Monday, March 31, 2008

On Rereading Little House on the Prairie

As a child, I was a "Little House on the Prairie" nut. I read all the books (identifying with the adventurous, spunky Laura, of course, instead of the older, quieter, and more obedient Mary) and was devoted to the sometimes-sappy and not-altogether-faithful-to-the books television series starring the lovely Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert. I was touched by the fact that Melissa Gilbert, close to my age, ended up having a premature baby like I did. When we were traveling through the midwest when I was 16, I thought often of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her adventures, and we visited a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum.

I recently saw a web site by the actress that played wonderful villain Nellie Oleson, Alison Angrim, called "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch"! (I love it!)

Recently, I've been thinking of reading the Little House books with my children, although I'm sure they won't relate to them as easily as I did, thanks to their gender.

So imagine my delight today when I read this wonderful essay about the Little House books in one of my favorite e-zines, Literary Mama. Carol Paik, the author, perfectly captures why I so loved the series and views the world through the lens of Ma, instead of Laura. Now I really must go reread these books to bring back the memories and explore these stories with my children.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spring Break at the Beach!

The last three years we have taken more exotic trips for spring break--to New York City in 2005 and 2007, and to California in 2006. Chris was a bit disappointed to learn that we were going to the beach for spring break instead of somewhere more exciting...our kids are getting spoiled, I'm afraid, by all the travel they do.

We left Portland Sunday late afternoon, Easter, and got to my parents' beach house in Rockaway around 7 p.m. to have a late dinner. Despite all of our efforts to keep Nicholas away from the wood stove (which is the major source of heat in the house), he put his hand on the glass front that evening and got burnt. Talk about feeling like horrible parents!! We immediately flushed his hand in cold water, gave him Tylenol, and then cuddled him for awhile while he held his hand out (and called my sister for medical advice). That night his hand seemed to hurt him quite a lot, but by the next day he seemed unaffected and back to his usual energetic self. Unfortunately, big blisters formed on the pads of his fingertips, but they seem to be healing okay by now. We've tried to put band-aids on his fingers, but he protests mightily and they always seem to come off.

On Monday it was a beautiful day in spite of all forecasts of a rainy week, and we headed for Cannon Beach to take advantage of the weather. I got some good shopping in--a retirement gift for my good friend and colleague who was retiring last week, a birthday gift for my dad, and a gift for a birthday party Kieran is attending this week. And we had a nice visit to the beach. Except for a quick trip to the beach during a rain break on Tuesday, Monday was the extent of our beach time.

Tuesday the rain came and we stayed in most of the day. I actually practiced my mandolin! (Rare!) Tuesday evening my parents called to inform us that they were forecasting snow and we might want to head back that night. That sounded too exhausting and we didn't want to cut our trip instead we stuck to our plans to leave Wednesday.

However, we woke up Wednesday to SNOW!! At the beach!!! On spring break!!! We packed and cleaned as quickly as we could manage, with three kids, and headed home late morning. We took the long way around the coast range, where they were projecting heavy snow. It took us 3-1/2 hours to get home (it's usually a 2-hour journey), but it's a good thing we took the route we did, as they were requiring traction or chains over the mountains.

On Thursday I went back to work, and on Friday I did my usual work-at-home thing. Mike had to literally DRAG Kieran out of the house on Friday, protesting constantly, because he didn't want to be torn away from his drawing. He has become a little obsessive artist. No scrap of paper or pen is safe in our house...he insisted on cutting up a pizza box before we could recycle it. Not only are we getting constant drawings (and increasingly good ones, too!), but also he is creating "inventions" out of every possible useuable scrap. In the past couple of days we've seen a lot of spiders and butterflies. These are all supposedly for his birthday next weekend; however, I'm not sure how we will be able to clean up the house with all these huge quantities of art projects everywhere!!

Spring break is over today, and it has been a mightily bizarre spring break in Oregon. For much of the past several days, we've had alternating snow, rain, hail (which Kieran calls "hazelnuts"), and sun! It feels like Denver!

Here are some photos of the only nice beach time we had this week...

Nicholas adored the beach more than everyone else put together--
this photo looks a lot like me when I was a toddler!

Kieran's recent obsession with drawing meant
that he had to DRAW on the beach!

The sun was in our eyes--that's unusual in Oregon! :)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Healthy Easter Bunny, Church, and Cousins

When I was a child, our Easter egg hunts consisted of REAL eggs and a handful of jelly beans in our Easter baskets. Now Easter has become a celebration of CHOCOLATE. I love chocolate as much as the next estrogen-full human being...but this Easter-chocolate relationship is overdone.

This year our Easter Bunny decided that the kids end up with loads of candy on Easter via the egg hunt after church, not to mention the fact they often receive goodies from Grandma and Grandpa, and he stocked the Easter baskets with fruit snacks (a slightly healthier candy than chocolate) and a small toy and book apiece. The children hunted for the real eggs Kieran had dyed with his grandma. Did we ever hear complaints though!!!

And I come to find out that Kieran had his heart set on some chocolate bunny he had spied in the grocery store. The Hiding-the-Eggs Easter Bunny failed to communicate this fact to the Buying-the-Goodies Easter Bunny. They did indeed end up with plenty of chocolate, thanks to all the goodies they ended up scoring after church. And Kieran got his chocolate bunny, 50% off too! :) Such suckers we are for our children.

The children listening to the children's homily at church

Getting ready to sing

Hunting for eggs (inside, because of the rain)

Once Nicholas got a lollipop,
he wasn't interested in searching for any more eggs or candy!

We continued our usual tradition of taking Easter photos of the boys dressed up in their finery--that's Garrett in the middle, goofing off!

And here's all the cute boys and their parents together on one sofa!

It's almost time for our "lights out" for Earth Hour...the lanterns and flashlights will come on to get the boys into bed.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Turn Out Your Lights Saturday Night for 1 Hour!

I just signed us up for Earth Hour 2008, a global effort to turn off the lights for 1 hour across the globe. Started by the World Wildlife Fund in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, this year Earth Hour has stretched to at least 200 major cities across the globe (including 100 cities in North America).

It's the least we all can do to reduce our environmental footprint and make a statement about how important it is for individuals, corporations, and government entities to commit to saving our planet.

I hope you will join me in turning out the lights tomorrow at 8 p.m.!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Birthday to My Mr. Wonderful

Mike turns 45 today, at 11:55 p.m. to be precise. I just wanted to take a few minutes to celebrate his life on the planet.

When I was in college, I saw a therapist for a few months, and one of the things she had me do was to make a list of what I most wanted in a man. (I think it was connected to some ambivalence over my ex-boyfriend.) The lengthy list included characteristics such as "likes to sing," "confident," "appreciative," "integrity," "good sense of humor," "spiritual," "loves to read," "likes the outdoors," "likes travel," etc. After we'd been together for a few years, I found that list again in a stack of college papers. Mike fit the description to a tee. I must have been sending a message out into the universe or God or something like that, and my prayers were answered.

I fell in love with Mike through his letters. After we first met, he had a university friend visit for several weeks, and since she had a crush on him, sensitive soul that he is, he decided it would be better to let her down easily and tell her about me later in the visit. (He lived in Osaka and I lived in Wakayama, about 50 miles away.) So for the first month, we wrote letters to each other. He charmed me through his romantic, funny, beautiful letters, which I will always treasure. After that first month apart, we became inseparable on the weekends. We were disgustingly sappy and affectionate...I'm sure we sickened everyone around us. We scandalized the prim Japanese by snogging (gotta love that British term) right out in the open in front of everyone...I distinctly remember making out on a major bridge in the middle of Osaka the first night we got together after that month apart. Shocking!!!

First early days in love--on a Wakayama beach--22 and 24 years old!

I feel exceptionally lucky to have found a life partner whose company I enjoy so much. When we left Japan, we traveled for 2-1/2 months through Asia, together 24 hours a day. With the exception of one tiny little spat (which lasted for about 1/2 hour), we never tired of one another's company. If a couple can travel in developing countries together and enjoy the experience, I'd say they're set for life! We slept in dilapidated hotel rooms, rode camels across the desolate Indian desert led by crazy guides who could have robbed us and left us for dead!, wined and dined in hole-in-the-wall restaurants and a few fancy spots, stayed on the beach in Java, Indonesia, and in the forest in Ubud, Bali, stayed in a lake palace hotel in India accessible only by boat, rode the train throughout Asia, and had fantastic adventures.

Initially, our mutual interests drew us together, and I appreciate the fact that we are so compatible in books, music, movies, theater, travel, and other activities. But beyond that, I am truly grateful to be married to Mike because he is so compassionate, kind, and loving. He is such a fun and playful dad. He would NEVER forget my birthday, Valentine's Day, or our anniversary. Although we don't have as much time for romance and soulful conversation as we did before having three children, I look forward to the days when we can focus more on each other once again. I look forward to growing old with Mike at my side, partners in life and in love. Happy birthday, my darling. Here's to another 45 (or more) wonderful years!!

Celebrating my birthday last October at a night out with friends

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Rolling Exhibition

I just read about this guy who was born without legs, Kevin Connolly, who has "turned the watchers into the watched." He takes photos of the countless strangers who blatantly stare at him wherever he goes (documented in "The Rolling Exhibition"). After reading about him and watching the video clip, I was stunned to discover that he's only 22 years old and is about to graduate from college with a photography degree. He seems so much more mature and wise than 22 years usually bring.

I have a coworker who was a Thalidomide victim--he has one arm, which is shorter than usual and has only 2 fingers and a thumb. I find him to be incredibly inspiring. He keyboards and does basic tasks a bit slower than most people, but he hasn't let his disability slow him down. In fact, he's quite a fearless driver and loves to ski and do other fast activities...much like Kevin Connolly. He's also the father of two school-aged children and has a wicked sense of humor.

Even though my birth defects (cleft lip and palate) are extremely minor in comparison to these two men, I do believe that my hardships have made me a stronger, more resilient person. Here's to the courage and chutzpah of Kevin Connolly and my colleague Dave!

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Little Break Dancers

Nicholas' very favorite pastime has become the web site JibJab, and in particular this video. Every time we play it he giggles throughout the song, and when my laptop is closed, he will go over and try to open it so he can see it again. He even says "Jibjab!"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

On the Heels of My Post about Patriotism and Citizenship...

George Speaks, Badly...

I just had to post this link to an article by Gail Collins in today's New York Times online. I believe that every citizen has the right to vote for whomever he or she believes would be best prepared to be president (or governor, or senator, or whatever) is the most important right, often taken for granted, of a citizen. I have never failed to vote--I take this right very, very seriously and would feel horribly guilty if I didn't vote.

HOWEVER...I have a very, very hard time understanding how anyone in his or her right mind could have voted for George W. Bush not only once, but TWICE!!! W truly does make me embarassed to be an American. I'm counting the days until he is out of office. I just googled "Bush countdown new president" and found all sorts of products and websites tracking the number of months, days, and minutes until we have a new president. Have we as a country ever had a president who caused so many people to count the days until he's out?

10 months, 7 days, 14 hours, 56 minutes, 40 seconds...

I like this line in Collins' op ed piece, sad as it is:

"The country that elected George Bush — sort of — because he seemed like he’d be more fun to have a beer with than Al Gore or John Kerry is really getting its comeuppance."

This country is getting more than its comeuppance...we are getting a horrible legacy of shames and misdeeds that will take decades to clean up.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Our Newest U.S. Citizen!

I wouldn't call myself the most patriotic of Americans. Since Bush has been in office, I have to admit to being ashamed of being an American. Even before this dark and embarassing chapter in this nation's history, I've been ashamed of a great deal of what has been done in our country's name. Killing innocent civilians in Vietnam, looking the other way repeatedly when horrific crimes were being committed in Latin America, supporting dictatorial regimes, abusing and terrorizing people of every color, interning Japanese-Americans, violating civil rights, you name it...

When we were in SeaWorld in Florida in February, they made a big deal of recognizing those in the military--before the Shamu show, they asked all active and retired military to stand up and everyone applauded...I'm almost embarassed to say that it brought tears to my eyes! Not because I'm patriotic, but because I absolutely ache to imagine what it is like for people stationed in the Middle East or anywhere else to leave their families behind, and what it must be like for those families who don't know for sure that their loved ones will come home again. This war is just going on and on and on, with no hope of ending. It's almost as if we've all become used to it.

With that perspective, it has been very interesting to watch Mike go through the citizenship process. Last summer he decided to take the plunge and become a U.S. citizen, primarily because the price doubled and he wanted to get in before the price hike. The upcoming presidential election offered another compelling reason. He hasn't been able to vote in the UK for the past 5 years or so, because they allow expats to vote for only a limited number of years. Since we vote by mail in Oregon, I allow Mike to seal my ballot for me--so he's been voting only vicariously through me!

When we told our friends Lynn and Jolie last summer that Mike was planning to become a citizen before the price went up, Lynn offered to host a fundraising event to raise the extra Mike could make a statement by waiting until we had a new president. (I can totally relate to that notion--sort of like why I wanted my kids to be baptized Lutheran instead of Catholic because of all of the disagreements I have with the Pope, and not wanting him to get any more members!) However, Jolie and I pointed out that we could actually use Mike's vote to elect that new president...which made Lynn rethink that idea.

The Department of Homeland Security has been indundated with passport applications since the price went up, so we weren't sure whether Mike would be able to vote in the primary...although I suppose that's one other advantage of Oregon's late primary.

Yesterday he went in for his interview and test, and as I knew he would, he passed with flying colors. I imagine that most naturalized American citizens would not be able to pass the test. Here is an example of a test. He had to answer six questions and then write a couple of sentences. At every juncture (paper and oral), there was a big emphasis on Mike's willingness to bear arms for his country! It's a good thing he's 45 years old and unlikely to be drafted!

Today at the swearing-in, Mike had to foreswear allegiance to any other country, take a vow, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and watch a few patriotic-type videos (including a message from George W. Bush talking about the importance of respecting other individuals' rights--HA!). The whole thing ended with a video of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA," with images of the country...which made both of us think of right-wing conservatives!

Taking the oath of citizenship

Receiving his certificate

The children were very excited about the whole process. Last night, however, Kieran announced that he wasn't going to the ceremony because he didn't want to have to answer all the questions! (He thought he'd have to take the test, too--Chris had been helping Mike review for the test.) Then this morning he announced that there would be a volcano explosion at the end of the ceremony--what an imagination!

We took Chris out of school this morning so he could attend. When Mike took him back to school, Chris introduced him to the school secretary as "The Newest American Citizen!"

Last night we went out to dinner to celebrate. Mike is very excited to register to vote--that's the next big milestone.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The ongoing saga in the fight over my primary vote

I realize that many of my readers are Obama supporters, and as many of you know, I've been leaning toward Hillary based on her experience and strengths, while also valuing what Obama brings to the campaign. The news in the past week has been very disappointing.

I just sent this e-mail to the Hillary Clinton for President web site, in the hopes that I can have a tiny shred of influence on the way she's campaigning:

I have always been a Hillary supporter, but recently my support has been wavering. I'm also an Oregon voter, and have not yet cast my primary vote. I have now moved to "undecided" based on some of Hillary Clinton's and the campaign's actions in the past week:

--Likening Obama to Kenneth Starr...really, was that low and completely inaccurate statement necessary? All for challenging Clinton to release her tax returns???

--Saying that McCain is better prepared to be commander in chief than Obama is...Hillary's ego is getting in the way of the unification of the Democratic party. Don't imply that McCain is a better choice than the other Democrat, for God's sake!!!

--Finally, implying that Obama could be a Muslim. Not only is that intolerant of the Muslim faith, but as you know it's also inaccurate and casts aspersion on his profession of the Christian faith and his integreity. "As far as I know"????

I really want us to elect our first woman president, and I believe that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person for the job...but I'm disgusted by these recent actions and questioning my support. This is not the way I would like my president to behave. I want a president with integrity and one who respects other human beings, especially fellow Democrats.

I also want a Democratic party that is not left in tatters at the end of this election...and more than anything, I want a Democratic president, be it Clinton or Obama. Not McCain.

From a now-undecided voter

Happy International Women's Day!

I don't know how to post a YouTube video directly on my blog, so instead take a look at this link to the Feministing blog...she has a wonderful video of Candace Bergen and the muppets in honor of this day!

You go, Candace!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Oh No! So Much for Snow Ice Cream!!

Now that I've hooked Kieran on making snow ice cream, I'll have to cross my fingers that he'll forget all about it next winter. According to new research, snow contains large quantities of bacteria, and given air pollution as well, experts advise against eating a lot of snow. Generally, that is not an issue...but in snow ice cream? Take a look at that big bowl in Kieran's arms.

What is the world coming to???

Airborne, a Scam?

My mom has always been skeptical of the benefits of the product Airborne. I have been taking it today because I seem to have contracted yet another virus and am praying that it goes away or gets better by tomorrow, when I board a plane for Denver.

I first heard about Airborne from a coworker who travels a lot, and I buy it regularly at Costco and use it whenever I feel a cold coming on.

This just in: Airborne has settled a class action lawsuit, which accused the company of false advertising. Apparently when the company started, it claimed that it could cure a cold in 1 hour! That's preposterous! Basically, it's mega doses of Vitamin C, which of course cannot hurt, but to promise a 1-hour cure? Airborne has scaled back its promises since those initial claims, but the public has bought into the claims anyway.

The company claimed to have tested the product's effectiveness through a double-blind study...but investigators discovered that the research team consisted of a 2-person startup operation, and one of the researchers claimed to have a degree from Indiana University, which proved to be untrue. That fact alone makes me feel cheated.

Have you been shelling out top dollar for Airborne? If so, you are eligible to get your money back! Even if you do not have proofs of purchase (we don't save our receipts for more than 1 year), you can claim your costs for six boxes. Click here to file a claim.

And yes, Mom, you're right.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

February in Florida, Part 5--Final Days

Saturday morning we vacated our lovely condo and headed north on our long drive to Tallahassee. In previous trips, I'd been to Cocoa Beach and St. Petersburg, but not really anywhere else in Florida. Little did I know that the stretch from Orlando to Tallahassee is one of the most boring drives possible! Our trip became more eventful when Kieran vomited in his car seat--his turn to get the stomach flu (little did we know, which would beset our family for 2 weeks to come). Quick stop to clean his car seat and grab some fresh clothes for him out of the suitcase, and then on our way again. We stopped in a truck-stop style Burger King for lunch (ugh!), for lack of any other options.

The drive took about 4-1/2 hours, and by the time we arrived at the hotel, everyone was in a panicked state. Mike's mum apparently wouldn't even leave the hotel earlier that day because she was so worried about us arriving in time! We arrived at the hotel an hour and a half before the wedding, which I thought was plenty of time, but everyone was in a tizzy (including Mike). Our full family attendance at the wedding was in question because Kieran did not look at all well. He somehow pulled it together and allowed himself to be dressed up and dragged off to the church. We found a pew in the back and waited for 1/2 hour for the wedding to start! :)

When I met Mike over 21 years ago, he told me that he had relatives in Florida, and that was the only part of the U.S. he'd ever seen. I jokingly told him that Florida wasn't really the U.S. (what did I know? I'd never been there!). Mike's mum's brother Alex married an American woman, Nancy, had three daughters, and then very sadly and suddenly died at a very young age (in his 40s). Now all of Mike's cousins are married and have children, and the wedding was for one of the children, Matt.

Matt and his bride were very young, and I think all of us baby boomers and Gen-Xers were feeling our age quite a bit! The wedding itself was beautiful and very traditional (not really my style, personally).

At any rate, the nice features of this wedding were (1) the bride and groom, followed by the wedding party, the grandparents, and the parents, to a hip hop song!; (2) the bride made a gorgeous wedding album with photos of the couple for people to sign messages (instead of the traditional bridal ledger); (3) each family staying in the hotel received a gift bag with a photo of the wedding couple, info on Tallahassee, and cookies and snacks; and (4) they gave out jars of local honey as favors and threw Honey-Nut Cheerios at the couple (instead of the traditional rice or birdseed--apparently H-N Cheerios is the bride's favorite cereal).

Kieran survived the wedding fine (with a plastic bag in hand, just in case). We drove off to the reception and found it absolutely packed. Not an empty table in sight. We hovered outside on the porch for awhile, and after seeing how puny Kieran looked (in spite of actively climbing the jungle gym after the wedding) and the lateness of the hour, I suggested that Mike take me and the two younger boys back to the hotel. Chris stayed with Mike's mum and the rest of the relatives.

It was quite a drive back and we were pretty sure given the wedding crowds that Mike would miss the food at the wedding. So we stopped at a supermarket and I raced in to buy a frozen meal for me and a fried chicken meal for Mike. (I figured he deserved a treat because of all that driving and missing the wedding meal, and fried chicken is one of his favorites.) It's a good thing we did stop, because he did miss the food at the wedding.

Kieran immediately fell asleep, so it was a good call. When Nicholas also settled down, I spent the evening calling my mom, channel surfing, and eventually settling on the movie "Miracle," about the U.S. Olympics hockey team's gold medal season, with my Lean Cuisine and my glass of red wine.

Mike returned later with Chris in tow and reported that the reception music had been so loud that people could not hear each other talk! He then said he'd been invited to go out for a drink with two of his cousins' husbands. I encouraged him to go--why not make the most of the time he had with his relatives--and eventually I fell asleep. It turns out he had a highly provocative political discussion with them! When he returned to the hotel room, he found himself locked out. When I stay in hotels, I always lock the deadbolt and the bar across the door. Well, of course I didn't put the little bar across the door, but I did deadbolt the door for security purposes. I didn't realize that he wouldn't be able to get in with his key!

We were staying in a handicapped accessible room, so when his key failed to work, he pushed a little alarm button outside of the front door, and a light in the room went on with a little alarm...but then it would go off again. This happened a few times, and I was just about to get up and call the front desk to see whether we were having a fire alarm (thinking to myself of the potential joy of evacuating 3 children, one of them sick, during a fire alarm!!), when Mike rang my cell phone. This all occurred around 12:30 a.m., so I was very bleary-eyed to say the least!

By the next morning, Kieran had rallied again and seemed mostly recovered but tired. We hung out in the hotel most of the morning and into early afternoon, and I finally met the bride in person (the wedding couple stopped by the hotel to say their goodbyes to family). Many of the family members, including Mike's mum, were going off to stay in a beach house Mike's cousin Tanya and her cousin Stan (who currently live in Chicago) rented, about 45 minutes from Tallahassee.

Chris and his cousin Anna (the last time we saw Anna was when we visited her family in Laguna Beach, CA, in October 2002, when Chris was 6 and Anna was 3 or 4)

Kieran visiting his Grandma England's room
while we were getting packed up and ready to check out

Big Nicholas (aged 4), Tanya, Aunty Nancy, and the new baby Alison
(Mike's cousin's granddaughter)

Chris and Nick

Stan with Chris and his son Nick

The two Nicholases exploring the Toyota Prius together

Mike with Olga, hamming it up in Kieran's Pluto hat (Mike and I agreed that Olga seemed very happy and healthy in Florida...I think being with her sister-in-law is rejuvenating for her. They seem to really enjoy each other's company. We told her that she should become a Missouri Synod Lutheran and move to Florida! Aunty Nancy lives in a Missouri Synod Lutheran retirement area.)

Olga with me and Nicholas

The sisters-in-law together

On our trip back down to Orlando, we arranged to pay a quick visit to an old friend in Gainesville. We knew Jo during our lives in Japan--she is half Japanese and half American, and her husband is Japanese. They had an adorable little daugher (who was 3 when we first met her) named Megumi, or Meg. Jo was the senior English teacher at the women's junior college I taught at my first year in Japan. In fact, one of the first places that Mike and I went as a "couple" after we started dating was to Jo & Yoichi's house in Osaka for lunch.

They moved back to Florida in the 90s, but for the past several years, Jo and Yoichi have had a transcontinental marriage, as he lives in Tokyo and she lives in Gainesville. The last time we saw them was in 1995, before children, when we met them for a day in the Magic Kingdom. We'd fallen out of touch over the years, but I was able to locate an e-mail address for Jo on the internet, and we arranged to stop in on our way down south.

It was fun to catch up and see Meg, who has now grown into a bright, beautiful young woman with two bachelor's degrees and who is currently studying intensive Japanese in Tokyo, living with her dad. We were very lucky to catch her at home on a brief hiatus from school.

Nicholas admiring the tiny daschund with a big bark, Mikan (Japanese for orange)--at first he was terrified of her (while fascinated at the same time), but eventually he grew brave enough to go up and pet her

Kieran, Meg, Mikan, and Nicholas (we didn't even try to talk Chris into going near her--he seems to have a terrible fear of dogs, based on a few dogs jumping up on him
and a neighbor's dog giving him a nip)

Meg, Jo, and Mikan

All of us, 20+ years after Japan!

On our last evening we stayed at the Embassy Suites near the airport because we had an early flight out the next day. We were astonished to see the astronomically long lines for security at the airport, and it gave me a renewed appreciation for our wonderful PDX airport. The flight home went smoothly, although again I did end up holding Nicholas for part of the way. We had a layover in Dallas, and we were all happy to arrive home in PDX, with no stomach ailments having occurred on the airplane!

Toward the end of the visit, Kieran began berating us for taking him out of preschool. He was upset to miss his Valentine's Day party, but I found it interesting that all the complaining started AFTER the visits to the theme parks. He now is also tying our Florida trip into the illness that has plagued our family for the past 2 weeks. It's true that Chris and Kieran first got sick there, but I would hardly blame Florida. He has had to miss another week of preschool because of his relapsed stomach bug. Tomorrow he will return to school, and I'm hoping that he will return to his mostly happy self! This morning he announced that he wanted to be taken out of preschool to go to Hawaii, and I told him that I was not going to fall for that trick!

Florida is fun to visit every once in awhile, but we were all happy to return home!