We went to a barbecue on Monday night. Yeah, you can tell we live in South Florida because we went to a barbecue at a park starting at sunset the week of Thanksgiving. Life is tough. There were some challenges from the start. There was charcoal but no lighter fluid, so Phil got out his handy blowtorch. The lantern was always in the way, but then someone got a rope and hung it from a line between two trees. But the third blow was the hardest - the football was accidentally overthrown into the Altantic Intercoastal Waterway. Oops. Never fear, they were smart enough to invite the Cooks. Kevin was more than willing to don a pair of shorts from someone's trunk and dive right in despite the darkness, rumors of gators and speeding boats in the area. They were right to place their trust in him; he swam quickly and skillfully to the ball and returned it safely to the anxious and boisterous crowd waiting back at the fence. And they were glad I was there with the camera to document it. The rest of the barbecue was fun, delicious and pretty uneventful.
Tonight we watched Stellan's friend Elsa so her parents could go out on a hot date. He was so excited to see her that he spent the first five minutes after her arrival running around the house screaming and pushing his toys on her. Things didn't mellow out much after that, but I did get some cute photos. Looks like it turned out to be a double date night!
Bonus game #1: watch this slideshow again, now very quickly, and compare how much Stellan moves to how much Elsa moves.
Bonus game #2: watch the slideshow a third time (maybe more if you're a grandparent), this time paying close attention to the costume jewelry exchange.
Tonight we went to the Bishop's Storehouse when we got an urgent message from the bishop, who said they were receiving a huge shipment that night and the only people there to unload were the somewhat elderly missionary couple from the cannery. We were excited to help. For those not in the LDS lingo know, the Bishop's Storehouse is a warehouse of food, household items and other necessities made available to people in need (not just members of the LDS church). They are usually about the size of a 7-11, and look like a clean version of a ghetto 7-11. Bare metal racks fully stocked with the essentials (and some other stuff, like chocolate pudding and Christmas candy) and glaring flourescent lights, shopping carts and a big warehouse in the back with the rest of the stock. We beat the delivery truck (an 18-wheeler) by a little bit, so Stellan went for a ride on the forklift. He was excited. When the truck arrived, he also loved watching it open, and observing the forklift unload pallet after pallet. But when it came time to start unloading the boxes from the pallet, Stellan and I were uncerimoniously dismissed. Apparently the guy in charge (older Hispanic man) did not approve of women doing any heavy lifting (even though my back is much better than Kevin's) and did not approve of children being present either. So we had to hang out in the office up front. We did get to tour the cannery next door, where community members can can their own food for storage and emergency preparedness. Two hours later, Stellan was tired, I was still angry at being rejected from service just because I am Y-chromosome deficient, and Kevin's back was killing him. The truck was gone, the pallets were empty and we're pretty sure that hundreds of people will have a better Thanksgiving because of the Bishop's Storehouse. (Did I mention Kevin spent some time shuffling turkeys in the walk-in freezer?)
We've been taking advantage of the not-as-hot-as-summer season to get out and about, and we've been having fun doing it. We have been canoeing at West Lake Park; we had so much fun two weeks ago* that we went again yesterday with our friends the Hendersons. It's gorgeous to row through the mangroves, spot crabs and look for birds. And the view from the outlook tower is incredible. We also spent Veteran's Day at Sugar Sand Park, which is a science playground in Boca Raton. I know, what could be better than mixing science and playgrounds? It looks kind of like a mix between a western army fort and the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, and has sections devoted to rockets, music, the Pythagorean Theorem (no, seriously!), dinosaurs and more. It's three stories tall! However, Stellan never even got past the main courtyard because it had a water feature. That was enough to keep him entertained for over an hour without any breaks. Kev and I were a little sad because we wanted to explore all the other parts of the playground, but there will be other times. We ended the trip with a ride on the carousel. On Saturday night, as we were wandering though an unlit county park looking for the local observatory and amateur astronomy club, we saw the shuttle launch! It was really great, and helped convince me that are some perks to living in Florida. (Incidentally, we're planning on going to one of the launches before they retire the shuttles, so if you're interested in joining us, let us know.) Sorry, no pics. Also, we did eventually find the South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association. We even joined, though I'm still a card-carrying member of the SBAU and will never disavow my loyalty to my first and best astronomy club. Finally, we have discovered an incredibly interesting spider in our garden, a spiny orb weaver (gasteracantha cancriformus). Super amazing looking, it appears to be a spider that's carrying something spiky on its back. But no, that's just its natural form. Cool! Tragically, Stellan is still too young to hold still long enough to notice it, much less appreciate it.
*Funny story; on our first trip, we realized that Stellan would require some serious attention in the boat. He always wants to dive off the side into the water, so I have to keep at least three fingers hooked onto his PFD. But he actually prefers to be in my lap, so I had to leave all the rowing to Kevin. Poor guy had to do all the paddling and didn't get to look around as much as he would like. So at one point I gestured to some tree crabs scuttling up the mangroves and Kevin paused to take a closer look. Unfortunately, out boat didn't stop to look. We got dangerously close to some branches sticking out into the water, and suddenly I had to decide what to do to avoid Stellan getting whomped in the face by mangroves. I decided to go with the stiff arm, but was saddened to discover that mangrove branches don't have a lot of give. Stellan and I were thrown backward into the boat, and I found myself with my butt and legs still in rowing position on the bench, and my top half sprawled out on the floor of the canoe with a very angry toddler pinning one of my arms down. Take a moment to reflect on this physical situation; imagine yourself strapped in to a bench by branches, an unwieldy toddler in a life vest struggling to get off your arm and chest, and realizing that you have absolutely no leverage to get yourself up from your semi-supine position. I took more than a moment to reflect, as I really and truly couldn't get up. It was very uncomfortable, and my lower back took a few days to recover. I did eventually get up without capsizing, but Stellan sustained a sizable good egg on his forehead where his little face hit the wooden crossbar behind us. It was one of those rare times when pain and laughter were pretty evenly matched.
Google just released voice and video chat. This is really exciting to me, which may only be a sign of how truly pathetic my Floridian life has become. But I tell myself I'm excited because it may be better quality than Skype (which has dropped 90% of my calls in the last week), and maybe we can chat with more people. True confessions time: I use video chat to entertain my child, and when necessary, calm the angry beast that occasionally possesses his tiny body. He loves to chat, and gets giddy just hearing the sound Skype makes when you call someone. He keeps in touch with his grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as some of his buds. So if you'd like to see him more often (or even if you'd like to see more of me or Kevin), chat us! We're ready for Google video chatting to commence.
This week marks my kid brother's 20th birthday. My brother Matt is one of the most important people in my life, and always has been. Probably before I was born. When I was young, I always wanted a little brother; my little sisters were OK, but they wanted to play with Barbies and make up dance routines. Not really my thing. I knew a brother would like the same stuff I did, or could at least appreciate my sizable LEGO collection. Finally, when I was 10, my baby brother was born. He was everything I hoped he would be - funny, sweet, a little on the mischievous side, smart and devoted to his big sis. Not much has changed in 20 years. He's all those things and much more. I haven't seen him in a while; he's been serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since February, and if you know anything about it, you know it's a two year commitment. I miss him everyday, and I know Kevin and Stellan do too. Every day Stellan blows a kiss to his Uncle (Chuncle) Elder Matt Steward when he looks at the photo of the two of them together on the wall. And I remember how lucky I am to have two such awesome guys in my life. Plus, it's hard to see a little (some days a lot) of Uncle Matt in my son; if you enjoyed the look on Stellan's face as he was table dancing in the video on yesterday's post, you've seen a snapshot of the look Matt used to get (and sometimes still gets) when troublemaking was imminent. I'm pretty sure my parents think I'm getting my comeupance for all the times I defended my rascally brother now that I have a little rascal of my own. And I wouldn't trade either one of them for the world. Happy birthday, little brother! I miss you more than you know, but not as much as I love you.
Today Stellan is 16 months old. It's amazing to think about how much he's changed and grown, even in the couple of months we've been in Florida. He's got so many news skills I'm considering sending him out into the workforce to help earn back some of what we've spent on diapers, applesauce and cottage cheese. Here's his resumé:
Objective: Realize the full potential of entropy in the workplace
Eating with a spoon
Flinging food with a spoon
Slipping at least one arm out of a snugly fit car seat harness
July '07 to Oct '07: just laying there a lot
Oct '07 to Jan '08: rolling over
Feb '08 to May '08: crawling
May '08 to present: walking, climbing, running and tripping/falling frequently
Education: July '07 to August '08: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
Musical Instrument Profiencies:
Milk Carton Filled With Pinto Beans
Bahk Bahk (chicken sound)
Untold Number of Keyboard Shortcuts
English - comprehension (occasionally selective)
Spanish/Creole - will pretend to understand
Baby Sign - some proficiency (he knows "milk" and "more;" what else could he really need to communicate?)
We decided to head for the polls early this morning, because Kev wasn't sure he'd have any other time today. So knowing that our little adorable child hasn't gotten into the no-more-daylight-savings zone, we were ready for him to get up at around 6:20 AM. He didn't disappoint, and we all got out of bed nice and early. We were excited about our chance to vote in such an important election, and the pre-dawn preparations definitely reminded me of all the times I've gotten up early to brave rush hour traffic on the way to the Magic Kingdom. We got to the polling station (conveniently located at our neighborhood park) by 7:10. The line was out the door and around the corner. Good thing we walked, because there was no parking. We got inside in about 40 minutes, but it took us about as long to get through the various lines inside. Stellan was a real trooper and made almost all the way through. Kevin had to stand in the ballot machine feeding line with both our completed ballots but we were amazed we got that far all together. So here are the reasons voting is like Disneyland: 1. We've been waiting for this day for a long time. 2. We got out of bed early, packed snacks, made sure we had sweatshirts, grabbed the stroller and hit the road. 3. Lines. And more lines. 4. Everyone else there was equally excited, despite the lines. 5. This is definitely a day that we will all remember for a long time. Some will remember how their dreams came true, while others will remember feeling pretty sick on the Teacups; but we'll all remember what happened today.
And finally, I am trying to downplay the irony, but please enjoy the photo of the sticker we got for voting here in Florida.
Yes, this week was an awesome one. Starting at the end of last week, forecasters predicted a cold front headed our way. We braced ourselves for some really chilly weather - it might drop into the 60's! The forecasts did not disappoint; by Monday evening, it was cool enough that we turned off our air conditioner for the first time since we moved here. (We keep the thermostat set between 80 and 83 degrees, so this was a big deal to us.) We opened every window in the house all the way and let that cool breeze blow. It got cool enough that night (into the low 60s!) that we were freezing in our thin sheet and light blanket; but we did not close one darn window. The cold was too novel to reject. By the next day, it was like the world awakened to a new dawn. No really, we saw dozens of kids in the street that we had never seen before; people were outside grilling; open windows lined every house; the park was swarming with families at all hours. In fact, the weather was so nice all week that we went to the park every day, some days twice. It was a riot to see some of these kids all bundled up like it was below freezing - fleece caps and winter coats, ski pants and heavy boots. It can't have dropped below 68 degrees during the day, but one woman proudly declared she put her little boy in his "New York winter clothes." Stellan and I were a little more circumspect in terms of wardrobe, but no less enthused with the weather. As a result, we've got this playground thing down to an art. We load up the stroller, strap on our shoes, head to the park, unload and go nuts. We've also made some new friends; notice the "we." Yep, I have real park friends now; by that I mean that I know someone by name and we actually sit on the park bench and chat while the kids play. Hurray! I may just make it through the next two years after all. In case you are curious about Stellan's playground activities, I've prepared this slideshow. Please enjoy!
In case the title of the blog didn't give it away, the cold front is gone. We're back to highs in the mid-80s for the rest of the week. It's currently 77 degrees in the pouring rain at 10 PM. Oh well. Fall was nice while it lasted.
Two final notes: #1. Why do people think that if a toddler is in a coordinated outfit, it must be a girl? It happened three times on Saturday when Stellan was wearing the super cute outfit posted above. #2. What is the lawn mower attachment that is being pulled behind the trailer called? Someone else asked me, and I was at a loss.