Thursday, July 9, 2015

Catching up with friends in San Francisco: 6/26-6/29

When we adopted Nedy, we traveled with 3 other families who were also adopting children.  Our four girls spent their first year+ together before we met them in China.  Over the years, we've been able to meet up with 2 of the other 3 families fairly regularly, as they're also Midwesterners, and watch the girls reconnect.  It's always delightful, watching our amazing ladies together.  They're just...well, connected.  But one family doesn't live within "weekend trip" driving distance, and we became holiday card friends.

Earlier this Spring, Nedy and I were talking about the "Nanchang Gang", as we call their collective awesomeness, and Nedy said, "We should go see Charlotte."  Good idea, kiddo.  And so a few e-mails and a phone call later, and Nedy and I were  booked for a long weekend in San Francisco to meet up with our "missing links."  (Now, this is how tight you feel with people who were there in the same room with you while you were all joined with your daughters simultaneously:  We haven't seen this amazing family for over 6 years, and yet they would hear nothing of our staying at a hotel and instead invited us to stay with them in their home.  "You're like family," they said, including a hilarious, "like a 3rd cousin we haven't seen in 10 years" metaphor.  Love it.)

To say the trip was amazing would be an enormous understatement.  I'll admit that I expected some awkwardness.  And yet, there was absolutely none.  It was delightful, heart-warming, fun, and all sorts of amazing.  Charlotte and Nedy are peas in a pod, it turns out.  And watching them together was pure joy.  But I think the pictures say it better than I can.

"Wow, you're tall!" 
"Wow, you're not tall!" 
(Okay, they didn't say that, but I think they wanted to.)

5 minutes after meeting. 
(Sometimes you just have to get right down to business.)

Big sister gives a friendship bracelet tutorial.  This is serious stuff, people.

Exercising with chair arm protectors adorning one's head is CRAZY funny. 
In case you were wondering.

Farmer's Market!

Neighborhood party.

It's time for Pass the Nedy! 

Stewart and Jenn.  Just super great people. 
(And, yes, I most certainly did bring a Cheesehead gift.) 
(And, yes, Stewart most certainly did wear said Cheesehead
gift to the neighbor's party.) 

Sunday morning movie!  Inside Out. 

Dim Sum pile-up!

Venice Beach at Half Moon Bay

Some random red-headed human took this. 
And that's all I'm saying about that.

Yep, peas in a pod. 
Barefoot climbing.

Seaweed jump roping. 

Golden Girls!

Popsicle (organic, small batch, all-fruit models, of course--I love SF) with a view!

Redwood magic.  Beautiful, right?!

Peas.  In.  A.  Pod.

Nedy and Charlotte first bonded over the fawns in the yard the morning they met. 
So I got them fawns on our Monday adventure.  Sooooo cute.

Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park

Ummmmm...why do I have a comb-over, and perhaps more importantly,
why didn't the very fashionable Dane that took this picture tell me?!

Magical Japanese sodas with a glass marble inside that really pissed the gals off:
"Why would they make a soda with a marble that can't come out?! 
Don't they know children want to keep the marble?!"

Otter Pops.  Lots and lots of Otter Pops.

So there you have it!  An absolutely fantastic time.  Nedy and Charlotte have been Facetiming regularly since the trip.  Biggest topic of conversation?  Planning their next visit. 


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Clearwater, Florida (2/20-2/25/15)

My Mom, the kids and I went to Clearwater, Florida February 20-25.  For me, this meant long days in hotel conference rooms with an occasional escape to the (relative) warmth outside.  For them, it meant non-stop shell collecting, sand castle building, swimming, and just enjoying thawing out a bit.  We did have a couple days (Saturday and Wednesday) when I was able to join in the fun all day.  Since I had the hotel room anyway for my conference and flights were $150 out of Chicago, this was a total no-brainer in the midst of one of the coldest Februaries I can remember.   
Nedy was surprised to learn that children in Florida go to school when the weather is so beautiful.  I wonder how many Wisconsin kids think kids in warm climates just hang on the beach or at the pool all day, every day? 
These three are just a really good time.
Pirate Nana.  Aaaaargh.
Who doesn't love a good selfie?
"Look, Mama...I made a friend!"
This is the shot after I told Mom to stop looking sinister in every photo.  ;)
 Sometimes it's hard to believe my peanut is 7 already.
Nedy thoroughly checked every shell after accidentally bringing a few Florida
Fighting Conch back to the hotel with her the night before.  She collected enough
shells to bring back for her school class...they were all uninhabited, we hope...  
The marina is an exciting place.  Pelicans, egrets, and cranky fishermen. 
It was funny to watch the birds gather 'round and try to steal fish.
Kamron is an animal loving dude.  He hung around the pelicans talking to them,
asking them how they were doing and referring to them as "buddy"--super funny. 
They let him get quite close.  One time he got whacked with a running pelican's
wing and he thought that was absolutely hilarious.  Conversely, Nedy cowered and
screamed (a pitch not intended for human ears, mind you) when one swooped down
over her head.  In her defense, the thing was huge and resembled a pterodactyl. 
Little Toot is an awesome little restored 1970s tugboat that creates a wake that dolphins love to
play in.  We thought we'd give it a try.  Who doesn't like a tugboat ride in the Gulf of Mexico? 
Kam and Nana chilling out waiting for dolphins.
Still on the lookout...
Whoa!  Dolphins in the wild!  Sooooo cool. 
(And yes, I am pretty proud of that shot.)
The Jolly Trolley, our main mode of transportation around town.  
(Why do kids adore any form of transport that doesn't involve a seat belt?)  
At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium--you know, the home of Winter, the dolphin with a
prosthetic tail?  The Dolphin Tale movies put this very humble (think previous wastewater
treatment plant) aquarium on the map.  And now the aquarium is trying to catch up
to itself.  So, we saw the tailless dolphin from the top, because her tank is a big, ol'
concrete former wastewater treatment pool.  (Ummmm...yeah.  I'm glad they're building
a new aquarium right now.)  They have the most fantastic staff and amazing animals. 
We tried to feed the stingrays, but holding slimy fish between your fingers and allowing
a stingray to swim over your hand and suck it up is just...well, I dropped the fish
a couple times.  It's...unnerving.  I tried it so the kids would see me do it and hopefully
try it themselves.  Needless to say, my performance didn't instill confidence.   
"Did you take my picture hugging this giant turtle statue?"
A big highlight for future scientist Nedy was holding one of Winter's
prosthetic tails.  That rubber sock goes on her "stump" first and
protects her skin.  The kids found this absolutely fascinating.
Inspecting prosthetic dolphin tails is exhausting
(During this period, I found the Jolly Trolley particularly jolly.)
Nana is awesome because, among other things, she purchases
goofy hats for demanding children at the beach shop.
I think perhaps this is where the idea that Florida children must not go to school 
originated from.  She thought this was a superb way to spend a school day. 
These two (and their poolside Nana) spent 3-4 hours a day in the water.
Why aren't all pools salt water pools?   
We stayed at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort.  Lovely place.  Off the beaten
path with a gorgeous white sand beach.  It was really a great place for both
conferencing and tagging along!  (And yes, we are now the proud owners
of not one, but two tailless plush dolphins.  Good times.)
Kamron has an appropriate reaction to creepy things and creepy people.
For this, I am thankful.
Good times in Clearwater!  The kids are already wondering when we're going back.
(I told them to ask Nana.)