Springtime Snow

There is no question that this has been the strangest weather year that I’ve experienced since, well, since it snowed in the Valley in the early ’90s.

The Boy and I went up to New York a few weeks ago in honor of Cousin J’s birthday. The Boy had just sent his Flat Stanley up to New York last month, and he was jealous that Flat Stanley got to play in the snow after Nemo, the giant snowstorm that dumped several feet of snow in the Northeast back in February.

I didn’t tell him about our trip until about a week before we’d left, mainly because I wasn’t totally sure when we would go. My sister offered to fly us up, and I wrestled with the decision of whether or not to pull him out of school the day we left. Luckily, his school moved up the date for Boot Camp (their version of Field Day), otherwise he would have to miss either Boot Camp or the trip to New York, and he would have been disappointed about missing one of them.

The Boy is an excellent travelling companion. He always has been. Even as an infant, except when he was ill or teething, he was great. But it’s even more evident now. He answered questions at the airport security checkpoint, handled his own luggage (a rolling backpack), presented his own boarding pass, found our seats on the airplane, and even proudly buckled his own seatbelt. And, thanks to all the amenities on Jet Blue, he entertained himself the entire flight. He even let me nap a bit on both flights. It was spectacular.

It was a very quick trip. We arrived Friday morning and were back home Sunday evening. But he said he had a great trip. He spent time with his cousins, played in their playroom (which he dubbed The Lego Room because, well, those were his favorite toys there), and watched Cousin J in her theater group’s performance of The Wizard of Oz. But his favorite part of all was playing in the snow.

Just the week before we arrived, it snowed pretty heavily in Westchester County, enough to close the airport to incoming flights. But it cleared up over the week, and all weather reports I checked were forecasting cold but not snowy weather. Always one to be prepared, though (Cute Husband calls it “over-packing”), I made sure I packed proper attire in the event the temperatures dropped to below freezing.

It was a good thing I did, because The Boy looked out the kitchen window Friday afternoon to see white stuff falling from the sky.

“Mom!” he exclaimed, an excited gleam in his eyes. “What’s that?”

I turned and saw flurries outside. They weren’t sticking to the ground, but the snowflakes dancing in the wind were more snow than we ever see in Florida.

“Quick!” I said, taking him by the hand and rushing downstairs to my sister’s mud room. “Let’s get your jacket on and we can go outside in the snow!”

We went outside and tried to catch snowflakes on our tongues. He was excited and had fun, but I could tell he was a bit disappointed.


Catching snowflakes (or trying to)

“I wish I could make snowballs,” he said. He looked out at my sister’s green lawn and frowned. “But it’s not going to stay on the ground because it’s too hot.”

“Sorry, buddy,” I said, ushering him back into the house. “We can try to come up this winter, and maybe we’ll be able to see snow then.”

“Yeah. And then I can build a snow fort and have snowball fights with my cousins.”

We awoke the next morning to a crisp day, but the flurries had stopped, at least for a while. But by the afternoon, the snow was back, and this time falling a bit harder than the day before.

Catching snowflakes again - this time with more success!

Catching snowflakes again – this time with more success!

“It’s a blizzard!” he cried, watching the snow fall, this time in clumps instead of the delicate flakes we saw Friday. We went to the local library and spent time in the children’s area. My sister and I each tried to draw his attention away from the window, tempting him with books. I mean, he loves books, and we were in a very nice library! There were so many titles he could read!

Instead, he complained. “I don’t want to be here,” he insisted. “I want to go outside and play in the snow.”

Finally, we headed back to my sister’s house.

“I hope it’s still snowing and the snow is sticking to the ground when we get back,” he announced in the car. “I really want to throw snowballs and maybe make a little snowman.”


Just before launching the snowball…

...and launching it at me.

…and throwing it at me.

He got his wish. It wasn’t a thick layer of snow, but there was enough of it for him to scoop up and throw at me. As for the snowman, well, we may need to come back up north in the winter when the snow is properly sticking. While Cousin J was able to make a respectable (albeit small) snowman, he created more of a snow monster.

The Boy's Snow Monster, complete with eyes and multiple arms.

The Boy’s Snow Monster, complete with eyes and multiple arms.

Cousin J's little snowman.

Cousin J’s little snowman.

But he was proud of it and had lots of fun making it, and that’s all that matters.


A different perspective

Cute Husband took The Boy to Legoland on Sunday, primarily to look at the new Star Wars Miniland (but also to see some of the holiday stuff that was out).

The Millennium Falcon at a September press conference.

As soon as they got home, Cute Husband said The Boy made a beeline for his Lego sets and began recreating his version of Hoth. Indeed, when I got home from the post-NaNoWriMo dinner that night, he showed me how busy all of his Lego minifigures, his Star Wars Galactic Heroes, and even his green army men had been there on the Ice Planet.

What Cute Husband found especially interesting, though, is that The Boy has a very different view of the Star Wars universe than we do. In his world, Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader, and Darth Vader has always been Luke’s father. Naboo, Tattooine, Hoth, Coruscant, and Bespin all have equal billing in his mind. Gungans are nothing new, pod racing is normal, and a double-ended lightsaber is unique, but totally normal.

Of course, in a few years, we will take The Boy to see the next installment of the Star Wars saga. (It’s only good parenting, after all.) There, we will all be introduced to new characters, new planets, new stories, and new villains.

And I can’t help but wonder if he’ll have the same sense of awe when he sees the early previews that I had when I first saw Darth Maul activate his double-ended lightsaber. Or will he have the same feeling that Cute Husband and I have, that there is a pure Star Wars universe that existed pre-1999 and everything that came after it tries really hard but is just not as cool?

I really hope it’s the latter. And I have to admit that Cute Husband and I enjoying the view of the Star Wars universe from his perspective, even if I don’t think Naboo is as awesome as Hoth.

Blue Man Group: An unexpected treat

This afternoon, as I was working on a weekly report, the CEO’s Executive Assistant passed my desk.

“Do you want Blue Man Group tickets?” she asked. “They’re for tonight and you have to be there by 5:45.”

I froze like a deer in the middle of a suddenly brightened street and blinked a few times before I replied, “Um, let me call my husband and see if he wants to go.”

Cute Husband answered on the first ring, and I asked if he wanted to see Blue Man Group tonight.

“With C?” he asked.

“Um, sure.” I thought he might want to go alone or ask someone from work to join him, and the show would end after The Boy’s regular bedtime but, yeah, I guess he could bring The Boy.

Cute Husband answered in the affirmative, and I ultimately received three tickets.

“Make sure you use them, though, or they won’t give us tickets anymore.”

About two hours later, Cute Husband and The Boy were in the lobby at work. Cute Husband hadn’t told The Boy what we were doing, so I let The Boy read the tickets and watched his eyes light up with excitement. I gave them some black beans and rice and an kale salad with apples that I bought at lunch from a local food truck to eat while I finished my work for the day. After checking with my VP to make sure she didn’t need anything from me for her early morning meeting, the three of us left for Universal Studios.

Here’s the thing I don’t like about Universal Studios: you have to pay for parking. Sure, if you’re a Florida resident and it’s after 6pm, you only pay $5, and after 10 o’clock, it’s free. But if it’s before 6 (as it was when we arrived), it’s $15. Tickets for Blue Man Group are expensive as it is, but I guess if you’re already paying $170 for your family of three to go to a show, what’s another $15? (This is another reason I prefer the Disney Marketplace.)

But I got these tickets for free, so I really had no right to complain.

Cute Husband and The Boy waiting for the show to begin.

Once we got to the Sharp Aquos Theater and got settled in our seats, The Boy fidgeted with nervous excitement. The lights dimmed, and he joined the crowd in applause.

I kept glancing over at him throughout the show to see how he was reacting to the show. I could hear his squeals of delight and infectious laughter, but more often than not, those large, luminous eyes were fixed on the stage, taking it all in.

I managed to sneak a few pictures of The Boy, very careful to turn off the flash on my iPhone, but one lucky shot summed up the entire night.

The photo that captured The Boy's reaction to the entire show.

As the show ended, he was euphoric.

“Mom,” he gushed as we left the theater, “the funniest part was when all the balloons dropped and then toilet paper went everywhere.” Later in the car (before falling asleep), he announced, “I also liked when they played on the phones.”

This was definitely a special mid-week treat for all of us, but especially for The Boy. Here’s hoping I’m not regretting this tomorrow when he’s so tired after his late night!

Bay to Breakers? God help me…

Well, I did it. I registered for the Earth Day 12K. And I even registered before Theresa did! (Mind you, she reminded me at dinner last night, but still.)

When I began this running thing, I set my sights on this as my next event, and I’m kind of psyched that I’m going to do it. Now, the race is seven weeks from tomorrow (yikes!), so I have a lot of work to do if I’m going to get myself ready to go 7.4 miles. But at least it’s a flat course.

The race I am currently contemplating (and recently got the go-ahead from Cute Husband to start looking at flights to make it happen) is not a flat course.

Big Sis E told me earlier this year that she and a close family friend would be running Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, a 12K race that will be celebrating its 100th anniversary with its 101st consecutive running! Now, according to Active.com, the course is “mostly flat with a steep hill – the famous Hayes St. Hill summit at the 2.5 mile mark; gradual downhill through beautiful Golden Gate Park”.

If you’ve been to San Francisco, you know that there are some steep grades there, but from what I remember, Golden Gate Park is really quite lovely.

Another close family friend signed up to run, too, and now I feel like this race is almost mandatory. After all, these close family friends were like sisters to Big Sis E and I when we were growing up, and it would be such a treat to do something like this together. Even if I don’t actually participate in the run, it would still be great to be with my other friends to cheer them on.

Bay to Breakers is a very popular race and I’ll need to decide fairly quickly if I’m going to run. Registration is a big pricey ($57 for basic registration; $72 if I want a shirt with it, not including fees) and getting there alone wouldn’t be cheap. But I’m still considering it. (Though I’ve decided that if I do run it, I will do so wearing clothes and not it my birthday suit.)

A month ago, I was anxious about a 25-minute training run that was still weeks away, and now I’m contemplating a race that I’d need to travel across the country to run. Unbelievable.


For the first time since the beginning of C25K, I’m afraid to go running tomorrow. I’ve had a busy tiring couple of days, not least of which included a day spanning two Disney World parks. Big Sis E texted me earlier that she was heading out for an 8-mile run (show off), but I’m exhausted.

Getting up at 3:30 yesterday was a fab idea at the time, but now I’m afraid I’ll be paying for it. At least tomorrow is still just Sunday and I can sleep in if I’d like (and run later in the day, especially since the weather promises to be on the cooler side).

I’m getting old.

Yet another reason to go to the Magic Kingdom

Cute Husband and The Boy both desperately needed haircuts this weekend, so we visited their barber, Michal, at the Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street yesterday.

Yes, the Caines men get their hair cut at the Magic Kingdom.

Anyway, when we were at EPCOT last week (playing the Kim Possible game), Cute Husband told me about Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, a similar game that they’re currently testing at the Magic Kingdom.

Before we left for the Magic Kingdom, The Boy informed me that he didn’t really like the Magic Kingdom. “It’s too crowded,” he said, “not like EPCOT or the Studios.” As I usually do when he makes such declarations, I took it in stride and told him that we don’t need to stay at the Magic Kingdom for very long, but it’s important that he gets a haircut.

After the guys saw Michal (I really do recommend making appointments if you need to go to the barber shop), Cute Husband took The Boy to the Fire Station where a sign indicated that sorcerers were needed.

And then we got our cards and the map.

This is a really cute (and fun) game that easily appeals to a wide range of ages. (I was actually a little jealous that The Boy got to unlock all the locks and cast all the spells, but I’m also a little neurotic like that.) It’s basically an interactive card-based game. You get a “key” card that unlocks secret portals (designated by the red symbols on the map), and at each of the portals, you get to interact with different characters from one of the Disney movies. (Our story involved characters from The Princess and the Frog, which I still have yet to see.)

When you initially “apply” to be a sorcerer, you get 5 cards that are similar to Pokemon cards. And, like Pokemon cards, you can collect them all! (But unlike Pokemon cards, booster packs aren’t available. Yet.) These cards are “spell” cards; you hold them up to the portal and – poof! – you’re able to cast a spell against one of the villains. Each card has Attack, Boost, and Shield powers, but since none of those powers are really explained (or used) in the interactive theme park game, I have a feeling there will be a stand-alone card game akin to Magic or Pokemon for guests to play once they get the cards home. (And it will also require the purchase of booster packs because, well, you really can’t do much with just the 5 cards they give you and, well, who wouldn’t want to collect all 70 cards?)

So anyway, we stayed for more than just haircuts, and The Boy is anxious to go back and take his key card to Adventureland where he needs to check in at the flame symbol.

Maybe next time he’ll let me unlock the portals and cast the spells. But I doubt it.

Opening tomorrow: Legoland Florida

Photo by Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel. Click on the photo for more images of the new Legoland Florida park.

The Boy is so excited about Legoland Florida opening tomorrow. Wednesday night at dinner, Cute Husband and The Boy were watching a video at the dinner table (hey – it keeps them both occupied), and when Legoland Florida’s opening day was mentioned, Cute Husband said The Boy’s ears perked.

“That’s soon!” The Boy told him. (The Boy, incidentally, seems to have mastered the calendar. He not only knows his days of the week and months of the year (mostly; he hasn’t quite mastered the order yet), he knows the actual calendar date. Most adults I work with don’t even know the actual calendar date.

Anyway, we won’t be going during opening weekend. And we probably won’t be going next weekend, either, when Legoland is offering free admission. It’s not because we’re not interested (clearly the boy would love to go), but the Caines Family schedule gets crazy in October and typically doesn’t let up until sometime in January.

That’s not to say that we won’t be there until after the holidays (Cute Husband and I would both like to go, too), but, well, we definitely aren’t going to be the first in line tomorrow at rope drop. It is what it is.

Anyway, with all of the press about Legoland Florida’s opening, I was really interested to see that Legoland Florida’s food is locally sourced and will reflect seasonal items. As a mom who frequently visits theme parks, that’s a really big deal for me. I mean, when we go to Epcot, I like visiting Seasons at The Land because I love the variety of fresh (read: minimally processed) food. If this is standard fare at Legoland Florida, I won’t feel as bad packing a lighter backpack and leaving snacks at home.

I’m curious to see how Legoland Florida will fare. I had never been to Cypress Gardens (Florida’s first amusement park and the site at which Legoland Florida was built) and I’ve never been to Legoland California, but I’m definitely interested. It’s being billed as a local attraction, so its hours aren’t as long as Disney World’s or Universal Studios Florida’s, especially not during the Fall and Winter months.

All the same, I’m hoping it does well. It would be nice to add another destination to the repertoire of fun things we do with The Boy.

We just won’t do it on opening weekend.

Sharing a bit of my history: The old alma mater and Clown Sundaes

Cute Husband, The Boy, and I checked out of our hotel room early this morning because we had lots of errands to run before heading to Cousin L’s house later this afternoon.

Our first stop was to Men’s Wearhouse to return The Boy’s tuxedo, and then we headed up to UC San Diego to wander my old alma mater.

The Boy refused to nap (despite the 6-1/2 hours of sleep he got last night) on the way up to La Jolla, so he was a bit of a bear and had no interest in getting out of the car to go to the Spaceship Library with me. And that was a shame, too, because it has been renamed the Theodore Geisel library and even has a bronze sculpture of the artist/author sitting with his feet propped up on a desk with The Cat in the Hat, arguably his most famous creation, standing by his shoulder.

The bronze sculpture of Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, unveiled in 2004 on what would have been his 100th birthday.

The Boy probably would have liked to have seen that (and I would have loved to have a picture of him with it), but he simply wasn’t interested.

The campus has changed a lot since I graduated many years ago. Buildings have popped up where I remember there was once either an empty field or just a whole lot of space. The eucalyptus groves seemed to have shrunk a bit in size (and I was instantly reminded of my years as an undergrad the moment the scent of eucalyptus filled my nose), but the old familiar artwork was still there. And I was pleasantly surprised that even after 15 years, I could still navigate around the area (though not around campus – it’s changed that much!).

It was so nice to see the Snake Path, one of my favorite art displays when I was an undergrad. I didn't follow the path down the hill, but I imagine the Garden of Eden - with fig trees and all - is still there.

From La Jolla, we went to Mission Viejo for a treat that I had long been awaiting.

We pulled into the parking garage for the Shoppes at Mission Viejo, and I excitedly rushed into the mall. I had no idea where I was going, but I found a mall directory and the three of us headed up to the food court on the second floor.

Cute Husband spotted the red and white striped awning before I did, but as soon as we walked through the door and I saw the hostess wearing the familiar Farrell’s straw hat and red and white armband around her upper arm, I felt my eyes starting to tear.

I had never been so excited to be at a restaurant with my son.

When I was growing up, there was a Farrell’s not far from my house. We went there often to celebrate special events like birthdays and good report cards, and it was always such a treat. This was in the early ’80s, when playing video games meant going to an arcade instead of hanging out on the couch with an XBox controller, before the days of Chuck E. Cheese’s. Farrell’s was just awesome, and both Big Sis E and I celebrated several birthdays there.

But then they all shut down. I remember one evening when Big Sis E and I were in the car with Mom, and she drove to the site only to find it was closed. Another restaurateur came in a year or so later and called it “Barrell’s”, but we never went back.

Farrell’s was gone, and I was so sad.

About a year ago, I saw that there was a Farrell’s open in Santa Clarita, a few miles north of where I grew up. And then I learned they were opening another location in Mission Viejo. So when Cute Husband and I mapped out our trip, I asked if we could please stop at Farrell’s for lunch. After all, Cousin L wasn’t expecting us until the afternoon, anyway.

Coloring the menu while we wait for our food to arrive.

Now, I will be honest: I have very little recollection about Farrell’s food from when I was younger. As an adult, I enjoyed it but honestly found nothing outstanding about it. But what I remembered as a child – and what did not disappoint as an adult – was the ice cream, particularly my favorite Clown Sundae.

The Boy and I each got one (I wasn’t about to share), and Cute Husband was allowed to polish off the rest of The Boy’s sundae after he decided he was too full (they are kind of big for a kid).

"I'd like a Clown Sundae for him," I told the server, "and one for me, too!"

While we were there, I told The Boy about going to parties at Farrell’s when I was a kid, and, as if to punctuate my tales, the servers brought out the big bass drum to announce patrons’ birthdays, just as they did so many years ago. And I shared stories of how much I loved getting Clown Sundaes as a kid.

It was such an amazing treat for me to share a glimpse of my childhood with my own child.

We may not have been at my Farrell’s in the Valley, but it was Farrell’s, and that was more than enough.

Maybe in a few more weeks

Every time we go to the “Mouse House” (or “the Magic Kingdom” for those who prefer to use proper Disney nomenclature), The Boy wants to rush to the back of the park to Frontierland and see if he is tall enough to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

And today, just like many prior visits, he is just shy of the 40-inch mark.

He’s frustrated and a little sad, and no matter how much Cute Husband and I promise that it won’t be much longer until he’s (finally) tall enough to ride, I’m not certain he believes us.

But he’ll get there. Just not today.

Geography lessons

I watched The Boy play with a little puzzle of the map of the United States. I found it at Target in the dollar bin a week ago and, as he loves puzzles, I thought he might enjoy playing with this one, too.

I’ve explained a few times that the picture is a map, and the funny-looking shapes all represent different states. He’s grasped the concept of “states” fairly easily; after all, we’ve traveled with him a bit and he knows that Grandma and Grandpa and his cousins all live far from us. He also knows that I grew up in California.

So I was very proud this morning as he correctly identified where Grandma and Grandpa live on the map, correctly pointed to where his cousins live, and also showed me where we live. And when I asked where I grew up, he pointed to the long, skinny state on the West Coast and said, “Forna!” (Close enough.)

Then he studied the map a bit more, pointed to New Mexico (where there was the picture of a cactus) and said, “Pooh and Piglet and Tigger live here!”

Well, four out of five isn’t bad.