Sunday, April 6, 2008

I'm baaack (part 1)

Jeesh, where do I start? I didn't have much access to e-mail or internet while in Arizona, and none during my follow-up trip to New York, so I am unbelievably behind in my electronic communications. I'll try to hit the high spots in some kind of order.

Scenery: spectacular. (duh) You're looking at (among other things) the evening view from Dad's new dining room. The many different moods and colors of the mountains continue to amaze me. And at this time of year, the flowers are rioting, which caused a never-ending show of color. Also, who knew there were so many different species of hummingbirds in Arizona? They provided almost non-stop entertainment in the back yard.

Next, the nephews: an absolute delight. (Again, duh!) It amazes me how much the older boys have grown and developed in both their physical abilities and their interests and mental accomplishments. They are both progressing ahead of their age group in reading (as near as I can tell). P has become very interested in jokes, and took me on a bookstore search for "a book with one hundred million jokes that will make you laugh your head off." We found a pretty good approximation of that, and P carried the book (christened his "collection") around for the rest of the visit, reading from it out loud whenever he got the chance. B picked out the Complete Treasury of Curious George during the same shopping trip - you've got to love a kid who appreciates the classics.

When I got there on Sunday night, I was told that P was sharing the pull-out bed with me while B was sleeping with Grandpa - but that turned out to be a no-go after the first night, so I ended up sleeping between the two boys in the pull-out bed for the rest of the trip. It was like sleeping with kittens; they're warm, wiggly little things, a little unpredictable but not really a problem. B likes to burrow up in the morning when he's not quite awake, and it's an odd feeling to have this little kid trying to worm under you in the dim light. And P gave me a few kicks in his sleep, although they were apparently meant for his brother. But it was really great waking up with the two boys, and having those quiet morning conversations about what we were going to do that day or the artwork in our room or whatever. One drawback, though was I got a good dose of B's cold and was popping decongestants for the rest of the trip (6 more plane rides in total)!

The Easter Bunny also made a repeat performance, visiting Tucson on Monday night and leaving a batch of eggs and other Easter trinkets hidden all over Grandpa's back yard. It hurt my feet to see those little guys scampering all over the rocks and around the cactus barefoot, searching for Easter booty. But they were loving it, and apparently beyond any physical discomfort. (Besides, and my brother points out, they don't have a lot of weight pushing down on those little feet.) One of the big hits was a candy-filled (yet functional) Easter-themed flashlight for each of them, which traveled with us for the rest of the week and were put to repeated use.

We also made it to the Desert Museum and the Reid Park Zoo, with wonders to behold in each location. We especially liked spelunking in the cave exhibit, which not only gave us some relief from the Tucson sun but let the boys use their flashlights. And at the zoo, we were allowed to actually feed the giraffes, which was hysterically funny and just amazing to the boys. Imaging a 10" black tongue coming at you, and see how you'd react!

I accompanied Don & the boys to the local put-put course one morning, and was really impressed by how serious the boys were about standing with their feet apart and counting their strokes and all. Also, I suspect Don was the first one in some time to show up at the mini-golf course with his own ball and putter. He said he needed to work on his short game. :) I also introduced P & B to the wonders of skee ball at the adjacent arcade. P got so excited about the bowling that he would literally jump with excitement every time he let go of a ball. He really got the hang of it, and we earned half a dozen parachuting alien toys with our ticket winnings. Also, the mini-golf was such a hit that Julie and I brought the boys back the next day while the big boys (Don & Dad) were on the golf course. This time we went through the more challenging course, and once again the boys did us proud. Also, we discovered they had a "rookie" go-cart track that only required drivers to be 40" tall - you can imagine how well that went over!

And the pool - can't say enough good things about the pool. It was just down the street from Dad's house, and technically you were supposed to have a key from one of the residents to get in. B discovered in about the first 30 seconds how to unlock the gate with a towel and a little leverage, so we spent the next week trying to be sure the boys didn't make it in there unsupervised. The water in the pool itself was only around 60° - way too cold for me! But the hot-tub was downright civilized, and was plenty big enough to give our little guys room to goof around at a safe depth. Don also took them into the pool itself a couple of times, proving he's a lot braver than I am.

All in all, it was just an incredible opportunity to spend time with people I don't get to see nearly enough.
Knitting: I finished a cotton colorwork version of the baby sweater from "Simply Knitting" on Wednesday night, and was able to try it on the baby well before the weekend was out. I heard over and over again about how cotton would bleed if I tried to do colorwork with dark colors, but I'm hoping the pastel shades will be a little more friendly. The wave pattern is from the cowabunga hat pattern (, I think) and the blue is left-over from Dad's placemats. The yellow is the Daisy Ombre from Peaches 'n Creme, which shamelessly leaped off the shelf and into my shopping basket shortly before I left for Arizona.

Also, it was brought to my attention on Monday that the baby's shade hat didn't fit him as well as hoped, and he was going to need something to keep him unburned and properly covered. I ad lib'd this hat based on the bottom of the felted beer cozy, some extra eyelet rows and fat needles in the crown for ventilation, and then a brim stiffened with small needles, linen stitch and a lot of hope. It was still pretty floppy, and he was taken for a girl at least twice, but at least he was shaded and comfortable and stylish. It was also a handy thing for him to chew on when he wasn't wearing it, since he cut his first tooth over the week's visit. Oh, and the yarn is yet more of the blue Peaches 'n Creme left over from Dad's placemats. Don't ask me for the pattern - I didn't take notes, and doubt I could recreate it.

Other: Don and his crew had shipped out on Saturday, shortly after Lucas arrived. So Sunday afternoon Dad, Luc and I drove over to the Pima Air Museum to rubberneck at some old machinery. I saw a lot of strange contraptions and a few old friends. If you look closely at the vintage C-130 shown, you'll see the skis they attached to it's landing gear so it could land supplies in the Antarctic. And remember a few years ago when that scientist had breast cancer and had to be emergency evacuated from the station down there during the season when it was supposed to be impossible to reach? This is how the Herkey did it. (Okay, so I'm a bit proud of this.) They keep trying to replace Herkeys, but they can't seem to invent anything near as durable or flexible.

And Luc asked me to take this last picture, because he wants to build one. The original made several successful test flights, but always on a safety tether. It attaches to the operator using a standard parachute harness, and if you can land it flat it works like a charm. But if you land with the plane of the rotors tiped at all, you run a chance of the whirling rotors hitting the ground at operational speed, shattering, and then doing really damaging things to any object in range. Say, the soft tissue of the human operator? I pointed this out to Luc, but he doesn't see that as a real problem. (uh HUH.)

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