Scary and Lucky

27 Nov

We got back from our Costa Rica vacation yesterday. Mike had a shoot today in Orange County, so I planned to paint part of the entryway (Mike wanted to put the Christmas tree in there but he wanted to paint if first; since he was gone today, I offered to do it) and then take Michaela to see “Frozen 2.” I knew she’d have more fun if we invited a friend, so her friend Angie came over to hang out and go to the movies with us.

When we got in the car to go, the car started shaking in an extremely violent way. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was shuddering and there was a weird sound. I turned it off and waited a minute before turning it back on. That time, there was no shaking or noise, so we headed off. The movie theater is only 6 miles from my house, so I figured it’d be fine to drive there. After all, if we got out of the movie and the car wouldn’t start, Mike would be home and could come look at it or we could call AAA.

We were about halfway there when we started smelling something. It was faint and I wasn’t 100% sure it was coming from my car. I drove a little more. Then I started seeing smoke coming out from under the hood. We were petty close to the theater, though, so I kept driving. I was pulling off the freeway when dark black smoke started pouring through the vents in the dashboard. My light was red, but I squeezed through the cars to make a turn off the offramp and pull over to the side of the road.

Once I pulled over, I had the girls get out of the car and get away. The car was smoking pretty badly. I popped the hood, thinking I would give it a minute and then lift up the hood to see what was happening under there. It was then that I saw flames under the hood. (I now think doing that probably introduced oxygen that fed the fire; if, God forbid, I’m ever in that situation again, I definitely won’t pop the hood.)

I called 911. They dispatched police to set up a perimeter and fire to put out the conflagration. The fire quickly went from something relatively small to really big.

A couple of Good Samaritans stopped. One was a woman with what I assume is her elderly mother in the car. The lady gave me her phone number and took the girls a block or so away, so they’d be safe and could calm down (they were freaking out, and understandable so). The other was a man who offered to help, but there wasn’t anything we could do except wait for the fire fighters.

When a police officer came to check in, I explained that the girls had gone with a stranger and asked if the police could dispatch something to find them. They did and, I learned later, called Angie’s mom.

It felt like it took forever for the fire fighters to arrive. When they got on the scene, they sprayed the car with water and some special foam. The air smelled terrible as the metal and plastic burned.

The fire captain asked me some questions and walked me over to the car once the first was out so I could retrieve anything salvageable. There wasn’t much. A pair of gloves and glasses out of my glove box, and my change purse and toll roads transponder from the center console. I couldn’t get into the trunk because the battery was dead and that’s how the key fob works.

The captain told me to call my insurance company because they’d probably want my car to go to a specific place, especially if they’re going to investigate the cause of the fire. I really hope they do– it’s killing me not to know why this happened. The only thing I can think of (and it sounds weird) is that rodents got under the hood and chewed on the wires and that caused a short that caught on fire. Because the car was in great condition and has been maintained very well.

I was on hold with the insurance company for a long time. It was raining and I didn’t have a jacket or umbrella (there was one in my trunk but I couldn’t open it) and it was pretty sucky. When the insurance people finally did come on the line, I could hardly hear them because I was so close to the freeway and the traffic zooming by.

Angie’s mom had driven to pick up the girls, and she grabbed a rain jacket and an umbrella for me, which she dropped off. That helped a lot, as did knowing the girls were safe and in good hands.

The insurance company said it’d be about 30 minutes for a tow truck. When the tow company called, they said it would be an hour. I walked the couple of blocks to the mall where the theater is and grabbed a hot tea to try to warm up and calm down. I was feeling pretty numb, literally and figuratively.

The tow truck driver called to say he was on the scene, so I hustled back to the car. He’d already gotten it hooked up, so all I had to do was thank him profusely and send him on his way. Mike arrived from Orange County about 10 minutes after that and took me home, where I promptly lost it.

I feel super lucky. Lucky that we were able to get off the freeway, lucky that we’re all safe, lucky that losing my car like this isn’t a catastrophe, and lucky that we can afford to get a rental car and to buy a new car. But it’s still such a weird, intense, scary, guilt-inducing experience. I keep thinking of the “shoulddas” and “shoulddntas.” I should have known something was seriously wrong with the car. I should have told the girls we’d go see the movie another day. I should have waited for Mike to get home to look at the car. I shouldn’t have driven it.

It’s a lot to process.

We’re back!

27 Nov

We returned yesterday from our trip to Costa Rica, a beautiful country with very nice people, a lot of really cool animals, and varied landscape. It was amazing!

We took a red eye flight from San Diego to LAX to San Jose, the capitol. Got in around 7 a.m., picked up our rental car, and began our adventure. Mike did all the driving throughout the trip (he rented a stick shift, which I can’t drive), for which I am terribly grateful. We didn’t have any colones, so stopped at a small store where we could use our credit card to buy drinks and chips for the road. That didn’t quite tide us over enough so we went to a restaurant and had out first gallo pinto, a typical Costa Rican beans and rice dish, before driving to La Fortuna.

La Fortuna is a town at the base of the Arenal volcano. We stayed at a pretty resort called Montana de Fuego (Mountain of Fire) in a “superior bungalow” that faced the mountain and backed onto the jungle. After putting our stuff down and taking a quick nap (we’d been awake FOREVER), we wandered around the hotel and hit the property’s thermal pools before changing into hiking clothes and setting off into the jungle.

We hadn’t gone very far when we came to a split on the trail. One way was the Sendero Perezoso, or Sloth Trail, so naturally we took that. We walked along a little more and I spotted something moving in the trees. IT WAS A SLOTH! I SPOTTED A SLOTH! Within only a couple of hours of being in the country! The funny part is, I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t see it very clearly. I zoomed in with my phone and took a picture and sure enough, it was a sloth. We were all thrilled, and I was bestowed the nickname “Animal Spotter.”

The next morning we went for a horseback ride through the jungle. We’d planned on riding to the volcano, but it was super foggy, and frankly, I’m so glad it worked out that way! Our guide, Alex, got us all on horses. Mike was on Canelo, Michaela was on Gina, and I was on Maya. Alex rode Payaso, which funnily enough was the name of the first horse Michaela ever rode– a sad, skinny horse on the beach in San Felipe, Mexico. Alex gave us a brief lesson and then we were off. It was my first time ever on a horse, and Michaela’s first time doing a real ride. Midwestern/Coloradan Mike had ridden before.

Even though we were riding and nominally controlling our horses, Alex was really the one in control. He would make a certain noise and the horses would go into a trot, and another noise and off we’d gallop. My butt was so sore!

We rode to the river — and into the river! — and saw howler and capuchin monkeys on our ride. It was a really cool way to see the countryside, and a great adventure for all of us. Definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

The next day, we drove up to Arenal, the volcano. We hiked through the primary and secondary forests to a spot where you could see all the lava rock from previous explosions (the volcano hasn’t been active since 2010). We hiked back down on a different route, passing a 400-year-old tree and seeing an acuti, which is basically a ROUS. Seriously, it’s 6 pounds! We also saw a coati, which is an adorable anteater-like mammal, and a number of capuchin monkeys that were hanging out and playing over our heads. Capuchins are cute but apparently they’re very dangerous. They’re smart and mean, and Alex warned us that they can kill you by wrapping their tail around your neck while trying to steal your food. He wasn’t kidding. So when we saw the monkeys and it looked like they were coming down from the trees, we hauled booty out of there.

Michaela enjoyed the hike up until the point she slipped in a mud puddle and got her favorite skirt tremendously dirty. I tried telling her it would be a funny story someday, but she wasn’t having it.

When we got to the parking lot, we found that we were the only car and that everyone had gone home. Turns out the park closed at 4, not 5 as we thought. The gate was locked with a chain, so our options were busting through it, leaving the car and hiking out, or… something else. Fortunately, a car drove by and stopped. I explained our situation and he told me he’d go find a national park employee, but we’d need to be patient. Surprisingly, it was only a few minutes later that a parks employee came to open the gate and we were on our way. Disaster narrowly avoided!

I am convinced I jinxed us, though, because someone had asked me “how are the roads in Costa Rica,” and I said there were much nicer than I was expecting and that driving had been pretty easy. So of course on our next long drive, we drove for 90 minutes on rutted, bumpy, unpaved roads. Our Rav 4 did a good job, though, as did our driver.

The next morning we left La Fortuna and headed to Monteverde, a town home to a famous cloud forest. Mike had booked us into a hostel, which he and Michaela were really excited about. I was a little less excited, though I was happy he’d gotten us a room with a private bath. The place was nice, though, with very friendly staff and right in the middle of town. While we were settling in, Mike spotted a girl who looked around Michaela’s age and encouraged Michaela to talk to her. The girl, Soli, was an 11-year-old French Canadian traveling around Costa Rice with her mom for a month. They hit it off in spite of a language barrier and played card games in the lobby that night before we all went together on a night tour of the rainforest.

The idea behind the night tour is you can see creatures that are active at night. This particular night was very rainy, so we didn’t see much, but not for lack of trying from our guide, Ronald: a couple of tiny frogs, a lot of bugs, some birds, and a green viper.

The next morning we went to the national park and did a guided tour of the cloud forest. It’s at a high elevation, so there are lots of clouds (as you’d expect from the name), which makes it cool temperature-wise and leads to a lot of biodiversity. Our guide was very knowledgeable and took all of Michaela’s questions seriously. We saw orange-kneed tarantulas, bats, lots of birds, and beautiful plant life. At the end of the tour, we went to a coffee shop across the street from the park entrance where they’d set up hummingbird feeders that attracted several different kinds. We got drinks and were watching the birds when an acuti went strolling by, chill as can be. We also stopped by the gift shop, where we met a woman with impeccable English who was an amateur sloth fanatic. She told us all about sloths and about where to find them near our hostel. As it turned out, that night when we were driving back to town, we saw her walking home. Michaela and I hopped out of the car and she walked us around to help us see more sloths. While we didn’t see any, meeting Dulce was another highlight of our trip for me because she 100% lived up to her name (“Sweet” in English).

The next day, we gave Soli and her mom (Line, pronounced “Lean”) a ride to Puntareans, a town on the Pacific coast. We actually had been there before; that’s where our Panama Canal cruise stopped when we did that trip a few years ago. I had been a bit apprehensive about sharing the car with random strangers but it was really fun. Especially when we shared the little bit of French we know, which includes the chorus of the French language version of “Frosty the Snowman.” Gotta love un bonhomme de neige!

From there, we continued south along the coast. We made a stop at Crocodile Bridge, which goes over the Tarcoles River. As the name suggests, there are crocodiles that live near the bridge. We’d visited it on our previous trip, so we knew there were clean, free bathrooms in addition to crocodiles.

There was a definite change in the climate as we drove down from the mountains to the coast. When we arrived in Manuel Antonio, our next stop, it was hot and humid. Mike had gotten us a two-bedroom unit at a place in Quepos, a town outside the Manuel Antonio National Park. It had a pool and a big kitchen, so we stopped at a store to get breakfast foods. We headed to the beach for sunset and holy cow, was it gorgeous!

By that time, though, we were all tired and hungry and over restaurants. We went to the store again and grabbed fixings for dinner. The grilled cheese (American cheese product and Bimbo white bread), soup from a packet, and steamed broccoli was one of my favorite meals of the trip. We ate on the patio of our house and then Michaela took a dip in the pool. It was lovely.

We woke up the next morning to howler monkeys in the trees outside our house, and then to six giant macaws squawking and flying around. We had a leisurely breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, and orange-carrot juice before heading to the national park.

Manual Antonio National Park is home to several beaches as well as forest, and since we (well, Michaela) were tired of rain forest, we packed for a beach day. A big bottle of water, some fruit (including the most delicious pineapple I’ve ever eaten) and cookies, towels, and sunscreen, plus a souvenir towel we bought that looks like a Costa Rican bill (currency).

Playa Espadilla Sur was a relatively empty beach with a lot of shade trees, so we set up camp there. While we did, we saw a giant iguana lumber by. Mike and Michaela headed into the water, and I joined them, too, for only for a bit (long enough to get hit by a giant wave!). I mostly sat on the sand and read my Kindle, which is my idea of a great vacation activity. After several hours of that, we were all hungry for lunch so walked through the park, where we saw some tremendously aggressive capuchin monkeys (I swear one looked like he was going to kill us) and another sloth!

After we left the park, we had a quick bite on the beach. Literally. We sat at a table on the beach and drank smoothies and shared ceviche and chips and guac. Another great vacation activity in my book.

We hung out at the house more, Michaela went in the pool, and we went out to a nice dinner. Then it was off to bed and, after another delicious homemade breakfast, off to San Jose.

We stayed about 30 minutes away from the airport at a small hotel called the Trapp Family County Inn. There were no singing siblings or Nazis, but it was a cute property. When Mike punched it into the map, the address was something like “400 meters west of the soccer field.” Costa Rica is still working on actual addresses.

We dropped off our stuff and then took an Uber to the Mercado Central. A hallmark of any Watson international vacation is a trip to the market. It’s always fascinating to see what is sold there, how it’s organized, what the locals eat/buy/do there, etc. We had lunch at a 126-year-old soda, or Costa Rican diner, before going through the market. Then we took a walking tour of downtown San Jose, which isn’t my favorite city but grew on me over time. We visited several parks, walked past the legislative building (called the Blue Castle) and through a great street art exhibit, and then made our way back to the market so we could get Michaela some souvenirs. She’s very choosy and she wanted something specific from a stall we’d visited. The problem was, it was nearly closing time and some stalls were already closed and the place was pretty bug and we weren’t 100% sure where the stall she wanted was. It was very tense, but we found the stall and they were still open; then we needed to pick the perfect matching keychains for Michaela and her bestie Claudia. There was a big basket full of wooden keychains with animals painted on them, but we couldn’t find matching ones that had animals we’d actually seen. Because it would have been lame to get dolphin keychains for the girls when we hadn’t seen them in real life on our trip, you know? Fortunately, Mike came through with two sloth keychains and we were all able to breathe a sigh of relief.

We went back into downtown to wait for traffic to die down a bit before going back to our hotel. It was our last full day in Costa Rica, so we splurged a little bit. Mike stopped into a bakery and bought a pastry, Michaela popped into a frozen yogurt place and got a fro yo with toppings, and I… Well, I went to Starbucks and got a full-fat milk chai tea latte. I can’t help it! I don’t drink coffee but I love those, and it was the first Starbucks we’d seen in the entire country. I remember thinking to myself, “Why would I never go to a McDonald’s in a different country, but I’m happy to hit up Starbucks?” I don’t have an answer for that, but as I contemplated the question, we soaked up the WiFi and used the clean, free bathrooms.

After we Uber-ed back, Mike wanted to go get something to eat. It was dinner time and we had to wake up at the crack of dawn the next day to return the rental car and get to the airport, and none of us wanted to eat in the hotel restaurant. He found a highly rated soda near the hotel so we headed there.

This place was in the front yard of a lady’s house. It was on a neighborhood street and when we got there, there were a couple of people waiting for a to-go order. As Mike, Michaela, and I tried to decide what to order, I noticed a giant cockroach crawling along the ceiling near our table. Michaela saw it and freaked out and Mike grumped at her to ignore it and not make a big deal out of it. It was at that point when the roach decided just being there wasn’t the most gross thing it would do. No. The most gross thing would be to FLY DIRECTLY AT US. This giant insect made a beeline first for Mike, then for Michaela, then for me. Michaela was crying, I was trying not to scream, and Mike was, well, not terribly surprised as Michaela and I hopped up and got the eff out of there.

We’d passed several McDonald’s while we were downtown and I made an executive decision that we were going there for dinner. Yes, we did the lame thing that we never do. The prospect of going to another restaurant in someone’s front yard was just too much.

We hit up Mickey Dees, where Michaela got a Cajita Feliz (Happy Meal). She was fascinated because there was a birthday party happening in the sala de fiestas (party room). “Who has a party at McDonald’s? It’s 8:30 on a weeknight!” So Mike and I got to explain to her that 1) when we were kids, people had parties at McDonald’s and 2) McDonald’s is a classic American food that is kind of special for people in other countries.

The next morning, we were up and at ’em. Dropped the car off, took the shuttle to the terminal, got on our first flight (San Jose to LAX), hit the lounge at LAX for some free food and drinks, flew from LAX to San Diego, and took a Lyft home in terrible traffic. It was a long day, but the trip was totally worth it.

Pura vida!

Lately

3 Nov

Michaela’s golf team did really well– they won the challenge, thanks in no small part to the fact that we had a lot of friends and family who came to support the team. The kids’ parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles came (not Michaela’s, of course), and we even had several neighbors who brought their kids. And since the contest was based on votes, it was a pretty easy win.

We’ve been making good progress on the house. The new sliding glass doors are installed in the master and guest bedrooms, meaning we now finish patching holes, painting, and putting in new carpet up there. And once we do that, we can buy new bedroom furniture (include a king size bed, which I am super excited about) and put stuff up on the walls. Yay!

We’re getting close to our Costa Rica trip. Michaela is looking forward to zip lining and seeing sloths. I’m also looking forward to sloths, but also to getting away. The last few months have been really busy at work and I’m ready for a break.

The other fun thing on the horizon is a mother-daughter trip to Paris for spring break! Mike and I subscribe to a flight deals service, and they emailed us about really inexpensive fares to Europe. Mike said he didn’t want to go but would gladly book tickets for me and Michaela to Paris and I, of course, said YES. So she and I will head to gay Par-ee in March. We’ll eat crepes (Michaela also wants to be sure to have frog legs, which I will skip) and see the sites (I’ve never been to the top of the Eiffel Tour, and that’s on our list), and enjoy some quality time together. How do you say, “I can’t wait” in French?

Inclusion

20 Oct

The local high school has a challenge for students in the elementary and middle schools that feed into it. The kids can form a team of up to six children and then they build their own mini golf hole. This year’s theme is sustainability.

Mike and Michaela were really excited about the challenge, so Michaela picked kids for a team. Her best friend, C, of course. And C’s brother. Another girl friend, a boy from her class who Mike calls his “second-favorite 4th grader,” and a boy we’ll call M.

I don’t spend much time at school, so I don’t know much about M, but I think he’s autistic. Relatively non-verbal. Stimming behavior. It was a big deal a couple of weeks ago when he say Michaela, looked her in the eye, and said “Hi, Michaela.”

That must have been on her mind because Michaela invited M to be on her team. Mike sent an email to all the parents and M’s mom wrote a very lovely, emotional email back about how touched she is that M is being included and how that doesn’t happen that frequently.

The team got together last week to brainstorm ideas for their golf hole, and they’re outside as I type actually building the thing. M has been accompanied by his dad, and everyone seems to be having a good time.

I’m sure most people think their kid is the best, but seriously, my kid is the best. This wasn’t a pity thing, like “I feel sorry for him so I want to include him.” It was just a nice gesture to someone who could be a friend. I hope she can continue to have that attitude as she grows up!

40

15 Sep

Yesterday was my 40th birthday.

It is still weird to type that.

In some ways, 40 sounds terribly old, and in others, it does not. I mean, many (most?) of my friends are older than that and it’s not like they’re geriatric or anything. That being said, 40 for me has meant a lot of contemplating that my life is probably halfway over (assuming I don’t keel over tomorrow or get hit by a car or what have you). And that is a mind f—k.

When I turned 35, I made a list of 40 things to do before I turned 40. I officially completed 22 of them. 18 still to go. A friend at my birthday party last night told me she thought I had all this year to get them done, too, and — given that I still have 18 to do — I liked that idea a lot. Ha ha.

Speaking of my party, I had such a fun time! I had a party at Skateworld, the local rollerskating rink. My goal for it was simple, stress-free, and fun, and thanks to a ton of work from Mike, that was achieved. We had a little private area where we set up catered food from Rubio’s, did a Costco cake (not fancy, but simple and stress-free), and people skated as much as they wanted for three hours. We had about 60 people from different parts of my life, from my oldest friend to college friends to former coworkers to friends I’ve made through Michaela.

I got to spend at least a few minutes with everyone and it was really nice to (re)connect.

I put in the invitation that I didn’t want any gifts, but if people wanted to get something, I would appreciate donations to #HappyPeriod, a charity that donates menstrual products to women experiencing homelessness. I didn’t really expect much so was completely overwhelmed by the generosity of my friends. They came in with giant boxes and bags fill of pads and tampons and wipes and pantyliners. It was incredible. I will be taking the donation to #HappyPeriod this week and am so happy to be ale to do something nice for someone else, given how much kindness has been shown to me in my 40 years on the planet.

72

2 Sep

Today is my dad’s 72nd birthday. Michaela and I called him in the morning and didn’t get him — in typical fashion, he was out at a car show — so left him a “Happy Birthday” serenade on his answering machine. When he called us back later, he said my mom hadn’t made him a cake, so Michaela and I resolved to make him one. Michaela had the idea to put sprinkles in the cake batter, making our own Funfetti-style batter, and we put his favorite chocolate icing on top.

We drove the cake to my parents’ house, singing to him again before he offered Michaela a slice (complete with his favorite French vanilla ice cream). He seemed genuinely tickled, and happy to spend a little time with us. It was really nice.

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As I get older (hell, 40 in less than two weeks), I’m becoming more and more aware of how fleeting time is and how important it is to savor moments like today’s birthday celebration. I’m lucky my dad is alive and in good health, even if he does sometimes drive me crazy (so. many. questions. about the operation of his cell phone). And while I hope he is, it’s possible he won’t be here to celebrate 73. So I gave him a big hug and a kiss and wished him a happy birthday and counted my blessings to be able to do so.

Happy birthday, Daddy!

Another Milestone

2 Sep

Michaela started 4th grade last week. I know, I can’t believe it, either. FOURTH GRADE.

Mike and I both hoped Michaela would get a certain teacher, but kept it under wraps so Michaela wouldn’t be upset if she got a different teacher. And we all hoped Michaela’s best friend Claudia would be in her class, too (they were in different classes last year and it was sad for both of them). So when we got to the big teacher reveal at school — the Friday before school starts, they put up lists of teacher assignments and have food trucks and booths for different clubs and after-school activities — we were all thrilled to see that Michaela got the teacher we wanted and Claudia is in the same class.

So when it was time to bundle her off to school the following Monday, it was pretty easy-peasy. She put on the new romper she’d picked out, grabbed her new backpack (new, but she transferred the 8 million keychains she had on her old backpack to the new one), and off we went to school.

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Doesn’t she look like such a big kid?

At the end of the day, I asked her how school was. “GREAT,” she said. And that was more or less that.

Catch Up Post

10 Aug

Just checked and the last time I wrote anything here was May 26, so I guess there’s a lot to catch up on!

Quickly:

We had an awesome block party with our neighbors. Mike pulled a permit and we closed down the street. We rented a dunk tank and bounce house, had gobs of food, an outdoor movie, a glow stick parade, and more. It was super fun and a nice way to kick off summer.

Michaela made Mike to cutest thing for Father’s Day. It’s a shirt with a grid drawn on the back of it, with a corresponding grid on a piece of paper. Mike puts on the shirt and, using the paper grid, can tell Michaela which part of his back to massage. Isn’t that creative and also sweet?

Work has been nuts, in part because I got a promotion! My new role (which includes all my old responsibilities) is a good match for my long-term career aspirations and is a really nice acknowledgement of what I bring to my organization.

Mike and I went to see Paul McCartney in concert. The show wasn’t as good as the last time I saw him, but it’s still pretty cool to see someone of his stature. He’s a living legend and he played his heart out.

Michaela did Zoo Camp, which she loves, a STEAM-focused camp, a jump rope camp, and a week at Camp Cahito (aka. Camp Tired and Dirty, because your kid comes home exhausted and filthy). She spent some time with Mike doing Camp Dad, and she’s currently in Colorado for her annual trip to visit Nana and Papa.

One of my good friends from college was pregnant, so a couple of my other friends and I had a day-long baby shower/get together that was a total blast. She’s since had the baby, who is gorgeous and who I’ll get to see in October for our annual girls’ trip.

Mike, Michaela, and I spent several days in Washington, DC. It was so much fun! We walked our feet off and sweated like crazy (hello, heat and humidity!), saw things like Mt. Vernon (where George Washington lived), Ford’s Theatre, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and the Smithsonian Museum of American American History (which deserves but probably will not get its own post here). Mike keeps talking about how cheap the trip was since he has a companion pass for Michaela, he flew on points, and my airfare was paid by work because I attended a conference in DC after our trip. We booked the hotel on points and all the Smithsonian museums are free, so it was relatively inexpensive. All the more cash to spend on a trip at Thanksgiving, I say!

We have made progress on the house. It’s officially been a year since we moved in and we finally have floors installed downstairs. That sounds lame, but it’s a huge deal. No more scarred concrete; now it’s beautiful Italian tile and hardwood. We need to buy furniture and unpack, but that’ll come in time.

Mike, Michaela, and I traveled to Oklahoma for our annual trip to see the family. The group has grown– it’s Mike dad and stepmom, two brothers and their wives, and now a total of  six kids (this year ages 10, 9, 6, 3, 2, 2 months). Michaela went tubing — her favorite thing to do there — and we did all the usual stuff like swimming, boat rides, eating, and napping.

While we were in OK, I went kayaking!!! That’s one of the things on the “40 Before 40 list” I created when I turned 35. Hard to believe that was five years ago… The kayaking couldn’t come at a better time, because I’m basically a month away from turning 40 (eek!) and there’s still a lot of stuff left on that list.

When we came back from the lake, we brought Michaela’s cousin P with us. As when we took him to Europe with us, I am reminded that having two kids is very different than having one, especially when one is a boy and not yours. We’ve molded and trained Michaela, and have a good routine and set expectations; that’s not that case when you throw in a new kid. But it was great, and Michaela enjoyed spending one-on-one time with her cousin.

We have a couple more weeks of summer and then Michaela will be a 4th grader. Not sure how that happened, but I am, as always, proud of the person she is. She told me a few weeks ago that she’d been thinking about the street dogs we saw when we were in the Philippines and that she wants to do something to help homeless pets. On her own she came up with the idea of saving cans and bottles to recycle, to raise funds to donate to an animal charity. We did some research together and she settled on supporting the Baja Animal Sanctuary, which helps animals in Mexico get adopted in the US and runs programs to spay and neuter street dogs. Her first bag of cans and bottles raised $3.13, so we have a ways to go, but it’s such a sweet, loving gesture that it doesn’t really matter.

And that’s about it! A couple of months in a nutshell. Posting regularly on the blog is part of my list, so I guess I should get on that…

My Girl

26 May

Girl Scouts sends a survey to Michaela each year, to rate her satisfaction with being a scout. It also includes some questions about how she feels about herself and her life. I find the answers fascinating, and I wanted to share some of them here.

She said “agree a lot” about these things:

  • I care about doing well in school
  • I am a hard worker in school

She said these things sound “exactly like me”

  • I want to make the world a better place to live in
  • It is important to me to make a difference in my community
  • When I see a problem in my community, I figure out who can help me solve it
  • When I see a problem in my community, I think of many ways to solve it
  • Girls like me can do important things
  • Girls like me can be leadersGirls like me can be good at many different things
  • When I see someone being picked on, I feel sad
  • When I see another person who is hurt or upset, I want to make them feel better
  • When I see someone being taken advantage of, I want to help them
  • When someone does a good job, I tell them
  • I do what is right, even when it is hard
  • I tell the truth, even when it is not easy

These were interesting because they remind me of myself. It’s hard being a perfectionist!

  • Even if I am afraid of making mistakes, I still try new things: kind of like me
  • I don’t give up, even when things are hard: A lot like me
  • I try things even if I may not be good at them: Kind of like me

She’s a good kid. I love her to pieces!

Odds and Ends

26 May

We have the best neighbors ever. On Easter morning, many families hid eggs in their yards and about a dozen kids ran up and down the street hunting eggs. I made muffins and mimosas and we all had a nice time hanging out and watching the kids. Michaela recently learned that Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and Easter Bunny aren’t real, but she very sweetly kept that news to herself. She was happy to hunt the eggs, even if she did know that I was the one who put them out.

Progress on the house continues to be slow and steady. Emphasis on slow. Mike installed floors in one of our living rooms, which we’d already painted, and we got a couch to go in there. The room still needs trim and the rest of the furniture, but at least it’s something. This week, Mike installed two new sliding doors and two new windows in the other living room and dining room. Now we can have the drywall done and then paint, and once that’s done, we can do floors in there.

Michaela was presented her “cookie ladder” patch. She has now sold more than 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Michaela takes cookie sales very seriously and I’m proud of her for hitting her goals.

Mike and Michaela made me feel incredibly special for Mother’s Day. They made me a delicious breakfast with all my favorites (including cinnamon raisin French toast!) and then we played “Jeopardy: Mom Edition.” They had made a Jeopardy board with categories like “Rhymes with Mom,” “Places Mom’s Been,” “Family Connections,” and “Mom’s Favorites.” Michaela had a whole spiel about the contestants (“Communicator of the Year Mommy” and “Videographer Mike Watson”) and the questions — actually, the answers — were adorable. Best of all, the $500 answer in the “Family Connections” category was “The best mom in the world.” And the question was, “who is Mommy?” It was adorable and I cried happy tears throughout the game.

We took Michaela and a friend to see “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the traveling Broadway play. I was surprised at how dark it was in parts (they seemed to get a lot of joy from the agonizing deaths of the other kids), but the kiddos enjoyed it. We had great seats and access to the President’s Circle lounge, where there was food and drinks. Michaela’s friend seemed to delight in the VIP experience. My kid, of course, took it all in stride. She’s super lucky… which I am constantly reminding her.

Michaela and I did the Navy Bridge Run for the second year in a row. They only close the Coronado Bridge down twice a year — once for this walk, once for a bike race — so it’s a cool chance to do something uniquely San Diego. The weather was iffy, but it stayed dry while we walked. Once we were done, though, the heavens opened up and we ended up soaked!

This week, I found myself with some ice cream supplies that were leftover from an event at work. We invited the neighbors over and had our first-ever Thursday night ice cream social. It went super well. Kids and adults made sundaes, we put on music and the kids danced, and we spent a couple of hours just hanging out. We’ll definitely do that again when it gets to be summer!