finally, when we could take the heat no more, we headed out to our car. We trudged across the black asphalt, feeling the soles of our shoes melting a little with every step. I don't know what the actual temperature was, but I think it was pretty close to the temperature at which I reheat pizza in my oven at home. When we got in the car, we found that the parking stub we'd left on the dash had turned black.

On Friday night, we stayed in a hotel that I'd gotten on Priceline. It was a Hilton Garden Inn and it was super nice. Not only did the man at the front desk tell me that he'd be DELIGHTED to give me a room with two beds at no additional charge, he also invited me to take as many free chocolate chip cookies as I wanted. (Take that, Clarion!)

The three of us went swimming and then ordered a pizza and hung out in our room. We decided it was high time to make our daughter tackle the homework she'd been neglecting all week. This went over about as well as you'd imagine. We finally gave up and went to bed. Then on Sunday, we flew back home. The return flight was completely uneventful, so nothing to report there. Well, unless you'd find my daughter's confusion during her solo trip to the lavatory to be amusing, which you wouldn't.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

What is she doing?

In case you have not figured it out, Kerri is eating bubble gum ice cream.  And she is taking the chewed up gum out of her mouth and lining it up on a napkin so she can chew it later, once she is finished with her cone. 

Life with Kerri takes chewing gum seriously.

Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios

(I'm almost done, I promise.)

On Wednesday morning, we headed to Animal Kingdom. It rained quite a bit throughout the day, but we had rain gear so we soldiered on. I think my daughter impaled the eyeballs of about fifty strangers while swinging her umbrella around. We hopped on a safari first thing in the morning, as we had heard the animals are more active then. As you know, I really struggle with this sort of thing. I'd rather know that a giraffe is loping freely across some African plains than to be living in Disney World with tourists passing by a thousand times a day. And yet, we've done such a spectacular job of destroying our natural resources and habitats that zoos become sort of essential for conservation. I do know that Disney does not take any animal out of the wild - most come from other zoos. Or at least that is the line they give . . .

We saw a couple of shows at Animal Kingdom and also rode a roller coaster called Expedition Everest. My stomach felt a little bit iffy for the rest of the day. P and I got off the coaster and declared that we were done with rides for the day. Our daughter, of course, rode it a couple more times because it was, and I quote, "AWESOME!"

On Thursday, we descended upon Hollywood Studios. This park was a lot more crowded than Animal Kingdom. Our friends' middle son was celebrating his 10th birthday that day, so we did another "theme" lunch. We ate at a place called the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.  You sit in an old car and watch B movies on a big screen. It was a lot of fun. We ate birthday cake for dessert and then my friend Sherri insisted on carrying around the leftovers for the rest of the day. She finally gave in about six hours later, when she realized the leftover cake had morphed into a pile of glop.

There aren't tons of rides at Hollywood Studios, but we did tackle all (or most) of them. The kid was pissed that she was too short to ride the Rock-n-Roller Coaster. I rode it, despite my concerns about the inversions. Our friends' oldest son rode it with me and I'm pretty sure I deafened him in his right ear. I was not sure I was up for the Tower of Terror. P refused to ride it. The Tower of Terror is, of course, the ride that hauls you (in an elevator) umpteen stories into the air and then "drops" the elevator in a seeming free fall. I rode it. Just once, though.

Our daughter danced at both parks (see photos below). She danced at some street party at Animal Kingdom, and danced in the street at Hollywood Studios. The girl can rock a beat, let me tell you.

The day ended with another park-closing extravaganza (our third of the week). The Fantasmic show requires you to be seated over an hour in advance, which was a little frustrating. I baked in the sun and daydreamed about swimming pools and ice. I chatted with the family sitting to my left. They were Canadian and were super-nice (which is, as I understand it, a firm requirement for all Canadians).  I noticed that their two children had albinism so I told them how I have no pigment in my skin either and maybe I should have been hanging out with them instead of my own family. We compared notes on sunblock and how to handle the Florida heat. They had been struggling with the heat quite a bit and had retreated to their hotel room mid-day to cool off each day.

The most important thing that happened at Hollywood Studios is that I saw the 3D Muppet movie and bought a Gonzo to take home with me. I took him to work, where everyone is on strict orders not to touch him. 

Another boo-boo.

It's never boring in this house.

We spent most of last night in the emergency room, only to come home unseen because it was so busy.  So this afternoon we are taking Kerri to the doctor.

It looks like she has another insect bite of some sort, and that she is having an allergic reaction.  The site is red, a rash is spreading, and it is very, very swollen.  It itches and it hurts.  The cortisone the doctor gave us last time is not working.

Life with Kerri thinks parenting is not for the weak.

15 years ago today . . .

 . . . I married some guy I picked up in a bar.

When I asked our daughter how long she thought we'd been married, she said, "About 35 years."

Epcot and Beach

After spending something like 14 hours at the Magic Kingdom on Sunday, we weren't sure what Monday would hold. We were sort of playing each day "by ear" and waiting to see what the weather would do. Our friends' middle son came down with a painful ear infection (as opposed to the infections that feel good, I guess) and needed to see a doctor right away on Monday morning. Not that we were happy he had an infection, but this gave the rest of us a chance to sleep in a little. We came up with a plan to have an early lunch at the resort and then head to Epcot for the afternoon/evening.

I loved Epcot. The first thing I noticed was: they sell beer there (no alcohol is sold at the Magic Kingdom).  I didn't buy anything to drink at Epcot, but wondered if this is why adults seem to love Epcot more than kids do. Speaking of what Disney sells and where, did you know that Disney does not sell gum at any of its properties? I'm assuming it's because they don't want you leaving wads of chewed-up Trident all over their shit. It's probably for the best.

Epcot doesn't have as many rides as the other parks, but there was plenty to do. Our daughter particularly enjoyed an attraction called "Turtle Talk with Crush" where the turtle from "Finding Nemo" talks to the audience (he's a cartoon, though - not live action). I was really impressed with a lot of the special effects at Disney. We rode a Finding Nemo ride where they project Nemo and his friends into a live aquarium (so that the cartoon fish were right next to .  . . real fish).  I dunno - maybe I just have a low thrill threshold! We also enjoyed a simulated ride called "Soarin.'" We visited several of the countries in the World Showcase. My favorite attraction at Epcot was the manatee tank. Disney takes in manatees that need rehabilitation and eventually releases them, making room for more manatees in need. I noticed that the two manatees in the tank had seriously compromised tail paddles (sliced off by recreational watercraft of some type, I imagine). And then finally, we stayed at Epcot for the closing light show and fireworks.

Oh, and one other note. I thought there was a firm "no crying at Disney" policy but let me tell you - there is crying and plenty of it. Not necessarily by the kids in our group, although they had a few moments of dissatisfaction, too, but I witnessed some spectacular meltdowns in other families. I saw one kid get spanked in a gift shop at Epcot. I saw another little girl get hauled into the stroller parking area and placed on a cement ledge while her father advised her, loudly and in no uncertain terms, that her lack of gratitude would NOT be tolerated. I yanked my kid out of a line to meet Chip and Dale because she was complaining that our friends' kids had sweet tarts and she didn't (never mind that I had a whole backpack full of treats and snacks for her - they just weren't SWEET TARTS, fer cryin' out loud). I warned her about 97 times and then snapped and told her she would NOT be meeting any chipmunks that day. She sat on a bench and cried while our friends went through the line and hung out with Chip and Dale. Oh, and while she was wallowing in self-pity, she uttered this dramatic little gem: "If you don't love me, why don't you just sell me!"  First off, we are still paying on our adoption loan and there's no way we'd even consider selling her until that's paid off. Second, the market for uber-talkative little girls who refuse to walk at Disney World and force their fathers to carry them instead . . . is pretty soft right now.

On Tuesday, we skipped the parks and headed to Daytona Beach. My friend Lisa lives in that neck of the woods, so she and her husband joined us. They brought their three children as well. Despite the risk of sunburn that the beach brings me, I do love to bounce around in the waves. A day at the beach soothes the soul, I tell you (at least two of my friends are reading this right now and thinking, "Oh, c'mon, she has no soul!") The kids had a lot of fun digging in the sand and convincing themselves that they were doing stuff with sand and water that no other kid in the history of time had ever thought of before.

A few more photos: