Monday, August 30, 2010

Jake's 1st Week of School

The excitement actually started building around 4:00 PM the Friday before the official 1st day of school.  That was Meet The Teacher night.  Nervous kids & parents gathered outside locked doors at Anderson Elementary School.  They jockeyed for position in front of the library window, squinting at the 5 sheets of paper taped to it.  They were anxious to know which of the 5 kindergarten classes would be their child's class for the school year, and hoping there would be the name of at least one friend on that list as well.  But, nothing ever works smoothly for this family, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Jake's name wasn't on any of the lists.  Yep, that's right.  We hit our first snag before they even opened the doors!  That did not make me happy, and it didn't do anything to calm Jake's nerves.  As  you can imagine, by the time the doors opened, I was in full Mama Bear mode.  I marched into the front office, discontent painted all over my face.  I waited patiently for my turn to share a piece of my mind with the office staff.  And when some other mother decided she didn't have to wait her turn, well, never to be concerned about making a good 1st impression, I not-so-calmly blurted out that there were other people in line and she'd have to wait.  Oh yes, I definitely brought my A-game to Meet The Teacher night.   After the scuffle ended and some not-so-heart-felt apologies were exchanged, I learned the mix-up probably had something to do with Jake's immunization records.  So, I was off to meet Cindy Snyder, the school nurse.  She & I also went toe-to-toe before getting things sorted out.  Grrrrr!  Don't these people know how hard it is to be a 1st time Kindergarten Mom?  In the end, it all worked out, records were updated, boxes were checked, and I learned that Jake would be in Ms. Lyttle's class.  Pretty Ms. Lyttle.  Jake says she has a funny name...because Ms. Lyttle is actually quite tall, which as Jake pointed out, is NOT little.

Monday, August 23, 6:45 AM.  Rise & shine!!  Get up, get dressed, get fed, get out!  This is the new routine in our house.  6:45 is pretty early, but if we want to make it to school by 7:45, that's the way things have to be.

We're very excited to be able to ride out bikes to school every morning.  We were hoping to have a posse of neighborhood kids to join us, but so far it's just the Bond gang.

We started training for the event a couple of weeks ago so we'd know just how long it would take us to get there.  Lila's been doing really well riding the "afterburner", but she's looking forward to the day she can ride her own bike.  (I shudder to think how early we'd have to get up for that ride!)  Our ride is 1 mile long and it took us about 18 minutes on the first day.

Nerves & getting used to the new bike accounted for a longer commute time on the first day.  By the end of the week, we'd cut our time down by about 5 minutes.  Not bad.

Lila was all ready to start school, and was actually quite pissed off once it finally sunk in that she wasn't starting Kindergarten.  Jake, on the other hand, would have preferred to go back to Infinite Bounds.  He'd been acting strangely in the weeks leading up to the big day.  Quiet, irritable, sassy, mean...things that Jake usually isn't.  I knew he was a little sad to be leaving his friends at IB, but it wasn't until he nearly lost his breakfast that I realized how nervous he actually was about the whole thing.

But he put on his best fake smile, and walked into the Kindergarten Pod.  "The Pod".  Who decided to call it "The Pod"?  Sending my boy into The Pod sounds just a little I'm sending him into a shuttle craft that's waiting to whisk my kid away to the mother ship where aliens will poke and prod him, suck his brains out, reprogram him and return him to me as some kind of inter-galactic weapon.  The Pod.  Couldn't they just call it The Hall or The Wing?  Seriously?  The Pod?

They put a big red K over the door.  I guess that's supposed to make us parents feel better about abandoning our kiddos at the doors to The Pod.  Parents aren't allowed in The Pod.  They say dropping your kids off at the doors promotes independence and a sense of empowerment, but I know they just don't want us to see all the extraterrestrial goings-on beyond those doors.

I did manage to sneak in and take a peek.  There was pretty, not-so-little Ms. Lyttle...and Jake, still looking like a deer caught in the headlights.

Then it was off to the cafeteria for Good Morning Anderson!  GMA takes place every Monday & Friday. 

The kids file in and find a place to sit on the floor.  They go over the school motto:  Believe, Achieve, Succeed!  They state their attendance goal:  On time, every day, every day, on time!  They pledge allegiance to the US Flag  - yes, we can still do that here in Lone Star State, and yes, the 'one nation under God' part is still in there.  Then they pledge allegiance to the Texas flag:  "I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible".  Those sneaky Texans - you might be able to get prayer out of the schools, but you ain't gonna get God outta Texas public schools! And speaking of prayer, since it's only acceptable to pray before rodeos & football games these days, GMA observes a moment of silence instead.

They also sing songs, recognize birthdays, celebrate the Firecrackers of the Week (more about that some other time.)  It really is quite a production, and pretty overwhelming at first.  When I spotted Jake, he looked pretty comfortable and relaxed.  Once it's over, everyone is dismissed to their classes and the day begins.

The day begins at 7:45, the day ends at 3:00.  A long day for a little kid if you ask me.  But Jake did just fine. School is dismissed in stages.  The first kids released are those going on to after-care programs.  Then the "car riders" are release.  Then the "walkers/bike riders" emerge from The Pod.  Jake was the doorman on the first day, and seemed pleased with that status.  The kids all line up and sit down on the grass just outside the pod doors.  When they see their parent/guardian, they raise their hand to let the teachers know, they they're released.  Fortunately, the process doesn't take too long.  It was 107 degrees at release time on the first day of school.  That's hot even for us Texans.  As soon as we were released, we headed to the pool with a bunch of friends for a little after-school swim party.  It was so hot, even the pool water wasn't all that refreshing. But it was fun hanging out with friends and rinsing off the stress of the first day.

The rest of the week went very smoothly.  We rode our bikes every day except Wednesday (it was raining).  Jake's learning the names of his classmates and making friends.  And if you ask him what the best part of the week was, he'd probably tell you playing on the playground and finding two silly bands on the floor in the hall.  Infinite Bounds is a tough act to follow, but I think he's settling in pretty well.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Bond Family Cruise Part 2 - Oh Canada!

Thursday morning.  Once again, we woke at the crack of dawn - or we would have if it hadn't been raining in Saint John, New Brunswick.  Now don't go confusing this with St. John's Newfoundland.  That's not where we were.  How'd we know? 
Well, because we saw Saint John written on everything.  NOT St. John's.  Since the weather wasn't all that great and there were no tenders to catch, we took our time getting off the boat.  And, since it was raining, we decided to start our day with a taxi ride up to the Reversing Falls.  The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world.  When the tide comes in, it comes it with such force it causes the river to run backwards.  Yep.  UPstream.  I suppose this is an incredible thing to watch from the right area.  We, however, weren't in the right area to see it.  AND we were a little behind the tide.  So, what we got to see was a big wide river running left instead of right.  A little anticlimactic, thus, no pictures.  Our taxi driver assured us it was phenomenal.  We took his word for it and hopped back in the cab.

After an exhilarating ride chock full of valuable information and offers to tour us around the city all day, we let him drop us off at the Old Saint John Courthouse - home of the 'longest free-standing stone spiral staircase in the world'...according to our taxi driver.  It was a pretty amazing staircase, even if it was tucked into an unamazing corner of the courthouse.

The begonias in the park across the street from the courthouse were even more amazing.  They were so colorful in the rain, it looked as though someone had thrown buckets of paint all over the grass.

Things dried up after awhile, and we enjoyed just traipsing around town.  Saint John is a busy little place and there was lots of life on the streets, including some fun and accessible art.

Jake & Delila had fun crawling all over the statues.

And then we saw this guy walking down the street.  Of course, we had to follow him.  He led us directly to the Buskers on the Boardwalk festival.  It's been an ongoing event in Saint John for the last 20 years.  The official start was Friday, so we were a day early, but there was plenty to see and do while the Buskers (street performers) prepared for the festivities to begin.

We pulled up a table at a sidewalk cafe and got to watch street artist Rachel Peters get herself set up.  This is her artwork from last year's festival.  Unfortunately, I haven't found a picture of this year's finished work, but I'm going to keep looking.  The kids had so much fun talking with her and watching her get everything laid out.  This year's piece was to be about a lonely elephant, and looked like it was going to be really great.

After our lunch, we headed inside the shopping mall adjacent to the boardwalk, where we found another performer getting ready to start his act.  Wacky Chad.  Lila got in on the act...

...and so did I.  Yes, I got to take a turn on the super duper pogo stick.  I could hardly get it off the ground, but Wacky Chad made that thing soar sky high.  He did flips and all kinds of crazy tricks that I'm sure Jake will want to try as soon as it's cool enough to play outside again.  Oh boy!  I can't wait!

We had a lot of fun at the Buskers event...almost too much fun.  We really had to hustle back to the boat.  We got there just in time to hear the piper bidding us farewell.  He was really incredible, and only 14 years old.

Friday morning found us in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  It was our last port of call.  Halifax is not a quaint little tourist town.  Rather, it's a bustling city with a busy port.  Our first stop was the fort at the highest point in the city - The Citadel.  This poor fellow was standing sentry.  I say poor, because it was a warm, cloudless day and he was standing in the blazing sun in a wool jacket, with a backpack and that crazy hat on.  He was sweatin' bullets!  But at lease his legs stayed nice and cool in his, I mean a kilt.

The Citadel was really interesting.  It was a fairly typical fort, in my opinion, except that it had two tall masts at its highest ground.  We learned that these were signaling masts.  One mast was used to signal merchants, dockworkers, and the likes that ships were arriving so there was work to be done.  Specific flags would be run up the mast that would identify the shipping company, its cargo and where exactly the ship would be docked.  The other mast was used for military purposes.  At one time, there were many forts in the area and they communicated with each other by means of the flags that were flying.  Once a flag or pennant was sent up the mast, other forts were required to respond in kind within 30 minutes.  If no response was made, the offending soldier could face court martial.

Our arrival at The Citadel was timed perfectly - and serendipitously.  Every day at noon, a troupe of soldiers climbs to the top of the wall and fires the cannon.  And wow!  What a production.  Lots of marching and formations - all kinds of pomp & circumstance.

We hung out at The Citadel for quite a while.  This was our day with MaMa so we took our time and really soaked up the history.  Lila wasn't too fond of all the military action and the soldiers parading around beating their drums.  She especially wasn't thrilled with the guys in the big hats.  I suppose from her vantage point they looked awfully big.  In the end, she made friends with one, but it was a tenuous relationship.

After we'd thoroughly explored the fort and all it had to offer, we hopped on a "FRED" bus (Free Rides Everywhere Downtown) and headed to the Public Gardens.  They were really lovely and since it was such a beautiful day, we were very happy to stay for a while.

The guide on the FRED bus really talked the garden up, making it sound like a 'must do when in Halifax', so I was surprised at how small the grounds were.  The garden occupies a city block, which I suppose is a decent size for an inner city garden.  Unless, of course, you grow up with Washington, DC as your frame of reference, where there's green space every 2-3 blocks.  In spite of my surprise at the size, there was really quite a lot going on in the garden.  There were a couple of small ponds, streams and several fountains.  In the middle of the garden there was a Victorian looking structure which serves as a cafe.  They sold ice cream, which the kids would have loved.  MaMa too, for that matter.  But Duke had his sites set on a different lunchtime locale.

So, with rumbling tummies, we set off to find this place - The Henry House.  He thought it would be a short walk down a bustling city street.  Unfortunately, we didn't know the name of the place and the physical description Duke gave a local shop keeper led us on a bit of a wild goose chase.  We did eventually find it, and it was well worth the walk.  A walk that nearly killed MaMa, but all's well that ends well...right?  (She probably has a different opinion about that!)  The food was good, the beer was great and just look at how pretty the setting was - power lines excluded, of course.

Jake & Lila loved the place because the fries were good and because Jake got to engage in a foreign exchange:

One US dime for one Canadian dime...and a Canadian penny thrown in for good luck!  After lunch, MaMa dumped us.  She took the FRED back to the boat, which left us to finish our exploring by ourselves.  We walked around a bit more and then headed back to the boat.

Having already had such great success with the local brews at the Henry House, we decided to push our luck and stop at the Garrison brewery.  Conveniently located directly outside the entrance to the seaport, it was the perfect spot to end our day.

Delila found the root beer to be full bodied with just the right amount of bubbles and a sweet yet refreshing finish.

Jake gave it an enthusiastic Garrison canon style Thumbs Up!  The IPA was quite satisfying too, and we couldn't resist buying a bottle of the Jalapeno Ale to try at a later date.  Guaranteed to cool you down and warm you up all at the same time.  We'll see about that!

And so our day in Halifax and our Canadian adventure came to a close.  And yes, I think we did manage to make a little magic.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Bond Family Cruise Part 1 - The Maine Event

It's been a summer full of fun for the Family Bond, that's for sure.  And if Summer 2010 was an ice cream sundae, well, then the Bond Family Cruise would definitely be the cherry on top.

It all started with a bus full of Bonds heading from Hollywood, MD to Bayonne, NJ.  We joined the crazy bunch in Baltimore.  I'll admit I wasn't looking forward to hours on the road.  I really don't enjoy road trips and I thought it would be a nightmare with the kids, but it was great.  Jake & Lila hung out in the back of the bus with their cousins and had a fantastic time.  There were movies to watch and snacks to munch on.  There was even a bathroom on the bus.  No stops necessary! (Although we did make one pit stop to stretch our legs.

Once we got to the port, there were lines to wait in, papers to fill out, etc.  The process was dull in comparison to the bus ride, but once we were aboard, everything was new and exciting again.

The first order of business was to check out our luxury accommodations.  OK, things were a little cozy, but we had a great veranda - large enough for a lounge chair.  As for sleeping arrangements, the big bed was for Mommy & Daddy, of course.  The chair in the corner unfolded into a comfy bed for Lila.  Jake's bed was the most fun.  It folded down from the ceiling and had to be accessed by a ladder.  What more could a boy want?!

The day we left was a hot & steamy which made me appreciate the hot but relatively dry Texas summers.  We had an incredible view of NYC from our veranda.  Lady Liberty waved goodbye as we left.

We were escorted out of the harbor by a gang of jet skiers.   I was surprised how far they followed us.

They turned around just before we passed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.  Once under the bridge, we were officially at sea.  Duke & the kiddos took off to explore the boat.  I stayed back to unpack the bags and get everything stowed so we could move around the room without tripping over things.  The room was small, but had plenty of nooks & crannies.  I was shocked at how easy it was to find a place for everything - especially considering how much stuff we had.

We spent the first day at sea which was far from boring.  Jake developed some ping pong skills thanks to some fine coaching from his cousin Walker.

There was plenty of space for Delila to practice her gymnastics.  Cousin Julia helped her keep her form just right on a rocking boat.

That evening was the first of two formal dining evenings.  So after a little sporting around, and some splashing in an incredibly chilly pool full of sea water, it was back to the room to get all dolled up for dinner.

The whole 'formal dinner' thing was kind of sprung on me at the last minute.  I had assumed we'd skip those nights and eat in one of the more casual dining venues the boat had to offer.  But, two days before we left Texas I learned the whole family would be eating in the main dining room for every night.  So, I scrambled around to find something appropriate for everyone to wear.  Who knew you could find formal wear at Target?!  All said and done, I think we were a pretty handsome family.  And no, the hat wasn't really part of my ensemble.  Duke's sister, Susan, had a little treat for all the Bond Girls.  She brought a whole haberdashery with her - comprised entirely of hats from Mama Susie's collection.  The hat I'm wearing is Lila's hat.

The up and coming generation of Bond Girls represented the family quite nicely that evening.

The next morning found us pulling into Portland, Maine.  This little osprey was patiently waiting for his breakfast and kept us entertained while we were getting ready for ours.  His nest was so colorful - full of bits & pieces of brightly hued twine.  The weather for the day was supposed to be in the low 70s.  Instead, it was in the high 80s with plenty of humidity.  We spent a little bit of time walking through the tourist shops and then decided to make the trek down to the water to search for shells and sea glass.  We didn't find much of either, but it was fun to be on the sand again.

That brings us to Wednesday.  This was our day to visit Bar Harbor, which meant loading onto tenders at 7:00 in the morning.  That sounds like an early start, but considering that the sun was rising around 4:15 AM...well, let's just say we'd already been up for quite a while.  We were excited that we got to ride the tender with The Cousins .

The town was quaint and the day was gorgeous.  We spent some time wandering through the shops, and then bought some snacks for a quick picnic in the park while we were waiting for the tide to got out.  The best part about the picnic had to be eating flavored honey straws.  We tried blackberry, blueberry, apple, and a host of others.  They were all pretty good.

We were waiting for low tide so we could get out to Bar Island.  Bar Island is part of Acadia National Park and is accessible by foot/car during low tide.  We were headed out there to search for sea glass and shells again.  I'd read it was great place for glass hunting.  It wasn't.  But it was a great place for skipping stones and finding sea creatures.

While we may not have found the bounty of smooth frosty glass promised by my resources, Duke and Jake did make a great rock tower.  We didn't have a ton of time on the Island, but we didn't need much.  It's pretty small.  You have to keep an eye on your watch...and the tide when you're out there.  If you don't, you just might find yourself looking for a good place to camp for the night.  The locals love to tell stories about the stupid tourists that get stranded out there every summer.  You know...because the land bridge disappears when the tide comes in.  Well, I'm happy to report that didn't happen to us.

Once safely back in town, Jake and Lila headed off with The Cousins while Duke and I enjoyed some local cuisine.  OK, I enjoyed a local beer, Duke enjoyed a lobster roll.  (I still haven't managed to develop a taste for that stuff.)  Then it was back to the tenders.  We raced the fog back to our boat and enjoyed another evening of food and fun with the family.  Over night, we'd be sailing to foreign ports.

Next up...Canada