Monday, August 21

Solar Eclipse 2017

I have been looking forward to the solar eclipse for over a year. I'm pretty sure it was still 2015 when I first read that there would be a total solar eclipse in the USA in 2017 and, bonus, its path of totality would go just north of us. We could totally see it! 

Obviously I jumped at the chance to view the eclipse from Lake Doniphan, a campground where I spent many summer weeks growing up. We drove up Sunday afternoon, and spent the day swimming, canoeing, and exploring. They even put on a campfire for us eclipse-chasers. I have told my family so many times about campfires and how much I loved the singing and fun of them; I was thrilled that they could experience a little of that fun too. 

Then Monday morning, this morning, arrived, Eclipse Day. And a huge gray storm rolled in. Lightning. Thunder. Rain. Very little chance of seeing the sun. I was devastated. How could nature do this to me? 

Andrew and I talked and I fretted and we obsessively checked the weather radar. (Or tried to check; the wifi was not keeping up with the demand.) Our dear friends Christy and John and their kids left camp just before lunch in search of clear skies. Should we do that too? We decided during lunch, around 11:25, that we should leave too. It was too gray, too rainy there. But the weather radar showed we didn't have far to go to find sun. 

We rushed through lunch and headed to the car. Totality was happening at 1:08, so had about an hour before it was really just too late. We drove west. We debated driving north. Just 5 or so minutes into the drive, we saw sun. We pulled over when we could and grabbed eclipse glasses from the back of the van. We let the kids out momentarily and we all peeked skyward, glasses in place.

It. Was. So. Worth it. 

That first glimpse of the moon crossing the sun. Just a teeny bit, you'd never notice the sun wasn't quite as bright. But we were thrilled. Cheering and jumping. It definitely felt like we had made the right call. We were going to see it, not just wonder if it would be clear enough to see it. 

But the storm still seemed close, so we drove on a bit further. When we got to Liberty, we debated going further north, like the radar indicated was a good choice. Or, I pointed out, we could just stop near there. The sun was shining and there appeared to be plenty of blue sky. 

We parked in the lot of a large church. Quite a few other people were parked there watching the eclipse as well. We set up our chairs and blanket and settled in. 

Christy and John texted, said they were still trying to find a clear spot but were in Liberty. We're in Liberty, I said! Come to this church, watch with us! And they did. And it was so much fun. 

How lucky that they found us, that they motivated us to venture out to see the eclipse and not miss it. How lucky that though the clouds surrounded us on every horizon, the sky above stayed clear long enough to see through totality. 

We had totality for just over 2 minutes. But that time flew by. I remember looking up, looking around for stars. Saw just one. Noticed the parking lot lights came on. Noticed how dark it was. Noticed how light it still was. Noticed how the horizon looked pink and orange, just like a sunset--but that the sun was still high in the sky. Tried to also notice my kids, my husband--what were they thinking and experiencing? 

I took a short video. Two short videos? It's (they're) terrible. I wasn't really looking at the phone, just wanted to soak it all in. It was emotional, overwhelming. Went by way too fast. I wish I could have stopped time for a few more minutes. 

And then, so quickly, it was over. Glasses back on. Saw the sun's sliver on the other side. And the clouds moved in within moments. Our timing was incredible, really. We got to see the most amazing part of the eclipse, and then before we even loaded the lawn chairs back into the van, it was raining. Unbelievable. 

I feel so fortunate to have experienced this. I hope Milo and Olive will remember it. That's the downside of having a once-in-a-lifetime experience happen when you're only 5 or 7 years old. Who knows, maybe we'll travel to the 2024 eclipse. 

Monday, August 14

Not a Baby

Olive starts kindergarten tomorrow. 

You guys, I'm sort of freaking out.

I've been looking forward to both kids heading off to school for the last three weeks. And now that it's finally happening, I'm a mess. I just keep thinking about how big she's getting, and how much I'll miss her. How can this little kid be old enough to go to school?

Olive and I spent a lot of time together, just the two of us, over the last couple of years. Milo was in school all day, and Olive only went to preschool a few mornings a week. That left lots of time for lunchtime conversations, board games, walks to the park, cake videos, art projects, and reading rainbow fairies books on the couch. She's been my little sidekick since I left my job, and I'm seriously going to miss her.

My neighbor, whose youngest child is Milo's age, told me something a couple years ago that I haven't forgotten. As we dropped off our kids (my oldest, her youngest), at kindergarten and I wiped away tears, she said, "Just wait til Olive starts kindergarten. You'll be way more emotional." I rolled my eyes, thinking that by then I'd be so ready for it. And literally until a few days ago, I still believed she was wrong. And suddenly, I know she was so very right. 

Friday, August 11

First Day of 2nd Grade

Back to school today for Milo! 2nd grade this year. He actually seemed ready to go back this year. I think summer's quality time with his sister was wearing thin. (They've been fighting nonstop for the last two weeks. Except when they're getting along fabulously. But no in-between.)

Took our traditional front-porch first-day-of-school photo. See how he's grown?

2nd Grade, Age 7
1st Grade, Age 6

Kindergarten, Age 5
Man, that kid is cute.

Andrew and I walked him to his classroom this morning. I took a couple pictures, and as I hugged him goodbye, I got all choked up. Totally surprised myself. I thought that sending Milo off to school was old hat by now. He knows what he's doing, he does well every year. What is there to be emotional about? But maybe it was just that--he's doing so well, he doesn't need me much anymore. My little boy is getting so big.

Olive starts kindergarten on Tuesday. Up until this morning, I thought I wouldn't be very emotional dropping her off either. Now I know I'm super wrong. Definitely will be a day for waterproof mascara and a ready tissue.

Thursday, June 29

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Milo played baseball this year. His team was made up mostly of kids from his school, first graders (now second graders), machine pitch. To my honest surprise, Milo loves it. He has a pretty good throwing arm, and has had some great hits. But you can tell he's having a great time. And it's super fun for Milo that Pop is one of his coaches and Daddy is assistant coach at nearly every game.

I thought maybe he'd find baseball sort of boring. The games are an hour and twenty minutes long, and for seven year olds, that's a long time. Plus, a lot of the time you're just sitting on the bench, either waiting for your turn at bat or waiting for the next inning so you can go back out in the field again. But while he does seem bored at times (Milo sat down in the outfield to play in the dirt a couple of times), he looks forward to his games and has already shown interest in either playing fall ball or again next spring.

I'm thrilled that he found an activity he really enjoys. He tried soccer; did not like soccer. He has done tumbling for a couple of years, which he enjoys some, but not tons. (And he hated performing in the recital. Or at least, he hated preparing/practicing for the recital.) So baseball it is. I'm pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoy watching his games. These kids are so fun, and they've all improved so much.

Milo is kneeling, front row, far left.

Monday, June 26

June 19, 2017 - Day 8

Not much to tell about this day, our last day of vacation. I literally took zero photos. We were just all ready to go home. Our flight wasn't until 11:20, so we got up at our usual time, ate the hotel continental breakfast, and called an Uber. Uneventful, quick drive to the airport, then the usual checking bags, going through security, etc. The kids were fighting (again) and being super whiny and emotional and angry. Then it hit me: we only ate pastries for breakfast. They're not angry, they're HANGRY. So we got terrible airport breakfast sandwiches at Burger King and within a couple of bites, they were their usual delightful selves.

Smooth flight, and we were back in KC around 4:45. Stopped for dinner at Twisted Fresh on the way home. Andrew wanted to eat at home, but I remembered how empty the fridge was and how I did NOT feel like making dinner the instant we walked through the door.

(Wow, super interesting blog post, eh?)

To sum up, we went home. Glad to be here. Even more glad we took this vacation. I love my family.

Sunday, June 25

June 18, 2017 - Day 7

No rushing for us this morning. Our first big plan of the day was to go to the children's science museum, the Exploratorium. It didn't open until 10am, and since we were all up by 6:45, we had plenty of time for a good breakfast. We walked a block or so down the street to the Cable Car Cafe. Not bad. Lovely people working there, decent diner food.

After breakfast, we stopped by Union Square. Not a lot going on there at 8:30 on a Sunday morning. From there, we caught a bus over to the museum. And guess what? We still had an hour to kill until it opened! Should've watched more TV in our hotel room (or slept later. ha.).

Mad because she wanted to be in the photo by herself and she asked for a photo first. (He did jump in there rather rudely.)

What a long hour that turned out to be. The kids were fighting and bugging each other, which was bugging Andrew. I was surprisingly not bothered (this time) by the fighting so was trying to mellow everyone out. We separated the kids, checking out different mini-exhibits in the lobby. This hour did turn out to be a great time for extra coffee. So there's that. I also bought us all a giant cookie to share because Vacation.

When the doors opened, we barely even knew what to check out first. This place is HUGE and all very hands-on. It's open-flow, so no path to travel around or loop to make. Every exhibit is designed to be touched, manipulated, explored, and figured out. We all had a great time.


This was a fun one. Andrew called this phone from down the way (see below). When Olive answered, he gave her a code to unlock the door. Inside the door was a video screen of the caller (Andrew, in this case) and he could then see a video the person who answered the phone.

Intently working on my sand art.

Spinning dizzy chair.

The kids chose markers, then swung the platform around until they liked the pattern it would draw. See below for our final masterpiece.

Milo was willing to try out the toilet drinking fountain.

Olive preferred the standard-looking drinking fountain, even though both had fresh clean water.

This little room was awesome. Yellow light made everything look yellow, but when you shined a little flashlight on things in the room, you could see their colors.

Human kaleidoscope! (And no, I do not know what face I am making.)

This cool mirror made us all look upside down.

Rainbow shadows!

Took a break for lunch at the museum's restaurant, The Seaglass Cafe. The food was pretty high-quality, we thought, though one of our children wouldn't even eat his or her macaroni and cheese. Typical. Back into the museum after lunch, where we explored til around 2.

Our plan for the rest of the day was to head over to Golden Gate Park. We had researched the night before what route to take. Underground or bus? Uber? What would be the best option? In the end we settled on taking the bus. Our first bus was fine, then we had a transfer. And that's where we ran into trouble. We were looking for the #7 bus, but saw a stop with #7x and wrongly assumed that was the same thing. After wondering and wondering why no #7 bus was coming after 30 minutes, I started asking the drivers of other buses where to get the #7, and the two drivers I asked pointed to a spot half a block up. So we went there, and within minutes a #7 bus arrived. Coming from around a corner instead of down the street. Damn. We probably missed at least the first two buses that came by because we were staring the wrong direction. It was so hot again today. Standing there, waiting for a bus that never seemed to come, did not cool us off. (And the bus we did get on was like an oven, seriously. I've never sweated so much sitting still.)

(Side note to mention Bus Anecdotes: This morning there was a fight on the bus because a man who clearly had some mental illness really needed the windows shut and another man did not like him leaning across, trying to shut his window. On the first afternoon bus, I told the kids to take a seat, then noticed that the lady a few inches from Olive was not only super drunk, but also had her pants (and underwear) pulled down to mid-thigh. Naked butt on the seat. My takeaway: observe the area before having your kids sit. Also, SF has a big homeless/mental illness problem.)

(Side side note: Later in the evening we saw a totally nude man saunter through the crowd. He wore socks, shoes, and an extra sock to cover his twig and berries. Thankfully the kids had their backs turned and missed his little display.)

So anyway. Bus to Golden Gate Park, finally. Olive fell asleep on the bus, so Andrew carried her for a bit as we made our way over to the Conservatory of Flowers. The park was pretty, but OMG I was still so stinking hot and the sun was everywhere. We had to stand in a line to get into the conservatory. I guess it was pretty neat in there, but for the most part I was only mildly impressed. The heat does that to me. They did have one special GIANT FLOWER there that bloomed last week or something. It only blooms once a year. It was honestly about four feet tall. And there was a butterfly garden, which Olive adored. I do enjoy seeing my children enjoy things. At one point, Olive asked to feel this little waterfall. I gave her the go-ahead, and when she stuck her hand in, she exclaimed, "It isn't glass, it really is water!"

Pretending to be monkeys and pointing at the bananas.

The enormous flower. Olive is Unimpressed. Or mad at her brother. One of those, though.

Trying to get the butterfly to walk on her hand.

The butterflies were her favorite.

Next was the search for a bathroom, then over the the kids' playground and carousel. The carousel was closing as we got there, which I didn't mind at all. We spent quite a bit of time at the playground, though. There was this concrete slide going down a hill. The kids there grabbed pieces of cardboard from a big pile at the bottom, climbed up, then slid down on the cardboard. I was really impressed with how Milo and Olive observed the other kids, then just jumped in to try it. Olive flipped over at one point and scraped her elbow. She got bandaged up, and we were glad to see that she was willing to go slide down again (though she did hold her injured arm up for the next hour).

Andrew and I wanted to see more of the park, but I don't think the kids had it in them at this point. We left the park around 5pm and walked back east along Haight. The Entire Street Smelled Like Pot And I Am Not Even Making That Up. At times I didn't even see any people who could've been smoking, yet the pot smell was so strong it was like someone right next to me was smoking.

We got pizza for dinner (two nights in a row--hooray for pizza!), then caught the bus back to the cable car stop. And because we weren't sure what our transit options were, we stuck with the cable car. Andrew and kids watched the breakdancers there for awhile and I took line duty. Eventually we got back to our hotel. We had promised the kids ice cream earlier in the day, and since we couldn't find any at Golden Gate Park (during our very limited exploring), Andrew took the kids upstairs since they had to go potty while I went to the market across the street and got little ice cream bars for us all. Also picked up a container of raspberries since I knew Olive would eat them (girl needs nutrition!) and some beer. I was pleasantly surprised to find the store carried not only Boulevard, but perhaps my new favorite Boulevard, the tropical pale ale. We enjoyed our desserts al hotel floor.

This was our last night of vacation, so Andrew and I packed as much as we could, got the kids off to bed (poor exhausted Milo couldn't fall asleep til almost 9:30), drank a beer or two, and whispered together by the window in the dark. Tomorrow we go home--and we are all ready.