Saturday, January 27, 2007

A new zoo season

On Thursday morning -- at about 10:30 -- the boys reminded me that I'd promised we'd go to the zoo on the first 'warm' day. It was sunny, with the high forecast to reach 48 or so. Maybe not truly warm in most places, but here with the New Mexico sun, 48 feels downright summer-like. Especially after the snowy weekends we've endured since before Christmas.

Our first stop was the zoo office, to buy a combo membership for the biopark, which includes the zoo, aquarium, and botanic gardens. Now we can come back to any or all free the rest of the year.

This, tho, was the real reason we came to the park - so the boys could climb all over the huge playset. Here they are having spent a long time on the slide already, sliding down and climbing back up. Note the barefeet and Dan's t-shirt without a jacket -- it really was warm!

We saw the train come thru -- turns out it was the route that just loops the zoo grounds. Upon reaching the train depot at the Africa gift shop, we discovered that to catch the train to the aquarium, we needed to arrive before 12, buy bracelets (total cost $4, -- not bad) and catch the train at the new depot behind the elephant exhibit. We didn't even know there was anything behind the elephants, much less a train depot! Next time, we'll arrive early and get our tickets so we can do both without driving. Here, Andy is waving at passengers, while Dan covers his ears against the whistleblow.

The zoo docents had a llama out -- two actually, this is the one the boys liked.

I guess either the prairie dogs can't read (the sign says 'We are hibernating for the winter. Please look for us next spring.') or the zoo folks haven't noticed that the prairie dogs have decided winter is over. We saw several of them -- stretching in the sun, posturing for fights, eating snow, running around, and calling to each other. A very busy winter hibernation.

Dan, pointing out the sea lion swimming towards the window. Both boys love to watch the sea lions swimming around the tank. They wanted to stay for feeding time, but there wasn't another one until 3:30 and we still wanted to hit the aquarium.

A sleeping koala -- when are they ever not sleeping, tho? Dan wanted to see the koala house, while Andy chose to stay outside and look at tropical birds. As we walked into the koala exhibit, Dan asked me "why does it smell like eucalyptus here?" Well, cause koalas like eucalyptus. The bigger question -- for me -- was how did Dan recognize eucalyptus scent and remember the word for it? Almost daily, I'm thrown by how much they learn and know just being in the world. I mean, we don't use eucalyptus at home, where did that come from?

The boys each had a turn in the intricate marble throne in the African plaza area. Don't they look very regal?

The aquarium

After learning that we'd arrived at the zoo too late to get a train ticket to the aquarium, we decided to drive there. Before we could go inside, tho, the boys had to check out the ice on the pond at the entrance. It's not frozen solid, of course, Dan was worried Andy might fall in, so he anchored him while they explored.
The boys insisted on at least one picture of a small manta ray. They love the 'face' on the lower side, visible as the rays skim along the windows built into the walls of the tank.
The jellyfish tank, with Andy's hand on it. Both boys love the jellies.
At the shark/big fish tank. While were there two scuba divers were in the tank. It looked like they were doing a rescue drill, as one diver carried the other to the surface, after dropping heavy gear from his belt. A few moments later, the 'rescued' diver was back to retrieve his gear, and it was clear it had all been perfectly planned, not an emergency.
The boys were very impressed by the teeth on this shark.

Twister with Dad

Thursday evening, after a full day at the zoo & aquarium, we went to Target so that Dan could make some birthday money purchases. Dan chose a very characteristic assortment of things -- a Twister Game, Mousetrap Game, soccer ball pump, and 2 big bouncy balls (both blue of course).

We hadn't been home 20 minutes before Dan talked Gary into a game of Twister -- with Dad doing all the twisting, while Dan did the spinning.

He thoroughly enjoyed the spinning - or maybe it was
the opportunity to see just how flexible Dad is

Shortly after this on the camera is a shot of the crash on the Twister sheet. I figured I'd give Gary a break and not post it here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I've been tagged -- twice!

So, I've been tagged twice today -- thanks Jenny & Crystal. Please say this doesn't mean I have to share 12 weird things about myself. Altho I could come up with that many, I'm not sure my assorted neuroses could stand the scrutiny!

1. I cannot deal cards clockwise -- only counterclockwise and left-handed. I am truly unable to do it any other way.

2. I virtually always wake just moments before the alarm goes off. That's not to say I wake at the same time every day, just that if I set an alarm (or someone else I'm sleeping with does) for a particular time, I wake just in time to turn it off before it sounds.

3. I count things -- okay, almost everything -- steps, words, syllables in words. It's the only way I can sit still or stay focused, or at least appear to.

4. I can smell ants.

5. I wear multiple pairs of dangling earrings, because I like the way they sound when I move my head.

6. I can never remember how many feet are in a mile -- is it 5,280 or 5,820?

Okay, I'll stop there -- really, the other six or several hundred weird things about me are terribly boring!

I'm tagging -- only Danielle -- everyone else I visited has already been tagged at least once, some twice!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dan is 6 today!

Today is Dan's 6th birthday. We had a fabulous day and a wonderful party -- especially considering we threw this party together in just over 24 hours! Late Monday afternoon, Andy told me 'Dan's having his party at Peter Piper's.' Really? That's news to me -- I thought he'd decided to do the family only thing at ITZ. But, nope, they decided on Peter Piper's tomorrow. I said "gee, it would help if you'd tell the adults when you plan a party -- makes it more likely to happen!"
So I jumped online and posted an invite to the whole tribe, called Susan (who's not online) to invite her and Spencer, and called Jenny to be sure Scotty could come. I'm hoping that even a few folks can make it on such short notice. By Tuesday afternoon, virtually everyone had rsvp'd that they come! We had an amazing time at the party, and the day only got better as it went on!
Dan, Conor & Emma in a still moment -- there weren't many of those.
Most of the day it was a mad chase thru the restaurant!
When Andy and I left Peter Pipers -- without Dan who'd gone home with Mindy -- to go to gamestop we both marveled that he'd entrusted us to get his Gameboy Advance with a game. In fact, when I walked over to the car to meet Andy, he said to me, "Wow Dan's putting a lot of faith in us to buy his gameboy!" (really, exactly what I'd just said to Mindy!) It was to be a fill-in/back up until the Nintendo DS's came in. We'd been told by every store in town that none were available and no one knew when -- the best I got was 'next month.'

We walked into Gamestop at Coors & Paseo and found they had DS's! One black and one pink.... I explained that we really needed too, non-pink ones, I couldn't buy just one. Asked if they call other stores to check on availability. They jumped into action, found us one at Zuni & San Mateo in black (way, way across town!). We bought the one they had and headed out to get the second. I realized there was no way Andy would have time to swim if he went with me. Then it hit me -- half the tribe would be at the pool! I could leave Andy there, deliver Dan's swim gear for Kevin and still get across town in time. Of course, it all worked out great -- I got the DS for each, Dan's new game at the cross-town store, and found the one Andy wants on ebay (just hit that buy-now button, Dave -- and it's on it's way!). Life here is good as I sit in the debris of nintendo boxes, wrapping paper and gifts from our tribe -- all those who came to the party -- and Linda & Judson who didn't even know there was a party but remembered it is Dan's birthday!

This is what the cusp of 6 looks like. Gary took this shot last night -- just two hours before Dan turned 6 -- after Dan passed out in the rocking chair. Just too sweet not to share!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ice Skating!

On Tuesday, we went ice skating in Rio Rancho with the tribe. Everyone had a fabulous time. And I got lots of pictures, so I'll just put them up here with a caption for each one.

Andy, getting a feel for the ice. Both boys enjoy rollerblading -- self-taught, since neither Gary or I can skate -- so they were pretty confident getting out on the ice.

Jenny with Dan & Scotty. Luck for us, Jenny ice skates, so the kids had an adult on the ice with them.

Jenny and Eliza on the ice

Andy, sleeves flapping the breeze.

Andy & Dan, with Jenny in the background

Scotty & Eliza found the arcade and enjoyed the different car games there.

Conor and Dan over hot chocolate during a break from the ice

Scotty & Dan over cocoa

Parker and Dan, racing around on the ice. It was also Parker's first time on ice, tho he does rollerblade. The most notable thing Dan & Parker have in common, tho, is that both are fearless daredevils, who'll take almost any challenge.

Beth & Emma on the ice. I really enjoyed watching Emma become more confident on the ice as the day went along.
Dan, hiding behind Jazzy. Jazzy was very popular with younger kids on the ice.

Dan, racing around on the ice. We'd only been there about 15 minutes when he told me "I want to stop soccer and play hockey!" On the ride home, he decided he'd just do both, hoping the seasons don't overlap. I'm starting to see lots of bleacher time in my future!

Dan & Conor on the ice.

Snow and music at Explora

Last Thursday, we spend a couple of hours at Explora. The boys really enjoyed the new sound exhibit area -- lots of cool sound toys. I only got a few picures because so much of our time was spent trying out the stuff! Andy playing a xylophone with wooden slats.
Dan playing the xylophone with glass slats.

Even a week after the big snow, there was enough snow to build a snowman on the rooftop sitting area at Explora. Usually this area has a supply of building board to make houses. Now those are boxed up and it's just lots and lots of snow.

After the boys knocked off the first head from the snowman, Dan added this little head.

Here's Andy with his finished snowman -- note the big smile on the snowman's face. This is before he had his head knocked off by Dan.
And yes, Andy is in flip-flops and Dan has no coat -- even in a real winter, these are desert kids!

Andy's new online passion

Andy has discovered fan flash videos online -- thanks Crystal for that first link! I went online and grabbed several links for Naruto fan flash videos. These are videos made by fans, using software like macromedia flash, with popular songs overlaid onto the animated (in this case) videos of known characters. He wants to make his own collection of flash videos. We've agreed we'll sit down next week -- on that mythical day when we'll be less busy -- to try the different packages folks online suggested and give it a try!

He's also discovered World of Warcraft -- again, thanks to the Millers! Dave, we'll be calling you soon for that intro set-up to WoW.

I think here Andy is playing air-drums along with the video -- either that or he's dancing along with the 'real ninjas go commando' video!

Again, more video play along.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Years Day with the Tribe

We spent New Years Day at the Millers' home and a had a fabulous time. Lots of food, games and fun all swirling around with excited children. It was a challenge in some spots to get to our destination -- remember all the snow we had just a few days ago. Sure, most major roads are cleared -- tho there's still daily melt-off that turns to ice at dark -- but neighborhood streets on New Year's Day were packed and kinda slippery in places. Some folks didn't make it because of the roads, but enough arrived for a really nice time.

Earlier in the day, I got stuck in the Albertson's parking lot and had to be pushed, then on the way home, a van was stuck blocking the entire road. He didn't start backing until I was just one house away, so when he got stuck I had to back two blocks out to the better road. Amazingly, given how poorly I back, I didn't hit anyone or anything! The road was too snow-packed to even consider turning around.

Eliza running off for more adventure-- I just loved the expression on her face!

Scotty -- I have no idea why I got that face. I just called his name, camera at the ready, as he walked by.

Gary & Eliza playing together. At one point in the day, Eliza said to Gary "You always call me beautiful (he does) -- don't call me that." When he asked what he should call her, she replied "just Eliza!" Okay, Eliza it is.

Jenny with Eliza, looking tired but ready to run off anyway.
Jenny and the kids missed the Thanks-giving party so it was nice to have them here for New Year's.

Jenny, Eliza, Scotty, Dan, and some others as the boys check out Jenny's camera.

Scotty & Dan dancing while Parker plays Guitar Hero -- I think Scotty was doing something butt-related in his dance.

Spencer playing Guitar Hero
Gary caught this shot of the sunset over snowy roofs, taken from the Millers' backyard.

Recording breaking snow!

We had a huge snow here this past weekend. Record breaking -- 11.3 inches at the airport, where official records are kept, but totals around town varied widely. We had more than a foot of snow on the West Mesa when it was over; 14.5 inches in Rio Rancho; more than 2 feet at Sandra Dodd's house in the far NE Heights (at 6,500+ elevation). The airport snow total exceeded all past snowfall records in one day. I've heard from someone else in the area, that already this winter (with only two snowfalls) we've exceeded the record snowfall for an entire winter in Albuquerque. Keeping in mind that it's crazy to count snowfall totals at the airport, as it seldom snows there as often or as heavily as in other parts of town. I remember more than a few snowfalls of several inches as a child -- I grew up not far from where Sandra lives -- when no snow fell at the airport, so nothing counted!

It was a surprise to most of us -- the weather man on Thursday had said we could expect a total of 2 inches from this storm by Friday morning, then it would clear out. In the category of famous last words... we had 4 inches by nightfall Friday, having had beautiful snow all day. Went to bed with snow falling softly, thinking maybe we'd see a dusting more by morning. We woke to find 6+ inches of new snow! It was everywhere, and I had to get to work somehow! After much changing in plans -- surely they didn't really expect me today.... okay so they did and would send someone in a 4-wheel drive..... okay, that wasn't going to work, she was too busy, I should get a cab and she'd pay for it........ if I even got there!.....Finally decided that if I was going to put my life in the hands of a professional driver, it should be Gary! As it happened, cabs weren't running anyway so it was a moot point. A co-worker showed up 3 hrs late, after spending about three hours digging her car out (with a variety of implements until a neighbor took pity and shared her snow shovel, all the while taking pictures of the 'cute kids' stuck in the snow. (well, she is a cute little 19yo thing -- I told her she'd benefited from the Mom sentiment in the neighbor. She also netted some Dad sentiment when Gary cleared the snow behind her car so she could leave work later.)

By this time, he'd cleared the driveway and hiked out to the end of the block and determined that the main road had been cleared somewhat -- it was a go! I made it, only 1-1/2 hours late. Even made it home later, while it was still snowing thru the day.

I like this picture -- the way the snow piled up, then draped over without falling. It did this everywhere -- on power lines and fences, the edge of our trampoline.

Andy, making a snow angel at the park on Saturday afternoon, after they guys picked me up at work.

A snow-covered yucca in our front yard.

I guess we won't be dining al fresco tonight!