It all started late last year when Doodle's friend introduced her to Club Penguin (http://clubpenguin.com/). Wikipedia define Club Penguin as a massively multiplayer online game for children developed by New Horizon Interactive. Using cartoon penguin avatars, players can converse, play minigames, and participate in other activities with one another in a snow-covered virtual world. The girls love the penguin world (and I sometimes play games for them to amass points more quickly), but it comes with a catch: to take full advantage, you need to be a member, paying something like $7 a month. This was an expense that I have been unwilling to incur, despite intense pleading by both girls.
I was somewhat relieved when Doodle's interest shifted to Webkinz, developed by Ganz. It's a similar virtual world but membership is free with the purchase of a cute, $10 cuddly stuffed animal. Like Beanie Babies, they can be somewhat hard to find and appear to rise in value. There's a bunny and a dog that now go for something like $60. The difference is they give you access to loads of online fun. I've been sucked into playing games for the girls, and can't get enough of Quizzy's Word Challenge (sort of like Boggle) and a few other games. Last week the girls got me my own Webkinz for my birthday, so I've been busy decorating Ice Cracker the polar bear's room, buying her trampolines and bathtubs and clothes to maintain her health and happiness, and sending virtual gifts to the girls through the Webkinz mail system. I think I need intervention.
Doodle has a whole network of friends with Webkinz, including her cousins, so they are able to send each other notes and gifts. Most of Tootle's friends don't have older siblings so they would look at her blankly if she talked about Webkinz with them; fortunately Doodle's friends get a kick out of getting things and sending them to Doodle's little sister. Doodle and I are even planning her 9th birthday party as a Webkinz party; it's going to be a lot of work so hopefully that will be less time for me in Webkinz World over the next month. Otherwise I'll have to start Webkinz Anonymous.
One of the reasons that I started this blog was to challenge myself to improve my photography skills. This week I'm taking a small step by participating in Double Happiness' weekly Family FotoFun Challenge (http://2happy.typepad.com/double_happiness/). This week's topic is bubbles. Today was a picture perfect warm day and the large bubble contraption beckoned, so we headed outside in the late afternoon, armed with the camera and a super size jug of bubble juice.
I'm less scared about the middle school years--the whole mean girls syndrome and the angst of being a young teen--after spending the weekend camping with 7 sixth graders and 12 of the Brownies in Doodle's troop. The older girls were terrific as they took on a teaching role with the 3rd graders. They were kind, funny, and even a bit goofy with the younger girls, and more importantly with each other. I didn't see any mean spiritedness, pettiness, or exclusion--just girls who were comfortable with themselves and who were ready to make any situation a fun one. A little rain and cool temperatures did not dilute their spirits. If Doodle and her friends turn out 3/4 as well, I will be thrilled.
The 3rd graders, a little disappointed that they didn't see deer or other large wildlife, became obsessed with the slug they found, affectionately named Senor Slug. Here is a photo of some of the girls and the slug. Our Brownies troop has not exactly roughed it on previous overnight outings (staying in one Brownies' fabulous beach house and in a lodge with bunk beds) but we were expecting to be more exposed to the elements this time. It was not to be: we stayed in the camp's lodge, with heat and electricity, although we did all have to sleep on the floor and we cooked our lunch and dinner outdoors over the campfire.
I celebrated my 45th birthday during this camping trip, in a stealth manner. I didn't let the other moms know that it was my special day. The girls, my mom, and I had a quick celebration before we left on Saturday morning, and we went out to dinner after we got home tonight. I savored my birthday dessert--a s'more with a marshmallow toasted to perfection in the campfire--and hope that I will still be able to sleep on the floor without too much discomfort when I hit the next five-year milestone birthday in 2012. When we pulled into the driveway this afternoon, Tootle ran out of the house before I even turned off the ignition. The hug that the girls shared upon being reunited, and the fun of watching Doodle teach Tootle the hand motions to YMCA as we listened to Doodle's party CD on our way to dinner, are some of my best memories of a weekend filled with sweet moments.
Just as Tootle, Doodle, Doodle's friend, and I were about to leave the ice yesterday after about an hour of skating, a teenager zoomed into me and sent me flying backwards. My head landed on the ice with a thunk and apparently my flying feet also took Tootle down. I must have been out of it for a moment because she was back on her feet before I even sat up (I only learned later about the domino effect of the fall). I haven't fallen on the ice in years so it really surprised me; it also surprised me how quickly the bump on my head grew and how much my jaw hurt last night and my ribs and neck continue to hurt today. Fortunately my head is just tender today so I'll somewhat capable of working.
It's somewhat strange that this accident occurred when it did. My 80-year-old uncle died on Saturday after falling at his home and being discovered on Friday. He lived alone so nobody knows how long he was unconscious; he was found by a car service worker who came to pick him up for an appointment. He was long divorced and had no children and few friends, so there will likely be no service. How sad to be so alone in your old age. He was one of four children in my dad's family: my dad died in his late 40s of lung cancer, his older sister died a few years ago, and his younger sister is doing well and is the proud grandparent of three girls, two of whom were adopted from China by my cousin and her husband. I never knew my uncle well, perhaps because he and my dad were so different, and as an adult I have always lived at least 100 miles away. My uncle had two passions: cars and dogs, neither of which gave us a connection point. My brother, who lives nearby, helped him out in many ways and shared an interest in both cars and dogs. I am thankful that he had my brother in his life. I hope he is resting in peace and is no longer so alone.
Here's a sample of the e-mail conversation I had with Doodle last week. It should have clued me in to the likelihood that she would want to sleep with me; the need doesn't seem to have waned at all after a week. I'm stiff and sore from being squashed between two girls.
My e-mail to the girls: I took a walk on the beach at 6 a.m. and got you each some pretty sand dollars. The other shells that I got are the kind that we can find in the Atlantic, but a few are yellow or orange. I'll see you tomorrow. I love you and miss you. Love, Mommy
Doodle's reply: I can't wait till you come home. I have to sleep by myself tonight. I really don't want to. P.S I do not want to sleep by myself. See you when you come. I love you and I miss you.
Doodle's e-mail reminds me of the first post-kid business trip when she was slightly over a year old. Being away from her for the first time was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. I arrived home around 10 p.m. after she was asleep in her crib. My movement awakened her enough that I heard her utter her first two word sentence "Mommy home." I can still hear her sweet, sleepy baby voice.
Doodle at ages 1, 2, and 3. I didn't have a digital camera until Doodle was 4, so I have very few scanned baby pictures.
I had a short business trip to San Diego last week. This is the bay view from my hotel room in Coronado. Despite the guilt of being away, I enjoyed the adult conversation and the chance to recharge, even if I did come home with a sinus infection that knocked me out at the end of last week. I foolishly took the redeye home. When I arrived at the airport check-in line, I began to think that my decision was incredibly stupid. Also in line were scores of Marines, some of whom were pitying the civilians who would be on the "party plane" with them. Fortunately, the Marines were all talk and no action, and they slept just like everyone else. The flight was particularly smooth, perhaps because the testosterone level took us higher than this plane usually flies. I managed to sleep for several hours but was still a zombie when I got home.
I only travel for business 2-3 times a year, and this trip brought some changes: Doodle and I communicated by e-mail (as well as phone) daily, which was a lot of fun even if she did keep asking if I had taken a walk on the beach to collect shells for her. I scored on the final morning when I found about a dozen sand dollars on a 6 a.m. walk. Both girls have been clingy since I got home, and they want to sleep with me every night, all night. My mom reported that Doodle was convinced that something was going to happen to me and that I wouldn't be coming home. My worrier. I would have done more to reassure her if I had known about her concerns in advance. Tootle gave me daily reports by phone on her day at preschool and her nighttime dreams, as usual. On the last day, Tootle told me that she had had a nightmare. She dreamed that I was the last one to get to use the bathroom in the morning. The horror! Speaking of bathrooms, I wished I could have transported my hotel bathroom to my house. I spent several evenings relaxing in the deep tub, and the separate shower was also heavenly. The cramped, dated bathroom in our house is immortalized in a poem by the former poet laureate on Maryland (he lived in our house for 20 years before I bought it), but I would trade it in for the one in this hotel without a second thought.
I've had the chance to spend time with both girls at school recently. I love this action shot of Tootle on the preschool playground, as she chased her friends. I made my final tuition payment to the preschool on March 1. It will be a relief to have no daycare expenses next year. Tootle is so excited about kindergarten; I hope it lives up to her expectations.
I went with Doodle's class on a field trip to a science museum. I was the assigned chaperon for Doodle and four of her friends (all girls). We had a blast (I don't think I embarrassed Doodle too much) and even came up with a name for our group, The Peeps. My Peeps would take roll call by calling out for Peep 1, Peep 2, etc. I was Peep Leader. On the bus, I eavesdropped on the girls' conversations about pets, families, and BOYS, but as amusing as that was, the bus ride home in traffic seemed like it would never end. The 40-minute trip took about 2 hours. I think it will be awhile before I sign up for a field trip again. I am signed up to help chaperon a Brownies camping trip in a few weeks, but I'm sure that will only be a positive experience, especially since we'll be camping on my birthday.