Soccer Sideshow

Claire has really enjoyed her first season of soccer on Team Tornado.  She doesn’t seem to particularly enjoy the actual game of soccer so much, or at all.  She seems to enjoy just getting outside, running around, and socializing with her fellow Tornadoes.  And she seems to especially enjoy socializing with one teammate named Logan.

Claire and Logan really hit it off this week.  It started during pre-game drills, when they started chatting about something or other.  All I know is they were talking and giggling a little bit.  Once the game started, Claire continued to try to chat up little Logan.  When they were both subbed out for a break, I offered Claire a drink of water, as I always do.  She thought for a minute and politely said, “Uh, no thanks.  I think I just want to go talk to Logan.”  Logan was dutifully waiting through a short lecture by his dad about (not) focusing on the game, and then proceeded to wander off with Claire, who was waiting nearby.  I apologized to Logan’s dad about Claire distracting him, and he said, smiling, “It’s okay.  He doesn’t stand a chance.”

Logan is on the far left of the top row,
over Claire’s right shoulder.

Once Claire and Logan were called back on the field, they were still chatting and giggling.  In fact, they just completely ignored the game.  The game was a mere distraction to them.  Somehow they ended up standing right in the middle of the field, gazing at each other, gently holding both of each other’s hands.  It literally looked like they were in the middle of their wedding vows!  Logan’s dad shouted, failingly, “Logan!  Focus!”  Right around that point, the soccer game, which was still going on around them despite their impromptu wedding, had an exciting moment.  Claire’s teammate Sullivan had blocked a kick on their goal and had delivered a strong kick down field towards the opponents’ empty goal.  The ball rolled right past Claire, who was still in the middle of the field, holding Logan’s hands, and his gaze.  Claire and Logan never even noticed the ball, which bounded down the field, within two feet of Claire, towards the other team’s goal.  The ball missed the opponents’ goal, but not by much.  It may have been the closest that the Tornadoes came to score that day.

At some point shortly thereafter, a whistle blew, and Claire wandered over to me to ask if the game was over.  I said I thought it was over.  It was the Tornadoes’ worst defeat this season, a complete loss, but I am sure for Claire, nothing could have been further form the truth.

Check Mate

Claire told us this story tonight over dinner…

During her gymnastics class at school today, Claire accidentally bumped into her friend Julian.  Claire and Julian get along great, and Julian’s parents have even told us “he has been sweet on Claire for years.”  Anyways, when Claire bumped into him, she followed standard school protocol and checked on him.  “Are you hurt?” she said.  “Yes”, Julian replied.  “What do you need?” said Claire, following protocol.  Julian thought for a second and replied, “I need you to stop checking on me!”  Then he “laughed so hard he cried”, according to Claire.

Anyways, this was supposed to be a joke of Julian’s, not anything mean.  But you could interpret it as sort of a mean joke, if you didn’t know these kids.  Taking on the role of amateur psychologist, I asked Claire how this exchange made her feel.  She thought for a minute and said, “It made me feel… weird.”  I swear, these kids are getting complicated.

Santa Fe

Kit, Claire, and I all took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico this week.  Kit went for a three-day liver biopsy conference, and Claire and I just went along for fun.  We decided that Molly was still not up for an extended trip like this; with her still somewhat baby-like sleeping and eating requirements, we would be pretty well tethered to the hotel and would not have a chance to explore.  Maybe next year, Molly will “pull herself together” enough for this kind of trip, as Kit and I like to say. But this time, Molly stayed at home with Grammy and Grandaddy, who offered to come up and lavish her with attention while we were out of town.
Describing a big trip like this can quickly get out of hand for a single blog post. And hey, this is a kid blog, not a travel log.  So this post will focus on Claire’s experience of the trip rather than our tourist impressions of New Mexico as such.  Suffice it to say that New Mexico was beautiful, and Kit learned a lot about livers (I suppose). Now let me just paint a sketch of how the trip went for Claire, and I’ll try not to let it get too long…
Claire was very excited about the airplane flight in particular. She got to pack her carry-on Mickey Mouse suitcase with more or less whatever she wanted to entertain herself on the trip. She piled it full of books, notepads, and stickerbooks. In the interest of keeping things running smoothly in case Claire got bored over the next few days in airplanes, cars, and the hotel room, I packed some extra electronic entertainment such as her Leapster game system, some movies and games on the iPad, and even some audiobooks to listen to. As it would turn out, Claire did not need any of this stuff. She spent most of her travel time drawing in her special travel notebook from Noni, talking and joking around with me and Kit, and reading books with me and Kit.
Claire spent most of her flying time drawing with her fuzzy green pen.
On the plane, we also talked a lot about our route to Santa Fe: fly from Austin to Houston, then fly to Albuquerque by another plane, then take a bus to pick up a rental care, then drive to Santa Fe. Claire jokingly called Albuquerque “Albu-cookie”. In the Houston airport, Claire got to choose pretty much whatever she wanted for lunch, and she ended up with a collection of curiously retro food: Fritos, Orange Crush, and a turkey sandwich. What is this, 1979? By the way, that Orange Crush made it all the way to Santa Fe, where Claire continued to sip on it daily throughout the rest of the trip, and not for lack of other (fresher) options.

Claire travels back to a 1979 TV commercial for lunch.
Once in New Mexico, we drove the Turquoise Trail to Santa Fe. Claire had been interested in seeing the desert, but had also been worried about being poked by a cactus.  Fortunately, we steered clear of cactuses (alright, “cacti”). Claire had expected New Mexico to look like the desert planet Tatooine from Star Wars. It was not quite as sandy as that, but in Madrid, NM, we did come across something that looked kind of like the feared Sand People of Tatooine.

Claire runs from a Sand Person
A “real” Sand Person, as a matter of comparison
By the time we actually got to Santa Fe, we were all exhausted, and we dined in our hotel room on Lunchables from the local convenience store, and then went right to bed. 
The next morning, Kit headed downstairs for her conference, and Claire and I headed out to explore Santa Fe on foot.  We ended up in the literally freezing wind at the beautiful central plaza.  The cold weather was sort of a shock coming from the balmy weather back home. We ducked into a mall across the street from where there was supposed to be a great breakfast restaurant where we were supposed to be having a nice warm breakfast right now.  But alas, the restaurant was closed for remodeling.  The mall, and actually the whole city, was empty, I guess because it was Sunday morning and everything was closed.  We slowly trudged our way back two or three blocks to the hotel, ducking in for cover from the wind as the situation allowed.  Claire complained bitterly about the cold, which was not like her. She did not even want to walk and asked me to carry her the whole way. We made it to the hotel and eventually took the car to an open restaurant (which we ended up going to three different times) where we warmed up over some breakfast and a gigantic hot chocolate, which Claire barely touched.  
Then we tried heading out again, this time to a park overlooking the city. Claire was miserable the very minute we got out of the car, and she begged to go back to the car as soon as I took this one picture of her being miserable.

Claire continue to complain and was not acting like herself the rest of the day. She eventually settled into an unusually quiet mood and seemed somehow uncomfortable.  Only later did we put it together that she was probably sick and exhausted and just gathering enough strength for me to drag her around town. Poor thing.  Anyways, we did manage to meet up with Kit for lunch.

We did manage to see some of Kit. 

Still not realizing Claire was probably sick, I took her to the local children’s museum in hopes of lifting her spirits.  It kind of worked.

Claire loved the museum’s kid-sized door.
The museum had yet another Star Wars reference to enjoy.

The next day, we took the 90-minute drive to Taos to see the 1000-year-old pueblo.  I explained to Claire that when pilgrims landed in American, this village was already here, and it was already hundreds of years old.  That actually did impress Claire, who responded with a genuine, “Wow!  Really?”  The drive to Taos was scenic, and it was a good chance for Claire to sit and rest up.  At Claire’s behest, we played “Max and Emma” for almost the whole drive up and back.  This is a game where Claire is a girl once year older than Claire named Emma, and I am her little toddler brother named Max.  Occasionally Emma reverts to a baby, but usually she’s older.  The game is mostly about talking funny, and she especially like when little Max badly slurs his “S” sounds because he’s a toddler.  She’ll also give me ideas to riff on, such as, “Pretend you think those rocks are giant meatballs and you want to eat them, and you get really upset because you can’t…” Anyways, that got us to Taos.

At the Taos Pueblo, Claire was asked where all the Indians were.  I pointed out a few locals, and she seemed surprised, I think because they were not wearing native clothing.  We were told not to take pictures of the natives without asking their permission.  Claire, who also had a disposable camera from Noni for her travels, took this rule very seriously and went to great trouble to not take anyone’s picture.  She thought she might have accidentally taken a local’s picture, but the panic was over when I told her it was just another tourist like us.

Claire at her favorite spot at Taos Pueblo.
Claire wanted to take a picture of her camera.
But she first made sure it was okay, with the picture rules and all.

We made friends with a couple of village dogs and chatted with some storekeepers before buying some small pottery for Kit.  Claire loved to hang out at the river and was fascinated by all the insects, mostly ants, crawling around the common dirt area.  There was even a gigantic ant carrying a whole dead caterpillar back to it’s clam-sized hole all by itself.  Right around that point, the fascination turned to fear, and we carefully hopped around the insects all the way back to the car.  Then it was a stop by the modern town of Toas for some souvenir shopping and lunch.

Claire was pretty droopy by this point.
But she did her best to put a good face on it. 

Then it was back to Santa Fe.  On the drive back, you guessed it, more Max and Emma.

Let me just wrap this thing up with a few final highlights…

We were able to sneak Kit out of town during an extended lunch break for a quick trip to the closer-by pueblo of Tesuque.  It was good to show Kit some of the countryside north of Santa Fe and some pueblo goodness.

At Tesuque, we found a real-live tumble weed,
which looked better tumbling around on the ground.
On the way back, we also got to see this cool rock thingy by the highway.

I think this was called “Devil’s Rock”,
or something like that.
On the final day, once we realized just how worn-out Claire was, we took it super easy and went to see a movie in the afternoon.  We chose the only kid’s movie, Gnoneo and Juliet, which was pretty enjoyable, actually.  Being a kid’s movie at 2:40 on a Tuesday afternoon, Claire and I were the only ones in the theater.  It was a little weird with nobody else around, but we did not have to whisper when we wanted to talk to each other.
The plane flight home was dominated by jokes from a book of 2000 kid’s jokes, supplied by Grammy for the trip.  The book did have roughly 2000 jokes.  At least.  I guess what lacked in quality it made up for in quantity. 🙂  Claire absolutely loved this book, although she did not really understand most of the jokes.  She just liked the tone and delivery of the jokes. She did pick out a doctor joke for Kit, “What do you call a children’s knees? Kidneys.”  Claire spent most of the flight home making up her own jokes, including a “New Mexico joke” what went like this, “Why did the hill go to the hospital?  Because it got poked by a cactus.”  This went on for hours, until we stopped to literally run across the Houston airport to catch our connection to Austin.  We made it to the gate after everyone had been seated, with about five minutes until take off.
By the way, New Mexico was a new state for Claire.
Okay, that should do it.  I am worn out, and it’s time to move on.  I think that should paint a more than ample picture of the trip.  (Jeez, next time I really need to keep these trip blogs to a minimum!)

Molly’s First Swim

Molly had her first ever dip in a pool today.  Somehow we never took her swimming last summer, or to the kids’ indoor pool at the YMCA over the winter. But today, water finally beckoned.  We wanted to get away from the house while the painters finished up outside, and we opted for a swim in lieu of the Art City Austin festival, which for Kit was definitely a case of putting the kids’ interests ahead of her own (not so much for me).

Suits and smiles

Molly’s first swim was a good one, on a warm day, but not too hot, at Deep Eddy Pool.  The really great thing about Deep Eddy, besides being spring-fed, non-chlorinated, and apparently the oldest public swimming pool in Texas, is that is has a really big, really shallow, shallow end.  The shallowest point is only 9 inches deep, which is good for small waders like Molly.

At first, Molly did not know what to make of the pool.  When we first tried to lower her body into the pool, she quickly lifted her feet and legs out of the rather cold spring water.  She did this a few more times, not crying or getting upset, but really just not caring to get her feet so cold and wet all of the sudden.  Why would anyone want to do that?  But after Kit “slurshed” Molly’s feet through the water in a fun way, Molly started to get it, and within a few minutes she was splashing and squealing with delight.  Pretty soon Molly was literally trying to throw herself head-first into the water.  Now this is what we were expecting!  She did get away from me once or twice and ended up successfully throwing herself head-first into the shallow water, coughing up a mouth full of water when I pulled her out, but that did not stop the fun (not for very long, anyways).  Molly even used some of her new words while splashing around, namely “more” and “happy”.

We promise Claire had fun too, just not while taking this picture.
It meant stopping freeze tag.

It was also a fun outing for Claire, and it was her first swim in a while (she had burned out on those indoors YMCA swimming lessons months ago) and her first visit to Deep Eddy as well.  Claire liked the shallow water and opted to play “freeze tag” most of the time, with me as well as with some friends she met in the pool.

It was a good way to start out Molly’s swimming career and the summer season.  Now if Deep Eddy would only bring back the diving horses, zip line, and Ferris wheel, we could have spent all day.