Saturday, June 29, 2002

While the kids are watching Airbud number however many, I thought I'd update my blog. Phew, I tell you, alone with 2 six year olds is no picnic, however fun! They're still so constant and they're like brother and sister, playing wonderfully one minute, arguing the next.

So I've kept them really busy. Yesterday, after Rick and the kids left, Lauren came to babysit and I went off to the gym. My friend had called the night before to ask if I could be of moral support to her at the courthouse around noon, when she would have her child support and custody hearing, her soon to be ex-husband has turned into a veritable monster!

So I rushed through my workout, but then she called to say that the hearing likely wouldn't start till one and at 12:30, she called to say, it wouldn't be worth it for me to come, because the hearing would likely be over by the time I got there. Today I heard from her that, thankfully, the judge awarded her more money, than the state of Virginia schedule dictates. But her husband had been so spiteful and hateful, that she was quite distraught from the whole affair. I was sorry I couldn't be of more support than to lend a sympathetic ear.

Since my afternoon had opened up and the kids didn't want to go to Saskia's camp, I decided to allow them to do arts and crafts in the basement (they've been quite creative so far and are coloring again now) and meanwhile vacuum and clean the kitchen and bathrooms.

At around 4:30pm I took them to the mall, to the Disney Store, where they both selected a toy. And then we went to dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. I had the Leaping Lizzard appetizer: lettuce leaves for wraps and chicken, salad and noodles to put in them. It's really quite delicious and plenty for a dinner.

For dessert, the kids got an ice cream from Dairy Queen. At Blockbuster's they selected the Airbud movie they're watching now and a Scooby Doo one.

During the Scooby Doo, Thomas kept falling asleep, but refused to go to bed. Saskia was quite tired too, but equally fighting sleep. Finally, at 10:30, I had both in bed and asleep.

This morning they were up bright and early at 7am, but thankfully quietly watched tv until 8. Then they had breakfast and we watched some replay soccer of the Turkey-Korea match. Then they played cops and robbers and Sims on the computer, while I exercised (and watched National Lampoon's European Vacation).

Around noon, we had lunch and got ready for the pool. We went swimming until 3:45. This was the first time this season the pool was warm enough for me to swim! It felt great!

After my shower, we went to the Hey Arnold movie. The kids loved it. I have to say, this was the type of movie, that parents go to purely for their kids' enjoyment. I looked at my watch numerous times.

Last but not least, we ate dinner at Chevy's, where the kids got tortilla dough to play with. All in all a successful day. I'll be glad to get some adult company tomorrow though!!

I'll have to write my happy moments tomorrow, I'm too tired now, though there were plenty. Spending the day with kids never fails to supply a good amount :).

Thursday, June 27, 2002

I could barely get myself out of bed this morning! I'm so tired from everything going on lately! And tomorrow won't be any better, as Rick has decided to leave at 7am for Michigan. Of course, I'll want to get up to wave them goodbye -- yawn!! But I can understand his desire to get going early, so that they get there at a decent time.

Today, Marie Anne left at 9:45 to go to Wheeling, WV for her meeting and Lauren, our babysitter arrived around that time to entertain the kids. The kids had a blast with her, first they did crafts and then they went to the pool for an hour.

Meanwhile, Katja slept and I went to the gym. I worked out with my mom for a change and we had a nice conversation. She told me she didn't want to do anything for July 4th, so our plans are still way up in the air for that day. It seems so far off anyway.

After the gym, I quickly got some groceries and my medicine from CVS and then rushed home. Quickly ate lunch and when the kids came home from the pool, all of us (except Lauren, who had to leave) went to Borders, as Katja had lamented that she had no books for her stay at her grandfather's house.

Memo to self: never take 4 kids interested in reading to Borders! I spent $150!!! But somehow, I can't feel badly about spending money on books and about seeing kids enthused about reading.

After Borders, we went to Michael's, because some of our craft supplies were running low (I have a big craft supplies closet in the basement, I like to keep it stocked with things like pompoms, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, beads, felt etc.). Again, not a smart thing to do with 4 kids in tow! Again, I can't feel badly about spending on materials for creative development, as I keep comparing 4 happy kids around the art table (as they still are now at 10:30 at night!!!) to 4 kids zonked out in front of the tv. Gee, tough choice to make, which would I rather have?

Anyway, we came away with a basket full of craft stuff and for the rest of the afternoon, they painted, cut, pasted and beaded.

Rick came home early and we went to have quick dinner at Chili's . They have the best crab quesadilla's!!

And then Lilo and Stitch. I have never heard Saskia laugh so hard in any other movie!! It was a really cute movie, I can't see how any child could be scared at all. Unlike the usual Disney movies, there is no definite villain and the general message is a good one: family is important, no one gets left behind. Very cute!

And now we work on getting everyone to bed, not an easy feat!

Things that made me happy:
1. Saskia's belly laughs at the movie
2. Having 4 happy kids in the car after they each got at least one book at Borders. For some reason, happiness about books makes me feel really good.
3. When Katja helped Saskia and Thomas with their art projects, how I'll miss her and Kai in the coming weeks!
4. Kai sitting next to me at the theatre
5. Rick telling Katja to keep a tally of how often I'll call to see if they're still ok tomorrow on their big trip :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

At 5:45 this morning, my wonderful husband got up and got ready to go get my friend Marie Anne and her son Thomas at the airport. I need to take medicine each night to sleep through and it makes me feel dizzy and groggy in the early morning. I felt badly not being able to go get my best friend, since I rarely get to see her, so Rick offered to go. I really appreciated that and Marie Anne too.

At 7:30, they were here and it was great to see them again! I had last seen Thomas when he was about 9 months old, so needless to say, he had changed dramatically, LOL! He is a fun little boy. Both Kai and Saskia are wanting his attention and they got along quite well. Starting Friday, it'll just be Thomas, Saskia and I for a few days, so I'm sure we'll have lots of fun, the 3 of us.

After breakfast and a quick workout and shower upstairs for me, the kids had become very busy. They were cooped up, because it was just too hot for them to play outside. So we decided to go downtown.

We took Metro to the Smithsonian stop and got out to see the Silk Road exhibit on the Mall. Every 4th of July week, there is such an exhibit. Very interesting! But hot!

The kids got an ice cream and drinks and we walked on to the Carousel. Of course we couldn't pass that by without a ride!

Then on to the National Air and Space Museum, a fantastic museum, always! Security at the entrance of the Smithsonian museums has become much tighter than before September 11th. Good, I think. Walking in, the first view is of several airplanes hanging from the top. Amazing how huge this building is, it houses several full size planes!
We walked through the "How to Fly" exhibit, with much hands on stuff for the kids. Then the universe area. And upstairs, the Skylab and the Apollo exhibit.

By then, jet lag started to bother Marie Anne and Thomas and Saskia was downright exhausted. So we went to the store, which is absolutely great!

Then outside again, back to the Carousel for one last ride. The skies were getting ominously dark, so we quickly took Metro back. The storm was much less than what it looked to be, fortunately.

Once home, Saskia, Thomas and Marie Anne basically collapsed and Rick, the older kids and I ate dinner. Saskia is back up now, after a good nap. Another fun day under our belts!

Happy moments:
1. Seeing Marie Anne after more than a year.
2. Seeing the Mall in DC again, it's like a mini vacation every time we go there
3. The feeling of the airconditioning when we entered the Air and Space Museum. Heaven!
4. The first sip of cold water after standing in the sun to watch the kids on the carousel (can you tell it was a hot day?? ;))
5. The prospect of going to bed early tonight and reading my Enid Blyton series book

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Wow, what an adventurous and emotional weekend we had! It all started around 1pm on Friday, when I picked Rick up from his work and we went on our way up to Massachusetts to visit my sister and her family for my sister's 30th birthday.

I drove the first part of the way and traffic was in a word horrendous!!! And all the tolls on I-95 slowed us down by at least 15 minutes each. Grrr!! We thought the Garden State Parkway would be a good alternative to 95 around New York, but we'll never know, as we had quite a few backups there too. Finally, when we crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge, traffic got back, but we were still 4 hours away from our destination.

So, at a stop at McDonald's for dinner (they now have a great chicken wrap, yum!), I called my brother-in-law to give an update. Thursday night, my sister and her three months old baby had made a nasty fall and she had been to the doctor earlier in the day to make sure the baby was ok. She had called me to say the doctor gave the green light, so when my brother-in-law told me she had taken the baby to the hospital, a cold hand gripped my heart.

My brother-in-law said he was fairly certain the baby was ok, but he was not really using one of his legs and my sister was concerned about that.

We drove and drove and finally arrived at their house at 11pm with 3 exhausted kids. My brother-in-law meanwhile, was in a frenzy, as my sister had called and my nephew's femur was fractured. So they were going to Children's Hospital by ambulance for a cast and my brother in law wanted to of course go and help her out.

So we stayed behind with our 3 kids and my 12 year old stepnephew. The kids were playing a little more, but at 12:30, we all went to bed.

At 1:30, my sister called to say they were at Children's, the orthopedist was about to come and tell them what needed to happen.

The next thing I know, it's 8am and my brother is calling to wish my sister a happy birthday. At that point, I didn't know if they had made it home from the hospital or not. But 10 minutes later, there was my sister with her little boy and a bright red cast on his leg.

It was so hard on them, you want your little baby to be totally unblemished and of course it's easy to blame yourself for a fall. But I hope they can see, that this can happen to anyone and that he will heal and be fine.

They only came home at 5:15 am, so none of us got much sleep. We kind of hung around and ate a delicious breakfast my BIL cooked and then all had a nap. Meanwhile, it started raining, scratching our plans for a walk on the beach.

At 7pm we made our way to Woodman's, where we had great lobster and fried scallops. Yum!!

On Sunday morning, we had breakfast at the local hangout and then at 11am took off for home.

We made good time and had good weather, until we got to New York City, where traffic came to a halt. As we were waiting, Rick longingly said how much fun it would be, to just go into the city, book a hotel and stay the night.

As we were thinking about it, we couldn't find a reason why not. So we called our pet care person and made sure she could take care of them for one more day and then called to make a reservation at the Grand Hyatt at Grand Central Station.

And less than a half hour later, we were in the Lincoln Tunnel making our way into New York City. After checking into the hotel, we took a cab to our restaurant, a fun Asian place, Ruby Foo's. They had the most wonderful sushi rolls! We could have eaten many more, but like everything in New York, the bill was high enough already!

After dinner, we walked to Times Square and shopped at the Virgin Mega Store, where I found the DVD of a Dutch movie "Soldier of Orange" and we almost lost Saskia, thankfully, security found her. That was a scary moment!! I carried her the rest of the night, as I was too worried I'd lose her again!

Walking through a dark and nicely lit New York City, we made our way back to the hotel. There we had dessert and then it was off to bed. We were all asleep in no time.

In the morning we were awakened by the knock of the room service steward. We had ordered a continental breakfast between the 5 of us, as each breakfast was $17 and up and way too expensive for a family of five to afford! So we shared the 3 rolls and the tea and coffee and Rick took the kids to McDonald's across the street later, where he fed all of them for $14.

I, in the meantime, made my way to the exercise room of the hotel, state of the art, on the 35th floor. After an hour of exercise I went back to the room, got showered and took the kids on a walk to the Empire State Building, while Rick worked.

We didn't go up this time, but just looking up and not being able to see the top was worth the walk to the kids (and me). Even Saskia didn't complain about walking the 8 numbered blocks and 2 avenues.

Back at the hotel, we checked out and got tickets to the Gray Line downtown loop tour. This is the hop on-hop off double decker, that takes you through Greenwich Village, SoHo, Financial District to Battery Park, from where the Statue of Liberty can be seen.

We first had lunch at the Judson Grill, a nice place with good soft shell crabs for me.

Then off to the Toys R Us Superstore at Times Square. That's an impressive store!! It has a 4 story ferris wheel in the store and the Legos Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and Statue of Liberty are fun too.

After looking around that store, we went to the Gray Line stop on Times Square and boarded the bus to Battery Park. It took about an hour and 15 minutes to make our way to Battery Park.

Our plan was to walk to the edge of the water and look at the Statue of Liberty in the distance (no time for the ferry this time) and then walk up to see Ground Zero.

I have to admit to being slightly nervous to go there. We had previously wondered when we would have the nerve to go there and here it was.

The site of the WTC buildings is mostly characterized by light, where there was none before. Space, where there was none before. Two gaping holes where the buildings once stood. A fence around it all and a wooden walkway to walk around and see.

What were my impressions? I had to swallow back tears when I saw it all. Here stood the two most magnificent buildings I'd ever seen in my life and now... nothing. Not a trace of a building. But the surrounding buildings are still standing and some are badly damaged. One is wrapped in a black tarp and it's quite high and a flag and a banner are displayed high up. Another is wrapped in burlap, or something similar. The scene is grim.

On a red door we pass, hundreds of fire company badges are displayed. A sign read "no pictures please". I couldn't tell if it meant no pictures of the badges, or if it was from earlier days, when so much wreckage and carnage was still visible.

Across the street, the Trinity church stood. An old church, surviving the collapse of those 2 huge buildings so close by. The graveyard is covered in thick, gray dust. Some tombstones are covered in plastic. The entire fence around the church is covered with pictures of victims, letters by mourners, signs from all around the world, very touching.

In a recent article, a journalist wrote the site didn't affect him much, it was "just" a construction site. I can't imagine feeling that way at the sight of it all, even if it is cleaned up. I felt anger, sadness, awe and much more. May the victims rest in peace and may nothing like this happen again.

The kids had many questions. Saskia was again most concerned about any children involved. All 3 were solemn and impressed.

As we were there, lots of fire trucks pulled up and today we heard they're still looking for remains in the buildings surrounding the WTC.

We tried to get a cab back to the hotel, but they were all full. Thankfully a limo driver pulled up and took us instead.

After a quick and light dinner at the hotel, we got our car and started making our way home. We drove through 2 serious thunderstorms, exciting, but slowing us down. Still, it took us only 3 1/2 hours to get home, making New York City a lot closer than it always seemed.

A truly exciting weekend for sure! Today was spent cleaning up, getting the older kids a haircut and getting Rick's car back from the shop.

Tomorrow, very early morning, my friend Marie Anne and her little boy, Thomas are arriving from Singapore.