Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jersey Shore family vacation

Even without the (presumably) terrible eponymous MTV show, the Jersey Shore has a reputation for being, shall we say, a bit low-brow.  The name conjures images of college kids drinking cheap beer and making out, cheap carnival rides on the boardwalk, size XXXXXL tee shirts for sale.  Not the kind of place I want to be.  While that may be a fairly accurate description of, say, Wildwood, most of the shore is awesome.

Last week, we spent a few days there to visit friends and family, in the towns of Bay Head and Ocean Grove.  It was perfect.  Both towns have beautiful beaches, lovely houses with manicured lawns and the truly relaxed feeling of vacation.  The Bug and the Bunny were able to catch up with friends they hadn't seen in a while, and see their Pop-pop, aunt and uncles and their beloved "crazy cousins," too!

We spent most of our time on the beach, and the girls were BANANAS for it!  Both of them loved jumping over waves, splashing on their tummies, digging in the "water sand," checking out the critters, collecting shells.  They also loved making mud cakes (of sand, clearly), sand castles, shell gardens and every other variety of sand-concoction you could possibly imagine.

As for Joker and I, well, we love the beach, too.  He's partial to body surfing, I like to dive in the waves and float, and we both had a blast watching the girly-girls play their hearts out.  They slept like rocks, ate their weight in chicken tenders and had a perfect beach vacation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Look, Ma: no tears!

Yesterday was the first day of kindergarten for the Bug.  She'd picked out her clothes over a week ago (and, of course, refused to wear them and opted for a different outfit).  She was super excited.  Yeah, it helped that she knew almost half of her class from preschool.  But still - when asked by her teacher how she felt about starting school, she replied "happy."

I was amazed at the range of emotions exhibited by the parents.  I'd felt a little tear in my eye when I helped her pull on her uniform, but other than that, all great!  Maybe it was because I'd been dropping her off for years already?  Who knows.  But the other end of the spectrum is recurrent enough that the school sponsors a "Boo Hoo Breakfast" for parents.

Joker and I could not have been more pleased that after finding her cubby, depositing her lunch, snack and water bottle in the appropriate bins, and locating her seat, the Bug didn't cry.  She didn't cling.  Frankly, she only tolerated my hug.  And she got down to the business of coloring at the table with three of her friends.  Great stuff.

Yesterday was also the Bunny's first day of preschool.  She also was super excited... until it was time to put her backpack in the cubby.  She grumped a little, wasn't overly enthusiastic to meet her teacher or recognize a friend from her daycare.  But once the My Little Ponies came out, and Joker and I left the room, she started to warm up.  By pick-up time, she was all smiles and curls, just as expected.

Big, fun milestones - I loved school and am so excited for both of them to move forward in the next adventure!

P.S. School uniforms are awesome.  The Bug "hates collared shirts", but by Day 2, getting dressed was a piece of cake.  Boring cake, maybe, but still cake.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Suitcase

The short semi-autobiographical novel The Suitcase is the first book I've read by Soviet writer Sergei Dovlatov.  Born in 1941, he lived in Leningrad before flunking out of college and being sent to work as a prison guard in high-security camps.  After his stint in the military he became a journalist, supplementing his income by giving museum tours and attempting to write novels.  These attempts never proved successful within the U.S.S.R., but ultimately led to his emigration to New York.

The Suitcase is a series of vignettes or short stories about the items he brought with him to the West.  Dovlatov comes across the suitcase which sat unremembered in a closet for years and contains essentially all of his prior life's possessions: eight ordinary items.  As he tells where he came by each of these items, he paints a painfully witty portrait of the failings of the socialist U.S.S.R.

Through the Finnish crepe socks, we see a college student attempting to find a modicum of success in dealing in the black market.  The story of a military officer's belt describes an incident during Dovlatov's time as a prison guard, and of the penalties that result when a fellow guard is found guilty of misconduct.  His bittersweet courtship and marriage to his wife is recounted over a poplin shirt (perhaps the most touching and poignant - certainly the most personal - of the stories in the book).  And so on.

It's very interesting for me to read a book set in a post-Revolution Soviet Union, given the deep enjoyment I've gotten from older Russians.  I enjoyed this, and I think it'll be a book that I reflect on time and again.  I certainly don't rank it with the classics, but I will just as certainly seek out more works by Sergei Dovlatov.

Next up: The far more mainstream Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mt. Rushmore

Mima and Boppie sent this to the Bug and the Bunny last weekend, when they scooted up to South Dakota for a wedding celebration.

They said on the back that Joker and I really want to take them there, which is absolutely correct - I'm thinking it'll for sure be on the agenda in the next year or two!

And for what it's worth, on my last visit to Rushmore, I couldn't help but find the irony in a monument to Teddy Roosevelt - America's first advocate for the conservation of our great national parks - having been made by dynamiting the top off of a mountain. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

A little Bug update

The Bug turned five in May, and we finally got her well-child visit taken care of.  (Did I mention I'm a disaster with getting appointments made?  Once I remember to call and schedule, we're all good... it's remembering to call and schedule where I completely fall down.)

Short story, all is great.  She's in the 75th percentile for height, 50th for weight.  She got thumbs-up for liking a variety of vegetables and for taking swimming lessons.  She's super flexible, seems to have decent vision and hearing.  Really, all good.

The biggest news for us is that we are finally a diaper-free zone.  Both girls have given them up, even overnight.  I probably just waltzed into T.M.I. with this, but trust me, it's big news.

Other than that, the Bug is a happy little Colorado girl!  She loves hiking and riding her bike and had a blast at gymnastics camp last month.  She enjoys all of the animals we see in the yard, from the shiny hummingbirds to the chirpy chickadees to the baby (and mama) deer and elk to the bear.  Yeah, we had bear.  She plays with her friends, has an incredible sweet tooth, loves princesses and coloring, and currently wants to be a ballerina or a rock star or a fairy when she grows up.  (Since she wasn't born a mermaid, she knows it'd be practically impossible grow up to be one.  Smart.) 

She's generally happy, likes to play with the Bunny (especially when she's able to boss her around) and is really excited for kindergarten, uniforms and all.  She's not yet reading, but she's close, and isn't that why we send them to school anyway?

There isn't much else to say - she's doing great, she's growing up, we're all having fun.