Monday, May 29, 2006

Welcome To Vancouver

Although we didn’t stay out very late on our last night of the cruise, we went to bed and died; and didnĂ‚’t stir until 8 something in the morning when the voice of the lady calling luggage tag colors for departure finally penetrated the fog of sleep. We eventually extracted ourselves from bed and began getting ready to get off the boat. Although everyone was dressed and all our carry-off stuff was stowed, we didn't bother to vacate our suite until the nice lady on the PA admonished everyone still hiding in their cabins to get out and into a public space.

We found a nice couch in the Centrum area of our deck to perch on and I slipped off to the buffet and returned with a plate of munchies to sustain us until we could get lunch on land. Apparently Tenley didn't like the fact that I went to the buffet without her, and pitched a royal fit in my absence. By the time I returned, she had driven off the couple on the sofa opposite us. They were polite: they waited until a tag color was called, but Jeff heard the woman say to her husband "let's find somewhere else to sit".

Eventually Purple 7 was called and we joined the herd that was slowly migrating back to civilization. If you've never cruised, this is the part of the experience that generally sucks: it's early, your vacation is over, and you stand in a long line into a large area at the port where you get to play Indiana Jones and try to excavate your luggage, and then stand in another long line to go through customs, and then a really long line to catch a taxi. It's alot of hurry up and wait; which is why we laughed out loud at the coiffed woman in the red blazer (either a frequent cruiser, or a travel agent is our guess) who was giving hell to the port marshall about having to wait ("I KNOW our luggage is there!! I can't believe you're keeping us here. I want to speak to someone!"). Ironically, all the luggage wasn't out so even if she had gotten through, she might have been screwed.

After our endless parade through the lines we caught a taxi to the Granville Island Hotel, which I love because it's actually on the Island and that means you're very centrally located to a great many of the kid-friendly activities Vancouver has to offer. After we got checked in and settled into our room, we decided to walk over to the Public Market for some lunch and then catch an Aquabus to the World of Science.

The Granville Island Public Market is one of my favourite places. It's alot like the Farmer's Market in LA, except that it's all in one building with a large patio overlooking the False Creek Harbor. Tenley was dazzled by the meat, pasta and bakery shops, and insisted on smelling the flowers at the florist and demanded a fuji apple from one of the many produce vendors. We took our lunch outside where she quickly discovered one of the big attractions for people her age: the scores of pidgeons and seagulls who come to beg for food and are quite used to being chased by people her size. Sure enough, I got about 2 bites of hot dog down her before she was off to terrorize the birds and force her father to go up and down the steps with her while he tried to eat his pizza.

Eventually we pried her away from the pideons and on to the Aquabus. She really liked the boat ride and happily pointed and named boats and birds. As we putted along False Creek, I noticed several dragon boats were out for a paddle and there seemed to be some sort of a to-do on the shore next to the Science World dome. Sure enough, we hiked up the dock to the Vancouver Womens Invitational Dragon Boat Races. Awsome! I know it sounds silly to say this since she's only 20 months, but I'm always so excited to show Tenley women who are having fun participating in a sport or doing something to make a difference in the world. I love being able to show her women who are living their lives fully and not being hindered by their sex or race. These gals were having so much fun and clearly enjoying each other's company and the feminine competition. Many of the teams were dressed up (the Dragon Divas were all paddling wearing tiaras and feather boas, the Wasabi Women were all in wasabi green- including their hair) and many of them were defined by a common bond (A Breast in a Boat was a team of breast cancer survivors, and the Paddling Up the Dikes were lesbians). Best moment: seeing this clueless woman on her cell phone walking way too close to the row of port-o-potties as another woman came out of one and smacked the clueless one right in the face hard enough to knock her on her butt.

We finally made our way through the dragon boat camp and up to the main entrance of Science World. At the entrance is this large metal sculpture thingy that has pool balls that are carried by a series of lifts and then sent down ramps and over things that make all kinds of fun sounds. The three of us stood transfixed for a good 10 minutes while we watched the various balls make their way through their maze. After a long gawk (and Jeff declaring "I want one of these! How come I don't have one of these??") we went inside, hung up our coats and turned the Tenster loose. She ran immediately to the tables with the puzzles and began trying to solve them, and then tossed them to the ground when they frustrated her. Then she moved on to the house of distortion. She and two other little girls giggled as they ran in circles on the crooked floor and tried to wedge themselves in the oddly joined corners.

Next we made our way to the 2nd floor to all the hands on exhibits. This is where I lost Jeff, who like a kid in a candy store, took off to go play with anything he could get his hands on. Tenley eventually found her way to the LEGO: Secrets of the Pharaohs exhibit where things like the sphinx have been re-created using thousands of Legos. Mostly, she was excited about the big area in the center of the room which had play tables and about a bazillion Legos of every size and variety. The next 40 minutes or so were spent with Ten building things with the help of 3 five to seven year old boys who kept giving her pieces and showing her what they were building. Jeff found us there and happily showed us the crayon rubbing he had made of Tenley's name in hieroglyphics.

Our ultimate destination was the Kidspace Gallery which has been designed specifically for 2-6 year olds. It's filled with hands on exhibits for the tiny ones including a play structure, gear wall, and water table. Tenley loved it. We spent a good hour and a half in there. Finally we dragged her kicking and screaming from the building and made our way back to the hotel for a little nap.

After a brief nap we decided it was time for dinner. There was much discussion about this topic and finally we decided to take a short walk and look at our choices along the way. With Tenley happily in tow, we stopped at our first choice, The Granville Island Brewery. Hmmm, they close at 8pm and since it was already 7:45pm we decided to move on. Our next choice was The Keg. We weren't sure what kind of eatery this was so Michelle trotted off to look at the posted menu and report back her findings. The report wasn't good as this turned out to be a fancy steakhouse with fancy steakhouse prices. That left us with Bridges. The menu looked appealing and the atmosphere seemed acceptable for a Typhoon Tenley sighting.

Dinner turned out to be an $80 all-we-can-ignore-you affair. Almost 2 1/2 hours later we had ordered, eaten, ordered dessert, thrown a temper tantrum, eaten said dessert and finally tracked our waitress down for the bill as Michelle and Tenley were outside taking a walk. It was the longest dinner I have ever been to. The food was good but the service was disgusting.

Now that it was almost 10pm we walked back to the hotel for a good nights sleep. Well, that was our plan and as usual, Tenley had other plans. There was a quick bath and tooth brushing and then it was off to bed. There was no way she was going to go to sleep in the crib in this new room. Where was the boat? Where was my babysitter Lisa? I put her on the bed between Michelle and I and after a long time of kicking and thrashing around, she fell asleep. I put her in her crib at 1am and she slept there soundly until 4:30am. Great, this again! We tried to coax her back to sleep. We offered her a lovey, toys, money, keys to the car, and food but nothing was going to make this child go back to sleep. Michelle was up and on the computer pressumably checking the internet for child sedatives when I thought, maybe she is just cold. I grabbed her blanket, put her on the bed next to me and covered her up. Within 5 minutes that kid was back to sleep. This time, we left her right where she was on the bed. All three of us slept for the next 2 1/2 hours. I woke up nose to nose with Tenley who was smiling knowingly as if to say, "What's next?"

Victoria, Canada

Day 6 started nicely at 8:30am. We did the usual getting ready and eating before heading off into the wilds of Victoria. Having managed to get off the ship with absolutely no money and not an ATM in sight, we decided to take the scenic riverwalk from our pier into Downtown Victoria. We knew there was an ATM at the Empress Hotel so that was our destination. Unfortunately the visiting Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, wrecked those plans by having an event at the hotel and it was understandably closed to the public. Fortunately the visitors center right across the street fullfilled our needs. I even had to help out an older couple who acted as though they had never seen an ATM before. It turns out that they spoke French and they didn't understand the screens. I was able to roughly translate but my French is so seldomed used that I may have inadvertantly got them to invest in Enron stock.

Having gained the needed funds we hailed a taxi and took off for Butchart Gardens. The gardens were quite lovely but not a place for Tenley. Let me give you a few examples...beautiful flowers that you absolutely cannot touch if your intent is to tear them to pieces. That leaves Tenley out. Lush green lawns that you cannot walk or run on. That left Tenley out again. Vast areas known as the sunken gardens that required the use of stairs (you know how I feel about stairs). Tenley being strapped into her stoller at this point was left out again. Did I mention the rain?

Tenley was fit to be tied. There was virtually nothing she could do. We did let her out of her stroller a few times to walk but like any child who is really into "Do it MY way" she kept running onto the previously mentioned lawns. Finally it was raining enough so we got out the umbrellas. As you can see from the picture above we gave Tenley her own umbrella. Luckily it was see-through since she didn't actually put it over her head. Instead to chose to keep it in front of her face so her view was distorted. She ran into several people and more than a few solid objects this way.

We saw everything the gardens had to offer and decided it was time to leave. A couple of nice taxi drivers out in front of the gardens helped us flag down a taxi and we were off to the ship. Once on the ship it was time to start packing and getting ready to leave the ship the next morning.

Tenley was good through dinner and did pretty well with the babysitter for the last night. Shel and I went and spoke to the future cruise consultant (to see about a cruise WITHOUT Tenley), saw a little of the farewell show and finally called it a night around 10pm. Time to finish packing and put the bags out by 1am. And thus ends day 6...Thankfully the last day on the boat.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Vacation Pictures

We finally made it to Vancouver and were able to post pictures to a new album on our photo pages.

You can see them at

Back to our regular vacation posting tomorrow!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Astoria, Oregon

Day 5 began like a dream. We were awake before Tenley and were both able to shower and get ready before Tenley began stirring. We had breakfast and headed for the tender to shore in quaint Astoria, Oregon.

When Michelle looked out the window this morning she thought the captain had overshot his parking spot and took us all the way to Skagway, Alaska. It looked like Skagway, it was cold like Skagway, it was green like Skagway, clouds clung to the mountains like Skagway and Jeff was wearing shorts and complaining he was hot like Skagway!

Alas, we were in Oregon where the people would look like they just flew in from El Monte if you just peeled the moss off of them. Did we mention it was green here? We boarded the tender and took off toward shore. Tenley enjoyed the quick boat ride over and pointed out other boats and birds along the way. Once on shore we took a nice walk down the riverwalk trail to 30th street and the Fire Museum and Children's Museum. Not really so much a Children's museum as much as an indoor play area above the really neat fire museum. It cost a couple of bucks to enter and the bottom floor is full of old fire trucks, horse carts and photos of various fires in Astoria's history. There was a little kids fire truck with a steering wheel, radio and fire gear to put on. Tenley really liked this truck and pitched a fit when we told her it was time to see other things. Luckily Shel saved the day by pointing out there were stairs and that ended the fit real quick as Ten bolted off for the stairs with her hand up looking for one of ours.

Upstairs there were two rooms for the kids to do arts & crafts and to play in. We went in the play room that had all kinds of toys, play structure, cars, dress up, and a sail boat for the kids to use. Tenley played with everything. There was so much that she was in sensory overload for a few minutes until she decided what to play with first. We ended up staying for over an hour because it was pouring out and we had forgotten our umbrellas on the ship.

When it was time to leave because the rain let up a little, Tenley pitched the mother of all fits. Screamming, crying, hitting, kicking and generally hating us. When we tried to cover her head due to the rain she wouldn't even look at us. She frowned at us whenever we would look at her and she just sucked her thumb and pretended we weren't there. This passed by the time we reached the tender back to the ship. Afterall, we couldn't be too bad if we were going to take her on another boat ride. On the ride she made friends with some older folks behind us and just seemed to charm everyone on the tender. Upon our return it was time for a quick lunch and a nap for Tenley and Shel.

Dinner was formal tonight and much like the last formal night Tenley wanted nothing to do with her dress. We managed to get it on her and get her to dinner without too much problem. Dinner was nice and uneventful. The phantom old couple disappeared back to the buffet as they had threatened the night before. After dinner we took a couple of $6.95 and up pictures again.

Then I made a critical error in judgment. I took Tenley back to the cabin to meet the babysitter and left Michelle with a valid cruise card in the Art Auction. Uh oh! By the time I met the babysitter, peeled Tenley off of me and made my escape the damage was done. I was now the proud owner of a new print by a new up and coming artist. How nice! Since the auction was over by the time I returned this was also an unseen product. Let's see, $250 for a painting I have never seen by an artist I don't know. The hits keep coming. This could only be better if the babysitter tracked me down and told me that I had to walk Tenley up 15 more flights of stairs and pay for the privilege. Oh well, maybe the new print will go with the two we bought on our last cruise. Michelle informs me not to get my hopes up. They are as different as night and day.

After teaching Shel how to play checkers, which she gave the rating of "Stupid", we headed off to bed. And thus ends day 5.

In The Middle of Nowhere...again!

Day 4 began at 1am as previously mentioned. After we got Tenley back to sleep at 4am we settled in for what would be a quick five hour nap. Tenley was awake again at 9am. After breakfast we took Ten to the little kids program that is sponsored by Fisher Price. Mom and/or dad are required to attend with the little ones. Tenley seemed to enjoy playing with the toys that went along with the "Around the Neighborhood" theme. She picked up a guest house and wouldn't let it go. She played with the bus and the other cars. After a while she was done. Done for Tenley means dropping all toys and heading for the door at full toddler run. She ran out and was on the move toward the nearest set of stairs, time for climbing again. You would think that after four days of continuous stair climbing they would lose their appeal or possibly she would have shin splints. But no, they've become more of an obession with each passing day.

Next we went and bought some of our photos that the ship takes everywhere and anytime you aren't looking. There are photographers everywhere always asking you to bunch up and smile. Then for a mere $6.95 and above you can purchase the lovely or not so lovely photos of you and your loved ones. We then tried very unsuccessfully to lull Tenley into an early nap by walking around the ship on deck 5. The sun was shining and it was nice enough to be outside until the captain, who we think might actually be the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, came over the loud speaker to narrate the open ocean that was all around us. That was it for Tenley! She was now more awake than before. We gave up and headed for lunch. After lunch there was a full afternoon of activities planned such as Bingo, Art Auctions and stair climbing. This was the plan. The plan was thwarted by an unscheduled three hour nap. We slept right through Bingo, the Art Auction and thankfully the additional stair climbing. After our nap it was time for dinner. Are you sensing a theme onboard? Sleep and eat.

At dinner we had some additional guests at our table. Despite being seated at a table for 8 we have only been a party of 6 for the first few nights. Tonight however, the phantom old people showed up. Lucky them! Two young couples with two very young and cranky children. Fortunatley for them, fate smiled on their night as Tenley and Alex were both very good during dinner. This couple was used to a higher level of cruising where the ships are smaller and the service is more personalized and detailed. In the cruise industry smaller equals much more expensive. They explained that they had found the buffet on the first night and were very happy eating their weight in prepaid food and were planning to return there after being unimpressed with the dining room. Oh well, as we always say, "Bon Appetit!"

We dropped Tenley in the room where our cabin attendant, Vivien, and babysitter Lisa distracted her nicely while we went to the show. The show was Karon Cate and Marty Allen. You would recognize Marty Allen from his wild hair and the fact that he has been around since God was a boy. Karon on the other hand, you might not have ever heard of. She was the original 7-UP Wet and Wild girl...whatever that is. She was typical Vegas style entertainment. Singer, piano player, probably a dancer in her former life. Marty is a comedian who has appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, The Tonight Show, etc. He was pretty funny and seemed to do a lot of physical comedy using his weird hair and unusual facial features. Funnier still is the fact that these two have been married for the past 23 years. Yes sir, only on a cruise ship can you get world class entertainment like this!

After the show we stayed for the Love & Marriage game. Three couples display for everyone how little they know about each other after less than one year, 25 years and 50 years of marriage. Michelle and I could win this game hands down but seem to never meet the year requirements.

It was time to call it a night and we headed off to bed. Thankfully Tenley slept soundly all night long. And thus ends day 4.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The San Francisco Treat

Day 3 started out much better than day 2. Mostly because it started 3 1/2 hours later! Tenley got up at 8:30am and we went to breakfast. After breakfast we were going to head into San Francisco to explore the waterfront but Michelle's cruise card (your ship ID) was missing. We strongly suspect that little hands had something to do with it's untimely disappearance. We searched everywhere but could not find it. Tenley had been seen inspecting the air vents underneath the bathroom door and there is a version of the story in our heads that has her pushing mommy's card right though and into oblivion.

So after a quick trip to Guest Relations to beg forgiveness and ask for another card we were on our way to Fisherman's Wharf. We started at Pier 39 so Tenley could see the sea lions on their floating barges. Tenley was very interested in the strange creatures barking and playing "King of the Barge". She smiled and pointed and made her funny little sounds as she watched the antics of the Sea Lions. We ran into our table mates and their daughter Alex near the sea lions. Tenley and Alex had their own game of king of the viewing platform.

Next we headed towards Ghiradelli Square. Tenley was less than interested in the whole thing but there was this fountain that she was overjoyed with. She splashed the water and a couple of times tried to dive right in. Several people walking by commented on how cute she was playing the water. A few even took pictures of her. We didn't get any pictures because we were too busy making sure she wasn't swimming in the fountain.

After the impromptu bath we caught the cable car to Chinatown. Tenley really enjoyed the cable car ride. She stood on the seat, banged on the window and waved at people on and off the trolley. In Chinatown we went to the fortune cookie company in Ross Alley. All the ladies making the cookies really liked Tenley. They talked to her in Chinese and kept giving her cookies. Ten just stood there smiling and watching as they deftly speared the cookies from the press and folded them into the familiar shape. She pitched a nice fit when it was time to leave the cookie company. We went to the Red Blossom Tea Company where we purchased some nice green and white teas. While we drank some tea and learned how to brew it properly from Alice the proprietor's daughter, Tenley met a nice lady with a dog named Guapo. Guapo liked Tenley but he really liked the cookie she was eating. After a few more stops and a quick call to Shel's mom for directions we headed off to Union Square for some lunch and shopping.

Much to Michelle's dismay the Lush store had closed since the last time she was here. So she had to console herself with potato pancakes from David's Deli. David's is this great Jewish Deli Shel's mom has been going to for years and years. At the deli Tenley discovered a new way to eat applesauce. Apparently when you are 20 months old it is perfectly acceptable to dunk your pickle spear into the applesauce and lick it off. She did this several times before taking a bite of the pickle and starting over again. She ate almost the whole bowl of applesauce this way.

After the deli we did some shopping and Tenley fell asleep waiting for the cable car to take us back to the wharf. She woke up midway there and charmed all the passengers on the car. We marveled at the fact that considering the number of Chinese citizens and adoptive families in the Bay Area how much of a spectacle we were. One lady (Chinese) remarked to me that her face looked Chinese. I explained that it was and she immediately wanted to know her province and whether she spoke any Chinese. Another nice man (also Chinese) remarked at how intelligent she looked and wanted to know which province we had adopted her from.

We ate so late that we skipped our scheduled dinner back on the ship. After the babysitter came to the cabin Michelle and I had a late dinner before going for a swim in the solarium pool. We sat by the pool and read a couple of magazines without having to share the magazine or being climbed on or asked to climb stairs. It was nice.

Soon it was time to return and back at the cabin Tenley was dead asleep and looking as cute as could be. We said goodnight to Lisa and we went to bed for a good night's sleep. And thus ends day 3... or so we thought. At 1am Tenley was rudely awakened by the closet doors banging her crib due to the rough seas and the movement of the ship. Michelle and I were rudely awakened by Tenley due to the screaming that was occuring because of said closet doors. She kept us awake until 4am when Michelle was finally able to get her to sleep again. And so day 3 bled horribly into day 4.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cruise Day Two

Day two started promptly at 5am. Tenley was well rested and ready for a day at sea climbing stairs. Michelle and I were under the mistaken impression that we were on vacation and the day should not start until DAYLIGHT! Michelle made a valiant effort to get Tenley back to sleep but she was having none of it. She was up and by God, everyone on our deck should be up too. So we did what every other passenger who was awake would do...we went in search of the never ending buffet. The buffet on this ship is a vast improvement over the older ships due to it's layout. This one is so much better.

After breakfast we went back to our room where Michelle promptly went to sleep and left me with the still wide awake Tenley. Bleary-eyed and still needing sleep myself, I took Tenley for a walk around the ship, about 5 times. After we met loads of nice people and cause a couple of traffic jams with the stroller, Tenley fell asleep somewhere on deck 5 about the third trip around. I continued around the ship for two more times to make sure she was out for good before heading back to the room for my much needed nap.

Our peaceful slumber was not as peaceful as it should have been. First, our fearless leader Captain Rune Lockling came over the ship's PA to welcome everyone aboard and wish us an enjoyable day sailing in the middle of nowhere. He then went on to explain why we were in the middle of nowhere. Next he started talking about San Francisco, then Astoria. At this point Michelle sat up and said "Oh for the love of God! He's going to narrate the entire cruise right now!" I had other concerns. Mainly that my nap was being interrupted but also that mon capitan fancies himself a comedian. Someone needed to explain to him that he can either drive the boat or be in the show but not both... and he probably shouldn't quit his day job. Fortunately his monologue didn't wake up Typhoon Tenley.

Next came Elmo. For Christmas Tenley got an "Elmo Knows Your Name" doll. Now Elmo doesn't actually know the name Tenley but he does sing and play games with her. He's also programmed with her daily schedule. So promptly at 10:00am, while we were sleeping, Elmo came to life and annouced rather loudly that it was time for breakfast and began singing the Sesame Street theme song. I sprang out of bed and was smothering Elmo with a couch pillow while trying to undo his velcro butt and turn him off. All the while thinking "What kind of sadistic idiot makes a toy that comes to life and talks on its own?"

Tenley woke up again around 12pm so we headed for the buffet to cram down some lunch before Michelle abandoned us for her massage appt. After lunch Tenley and I were watching cartoons in the cabin. After a while I noticed it was very quiet. Quiet is always dangerous with Tenley. I found her out on the balcony shredding kleenex and casually tossing it overboard. That's my kid...doing her part to ruin our oceans. So after more cartoons, much more stair climbing and a trip to the salon to see mommy, it was finally time for dinner. So what's a girl to do when she's all dressed up for formal night and going to a fancy dinner? You guessed it, she fell asleep in my arms just as dinner was starting. I ordered dinner anyway and when it arrived, the head waiter took my plate and cut up all of my food since I was tied up with Tenley. Guess I'll have to tip him now! Tenley woke up just as dessert was being served and shared my vanilla souflee.

After dinner we had arranged for a babysitter and Lisa showed up promptly at 8pm. While she distracted Tenley, Michelle and I made our escape. We stopped by the show in the main lobby and then went to the main show in the Aurora Theater. Last nights attraction was Bobby Arvon whose only claim to fame was that he sang the theme song to Happy Days. Twenty years and a bad toupe later, he is still living the glory days of the past.

After the show we went to the Schooner bar for a while where we joined in the sing-a-long with the piano player. Soon it was 11:30pm and time to return to our cabin and our little monster. We were sure we would find Lisa cowering in the corner with Tenley running amok around the cabin. Much to our surprise, we found Tenley dead asleep. Lisa said Ten went to sleep at 10:30pm after much hard playing. With that we said good night to Lisa and jumped into bed ourselves before Tenley could wake up. And thus ends day two!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bon Voyage!!!

We needed a vacation so thanks to the IRS, we booked a quick trip up the coast to Canada via Royal Caribbean. We left out of San Diego and will end in Vancouver. Since this was an easy trip, we decided to take Tenley. Ok, let's be real, I talked Michelle into taking Tenley with us on vacation. How could I leave that cute little girl at home with Grandma and Grandpa while I was out having a good time?

We left for San Diego around 1pm on Sunday and boarded the ship around 3pm. It is a beautiful ship full of glass, brass and hundreds of staircases. The reason I know about the staircases is I personally have inspected every single step on this ship. Tenley sees stairs, her eyes light up like its Christmas morning and she yells at the top of her lungs..."Stejkvld;jagkl;s." Who knows what she is really saying but I know she is saying "let's climb all the stairs, right NOW!" Oh yeah, did I mention that she means over and over and over again?

We walked from deck 4 to deck 13 four times while Michelle was speaking with the Guest Relations people about babysitting. By the time she was done and was ready to explore the ship, I was ready for a nap and Tenley was ready to climb the stairs again. One would think that a little, teeny, tiny girl who just climbed 9 flights of stairs 3 times would be ready to sit for a while. Maybe other little, teeny, tiny girls but not our Tenley. She just didn't understand why daddy was laying on the floor calling for the paramedics. She wanted to climb the stairs NOW!

As it turns out, she did get tired...right at dinner time. We got to experience the finest whine with dinner last night as Tenley started what would be a couple hour meltdown during our first dinner aboard. Thank God the other couple at our table have a little girl just Tenley's age. They understood. But one could see that beneath their sympathetic stares they were saying "Thank God our Alex doesn't act like that."

Tenley, of course, never wants the party to be over no matter how tired she actually is; so when we went back to our room exhausted and ready for bed, Tenley was still running from one side of the room to the other. Back and forth, back and forth. It was enough to make you want to call the ship's doctor and ask for a tranquilizer. Finally, while Michelle was hiding in the shower, I managed to make Tenley lie down on the bed and start to relax. As I was laying down next to her she grabbed her lovey and slipped peacefully into unconsciousness. Unconscious children really are cute. Who wanted to bring this little tazmanian devil on this vacation anyway? Oh yeah, that was my idea. What was I thinking!

We went to bed immediately and slept like the dead until 5am when Tenley woke up, fully recharged and ready to climb the stairs again. Are you starting to understand why we will need a vacation from our vacation? Work seems like a nice idea right about now.

That was day one. More later. By the way, there will be no pictures until Vancouver because the internet connection on the ship is a little spotty. Keep checking back here for news or watch your local news for cruise ship disasters. Chances are, Tenley had something to do with it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

We'll Get Nothing and Be Happy About It

Here's the Tenster relaxing at her own personal drive-in which she made out of the TV, the living room, and the shopping cart Aunty Jen gave her for Christmas. This afternoon's double feature? Blue's Clues and Jack's Big Music Show!

Ok, call me neurotic and paranoid if you like, but I was getting concerned about Ten's lack of language at 20 months. I know kids will talk when they want to, but my concerns were echoed in my pediatrician's concern that she didn't seem to possess "at least 30 meaningful sounds"; add to this the American Academy of Pediatrics hand book which says that she should have had 15+ words at 18 months (HA!) and that she heard Cantonese for the first 9 months of her life, and you can see where I might reasonably think she is speech delayed.

I contacted the county's Early Start program back in March, but when I hadn't heard from them by mid April, I presumed I was lost in the system and called again. I was rewarded with an intake interview via phone the next day, and a couple weeks later I was given an appointment on the 15th.

Like a twitchy sports car, as soon as I got the appointment, Ten suddenly began saying "ball", "out", "mine" (ack! It begins!), "apple", "beep" and my personal favourite "ice tea". Go figure.

The nice county nurse and the occupational therapist showed up promptly at 11, flopped on our living room floor and after receiving a thorough cat scan from Smudge & Hobie, the playing and evaluation began. Tenley loved the peg board, figured out how to open the baby food jar they were kept in, drew, danced, found hidden objects, correctly identified colors & shapes, followed 3 step instructions, found everyone's belly buttons; and said "ball", "out", "more", "octopus" and when shown a cow or sheep she either "moo"'d or "baa"'d.

The upshot? She ranks in the 12-19 month range on everything -making her right where she's supposed to be. The therapist said that Jeff and I are guilty of the usual 1st time parent mistake of not forcing her to use words even when we know what she wants- we kind of thought that if there was a delay we might be contributing to it in that way. The nurse said she looks very happy & healthy, gave me some recommendations for a pediatrician (since I think I want to change), and said she'd mail out some info to help us encourage language. So we'll get nothing from the county...and we're happy about it!

For anyone else out there in CA who's interested: you can find your local Early Start by visiting The services they provide are free to you- they are funded by your tax dollars- so if you suspect that your child (0-36 months) is delayed in cognitive, communication, social or emotional, adaptive, or physical and motor development including vision and not hesitate to call and have your child evaluated!! If they suspect a delay, they will develop a treatment program with you and provide therapy at no charge.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Jeff Gets In Trouble With the Feds

Anyone who knows Jeff personally will not find this story suprising or outrageous in the least, but more like par for the course.

The first thing you must understand about Jeff is that he doesn't suffer fools or idiots easily, and beaurocrats top the list of fools and idiots as far as he's concerned. It has come to his attention that a great many of our legal processes in this country are ridiculous and inane, and the people implementing them have no idea what they're talking about, and couldn't find their ass with both hands.

Which brings us to today's story:

Tenley needs a passport. I am unwilling to surrender the one and only copy of her Certificate of Citizenship, which would take upwards of $300 and one year to replace if lost...and I don't trust the Feds not to lose it. So that meant we would have to apply for it in person at the Federal Bldg. in LA....and a minor must have both parents present.

Pre-9/11 you could just show up there and stand in line, but post-9/11 you must have an appointment, and you must be traveling within 21 days. So the nice automated system finally gave us an appointment for today at 7:30 am. Ugh. That's a 65 mile drive on a Friday moring during rush hour. We had to leave at 5:30, neither of us got more than 4 hours sleep therefore everyone was tired and cranky. Everyone was really cranky after the 2 1/2 hour drive.

We cleared security (after we had to take our cell phones back to the car because they have cameras), headed down the hall, and the nice armed guard verified our appointment and admitted us to the passport room.

We were motioned forward to window #2 by Souless Government Worker Drone #67, a black lady with nappy hair, fabulous antique jewlery and a 'tude. We cheerfully handed her Tenley's passport application, photos and her certificate of citizenship. "I'm going to need her adoption certificate" she tells us. I hand her the piece of paper in the commerative vinyl folder with the pictute of the three of us, official Chinese red stamps and embossing, that with the exception of our names and addresses is written entirely in Chinese. She looks at it and says "Where's the adoption certificate?" "That's it" I tell her. "We don't get an adoption certificate from the US" Jeff supplies. "This is not acceptable. You're going to have to get this translated." she replies. "WHAT?! This is IT! What do you mean 'it's not acceptable?!"Jeff irritatedly huffs at her. "Wait", I say "I think there IS a translation" as I pull all my paperwork out of our folder, while indignant Jeff and the SGWD begin debating why her Certificate of citizenship isn't enough; and after shuffleing through them I indeed find the translation stapled to a copy of the certificate.

The remouval of the papers is when things start to go downhill fast. The SGWD notices a photocopy of the Citizenship Cert. among my many papers. She holds up the original and points at my copy and tells me to read what is printed in the lower left corner. "It is punishable by U.S. law to copy, print or photograph this certificate, without lawful authority" I read. The SGWD tsk-tsks us and tells us that we need to destroy that. "So? I don't care." Jeff tells her flippantly. "You should care. You need to care." the Drone forcefully replies. "Why? This govenment is so f***ing stupid anyway. I'll do what I want." Jeff shoots back. Uh-oh. Their 'tudes are inflating and one of them is gonna blow. I tell Jeff to calm down and quickly change the subject back to the adoption certificate.

The SGWD doesn't realize that this is a translation of the other certificate. She shakes her head and says "No, no I need a document for this" as she points to the last line of the translation which reads "The adoptive relationship is established on the legal registration date". "I need something with this date on it."she says with finality. That does it- Jeff loses it: "That's it!!!! Don't you get it?? That's all there is!!! Stupid government- run by a bunch of f***ing morons!! This is ridiculous!!" I groan as I see the SGWD pick up the phone and call security to tell them she has an irate customer who is cursing at her. At this point security shows up and throws my husband and daughter out of the building.

I stand there stunned for a moment. I apologize to the Drone for the foul language and try to explain that he's just very tired and doesn't deal well with beaurocracy. The Drone doesn't care- she tell me she's sorry for me having to put up with him. I tell her he's really not bad, he just doesn't have alot of patience with things like this. Then I change the subject before she insults my (usually) wonderful husband again and I have to start yelling.

You see, the thing about government employees is that they didn't get to these comfy pay rates and exorbitant pensions by thinking outside the box. They know they have a 2"x2" square hole to put the peg in, and it doesn't occur to them that a 1" diameter round peg would fit too. They just know what they know, so when you get a situation like us it throws them.

Finally, I get her to look at the copy of the Chinese adoption cert. that's stapled to the translation and the lightbulb over her head flickers for a moment. "Alright" she says dubiously as she begins stapling all the papers together, "you can try, but I don't know if they're gonna take this." Then she tells me when I come back, to come right up to her window and she'll give me a number.

The security guard at the door tells me that Jeff & Ten are outside so he can "cool off" and they'll let him back in in 30 minutes. Sure enough, I find Tenley running all over the lawns collecting leaves from the magnolia trees and pulling up toadstools. Jeff is fine. We play on the lawns, point at fire trucks and busses as they race past, and Ten gets a diaper change before we finally head in with a promise from Jeff not to say a word.

The Souless Worker Drone gives us a number and we wait 20 or so minutes with Tenley munching on chocolate Teddy Grahams and flirting with the college students next to us. Eventually our number comes up and we hand the paperwork to a cheerful little Amer-asian SGWD at window 11. She looks at everything, and calls her supervisor over. SGWSup, turns out to be totally competant. He explains to her the difference in paperwork for international vs. domestic adoptions, and thanks us for doing the extra leg work and bringing her CC. All is well. the AA-SGWD quickly processes our papers, takes our check and sends us on our way. I get Jeff out of the building as fast as possible before something else pisses him off.

The ironic part? They took the Citizenship Certificate.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Conversation With Random Kids

So it was such a nice day outside that I decided to take the Tenster to the park to make sure she was properly worn out for her nap. We visited a new park in a swankier area of town, and the visit was like any other visit to any other park: lots of time on the swings, walking around in the sand box and making sure that she could still bury her feet and flinging sand into the air like confetti (so it can land in her hair and make her look like she has an extreme case of dandruff), and eventually getting around to exploring the play structure- which always turns out to be a good time because there is a driving wheel, a slide to go down head first, and lots of big kids to watch. It was during this last phase of the visit that I had this very funny little conversation:

3 boys in the 7-9 age range (I'm guessing) rode their bikes up onto the playground and parked one a the foot of a slide and one behind the slide, and then crawled under the play structure to eat their M&M's and drink Gatorade. I was forced to interrupt their pow-wow when Tenley wanted to slide down the slide.

Me: Hey guys, can I get you to move the orange bike from the foot of the slide? My little one wants to go down, and since she usually goes head first, I think it would be ugly.

Boy 1: Sure.

He exits the underside of the structure with his posse and they move their bikes.

Boy 1: (looking at Tenley) Is she yours?

Me: Yep! She's mine!

Boy 2: She looks kinda Asian.

Me: Actually she's very Asian- she's Chinese.

Boy 2: Did you marry a guy in China?

Me: Nope.

Boy 2: Did he move here and then you married him?

Me: Nope. Her dad is from La Mirada, he's 6'1" with blond hair & blue eyes.

Boy 1: (the light bulb appearing above his head) Oh, she's adopted!

Me: Exactly! (with a big smile, while touching my nose with one hand and pointing at him with the other)

Boy 3: Are you ever gonna have a baby?

Me: I don't think so. I don't really want to get all fat & crave pickles & ice cream.

Boy 3: (earnestly and with great sympathy) Yeah, I know. Fat girls suck.

They said "bye" and Tenley waved at them and dove down the slide head first, and with that they mounted their bikes and rode off to cause mayhem elsewhere. I laughed so hard. There's no way to explain all the real reasons for adopting to 3 random kids who don't really care, so I opted for what might seem obvious to a kid...but the littlest one's earnesty cracked me up.

PS: My Mom got the really cute picture of Tenley and that's her cat, Mr. Puck, showing us his grand and glorious derrier. Isn't that charming?!?