Sunday, July 26, 2015

Museum Experience Day 2015

Today (Saturday when I'm writing this....I'm not sure what day you'll read it!) I took the kids to Museum Experience Day 2015.  We toured the Contemporary Arts Museum and the Fine Arts Museum with free admission.

We arrived at the Contemporary Arts Museum around 3:00 p.m. and unfortunately the kid's activities had ended.  We decided to go in anyways and we were cautioned by a docent that on either end the exhibits contained "adult content" but the middle was kid-friendly.  I heard what she said, but the room was much smaller than I had anticipated and we walked directly into some very "adult" content....probably too adult even for me!  I turned the kids around and we walked through the middle content.  But the area was so small that we hit more "adult" content!  I decided this museum was probably not a great Saturday-outing-with-kids-and-toddler choice so we moved on.

We walked over to the Museum of Fine Arts.  They are currently hosting an incredible exhibit for kids called "Shadow Monsters".  I took a bunch of neat photos, but I have decided not to post them, because it's the kind of exhibit that is more fun if you don't know what to expect.  My boys loved this exhibit and wanted to stay forever.  Seriously.  The exhibit is interactive and fun for all ages.  If you are thinking of going and wondering if it is scary....it really isn't.  My boys are 2, 4, and 8 and can be a bit timid but none of them had any issues at all.  

After I'd had my fill of Shadow Monsters, we wandered upstairs and ended up passing the Habsburg exhibit.  You need to pay an extra admission to see this, but as we were heading into another gallery part of the Habsburg exhibit was open to the hallway we were walking down and the kids gaped at the decorated horse carriages.  

Then my friend phoned and she happened to also be in the same museum.  She wanted to show us a particular exhibit so we made our way to the bottom of the museum to see the "Cosmic Dialogues" exhibit.  This exhibit consists of hydrospatial hanging sculptures and my boys thought it was amazing.  Here is a link:  http://www.mfah.org/exhibitions/cosmic-dialogues-selections-latin-american-art-col/

The sculptures kind of looked like U.F.O.s and they made magnificent shadows on the ground.  There were also other pieces of more modern art that played with light, dark, and depth perception.  Little Boy was particularly enthralled.

Our friend left to go home and we went to the top floor to explore some other galleries.  We found a bunch of Roman statues that matched up with Big Boy's Percy Jackson books.  He wanted to look at all of them and read each little explanatory sign.  Little Boy was really excited by the "half man half beast" characters like Pan.

Baby Boy started to get tired so we wandered past some more traditional fine arts fare (like a Van Gough) and Big Boy would have liked to linger but it wasn't in the cards for the younger kids.

They pestered me relentlessly to stop at the Shadow Monster exhibit on the way out.  I took them and they spent a last half hour interacting with the art.

I will definitely take them back again.  I wouldn't mind seeing some of the galleries that we skipped and I would love to browse the gift shop.  I have a soft spot for museum gift shops....they have the neatest stuff!  Unfortunately I'm too frugal to ever make a purchase.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Reading Rally

Yesterday (Friday) morning, I took my boys to the Houston Tennis Association Reading Rally.  This was an invitation-only event for children who participated in tennis lessons and also read a minimum amount of books/pages this summer.  Big Boy and Little Boy both met the reading requirement - I'm quite proud because Little Boy read all of the books on his own!

The Reading Rally was hosted on the deck of the pro shop of the Memorial Park tennis centre.  It was very very hot, but luckily the deck is shaded.  The rally got off to a slow start - the party began with free silent reading time and some drawing (both not particularly social activities) but then it picked up when the kids were awarded prizes and given snacks.  

Little Boy was excited to be awarded a Bronze Reader prize and Big Boy won both an ACE and Gold Reader prize.  They were given gift certificates for a book store and they also participated in a book exchange.

By the time we left the reading rally, we were all very hot and exhausted but the kids had fun overall.

We spent the afternoon swimming with friends, a nice cool-down activity.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My BFF, the Dragon - An Express Children's Theatre Production

Today after our regular morning activity, I took the boys for a treat.  We went to the Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park and watched a play called "My BFF, the Dragon".  The play was the winner of the Express Children's Theatre's first playwriting competition.

Tickets to show were free and seating was on a first-come, first served basis.  If you are early enough, there are covered seats with fans (or possibly air conditioning, I could not really tell) that are cool and comfortable.  If you are too late you sit on a sun-baked hill that is covered in grass and far from the stage.  I was terrified when I arrived at Hermann Park to find the parking lot very full.  I thought we would never get a seat.  I was pleasantly surprised when we got seats under the cover and close enough to be cool.  The boys had a little trouble seeing and basically stood near their seats for the performance, but that didn't seem to cause any issues with the audience members behind them.

The show was a cute, short (45 minutes) play about 2 young characters - a prince and a dragon - who break down traditional prejudices within their communities and help the dragons and humans live together in harmony.  Kind of a heavy message for little kids but it was delivered with dramatic overacting (which kids love), bright costumes, and plenty of music.  I thought the show was fun and the kids enjoyed themselves.

During the show the kids ate a picnic lunch.  Then afterwards, we walked over to the zoo.  After a quick stop in the swap shop, we went to the splash park.  We went with another family, and the kids had a great time and got on well.

We took the long way out of the zoo, past the new gorilla exhibit.  The temperature was in the high thirties (Celsius) this afternoon, and everyone was tired when we got back to the car.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Eye Exams

Yesterday afternoon was a long one, it bled into the evening and I was completely exhausted at the end.

After the kids woke up from naps, we went to pick up something that I bought on a community website (more on the actual purchase later).  The pick up spot was not particularly far away but I had to drive for about 5 minutes on a tollway.  All of the tollways that I have driven on here require that you have a toll sticker on your car window and they charge you automatically via the sticker.  This tollway was different.  

On the way to our pickup there was an option of using the sticker system or paying with cash.  I have a sticker so I breezed through the sticker lane out my exit and we successfully picked up the purchased items.  The way back was a different story.  

There are multiple lanes for: sticker; cash toll - exact change; and cash toll - not exact change.  The sticker and exact change lanes are marked "narrow cars only" (or something similar) and the exact change did not have a marking.  I could not figure out if my Expedition EL (massive SUV) was considered a "car" in this circumstance so I decided not to chance it.  I went into the lane for people who did not have exact change.  Everything was moving so quickly!

Luckily I had my wallet in my bag on the front passenger seat.  I rooted through and found it and then  tried to get out a $5 bill.  I accidentally grabbed a $1 and then I noticed that the toll is $1.75.  My husband had put some quarters for washing the truck into the centre console and luckily I could grab 3 so I had enough money.  I figured this out just as it was my turn to pay and I was scrambling to get the coins out. 

I handed the coins over to the toll booth employee and apologized for being in the "change needed" lane with exact change.  She told me that it was the right lane for me.   I guess my truck would not have fit into the other narrow lanes?  I'm still not sure.  

After the toll booth slowdown, all of the drivers took off like they were competing in the Indy 500.  I could see the name of my exit over a particular lane and I thought I was being clever by changing into that lane.  Not so....I managed to be in the wrong lane right before my exit and, true to Houston driving tradition, no-one wanted to let me in.  I got there in the end...but seriously people...why not have a little courtesy?  I tried for about a mile to change lanes and everyone kept driving up closer to the car in front of them so as to not let me in.  I saw them doing this to the other cars trying to change lanes as well.  Finally, a civilized driver let me in.

We arrived at the eye doctor next to Costco at about 3:40 and our appointment was at 3:45.  I think it's proper to be 5-10 minutes early for medical appointments so I was satisfied.  There was one other lady in the waiting room sitting on a chair.  The receptionist handed me a form to fill in for each of my 2 boys that were having an eye exam.  I quickly filled in the forms and then she took some initial measurements on a machine.  It was a bit tough with wiggly Little Boy so I had to help him hold his head still.

Then the waiting began.

The lady who was sitting in the reception had some sort of issue with her contact lenses.  It did not appear that she had an appointment.  Nevertheless, the doctor took her in at about 3:45 instead of us.  She was in with the doctor until just before 5:15.  That's right, 1.5 hours.  We sat and waited and waited.  Miraculously the boys were very well behaved.

At about 4:15 I asked how much longer and complained that we had 3:45 appointments and I thought we would be done by now (because when I phoned for the appointment the person who booked the appointment - who I strongly suspect was the receptionist that was there at the time - told me it would be 15 minutes per child).  She simply said "well that lady had trouble with her contacts."  Guess how much I was starting to care about her troubled contacts?  The receptionist said she hoped it would not be too long....and I hoped so too.

Then a teen and his mother came in.  His appointment was for 4:30.  The first thing the mother asked was whether the doctor was running on time.  The receptionist told her "yes".  Interesting.

Once the receptionist took the teen back to do the preliminary test on his eyes, I told the mother that we had the 3:45 and 4:00 appointments and we had not been seen yet.  She asked if we had just been sitting there and I said "yes".

She then raised a hullabaloo with the receptionist because they needed to be somewhere at 6:00 and she required half an hour to drive there.  The latest she could be done was 5:30.  The receptionist again said "well the lady had trouble with her contacts".  

So we sat and the boys were good but I was running out of distractions.  At 5:05 a man came in with questions about his prescription.  Unbelievably, the receptionist told him he could sit and wait to speak with the doctor.  At 5:13 the doctor and the lady who had trouble with her contacts came out of the exam room.  Even more unbelievably, the receptionist told the man he could ask the doctor his question.

Turns out it wasn't a question he wanted to ask.  He wanted to debate with the doctor about why his contact lens and eyeglass prescriptions were slightly different.  The doctor assured him that it was normal but he kept pushing with the questions.  Finally the mother of the teen stood up and said "can't you call in with your questions?  We are all waiting and we have appointments."  The doctor looked very surprised.  She tried to then take the teen in for his appointment.

The receptionist said we were first.  I looked at the clock and said "well we need 15 minutes for each boy so there is no way he will be in and done by 5:30". 

 The doctor looked at me and said "15 minutes?  for a child?  No, children take between an hour and an hour and a half.  Who told you it would be 15 minutes?"  

I said "the receptionist that I booked the appointment on the telephone with" while glaring at the receptionist (because I'm quite certain it was the same person).  

So the doctor said "well you must not have said it was for a child"  (because the customer is always wrong...). 

 I said "no, I didn't saw it was for a child.  I said it was for a 4 year old and an 8 year old so that there would be no confusion.  It appears that there was confusion.  And on top of that our appointments were scheduled for 1.5 hours ago."

So we were at an awkward standstill.  Then the doctor announced that the boys needed drops in before the appointment and it would take 20 minutes before they started working.  So she proposed putting drops into the boys eyes and then seeing the teen during the 20 minutes.  That was fine with me so we did that.

Little Boy howled like an injured animal when he got the drops in and I carried him screaming and crying back to the chairs by the reception desk.  The teen went in.

The teen's mother looked at my situation.  She complimented the boys on their great behaviour (it really was great!) and asked if she could help as Little Boy and Baby Boy were both crying.  She couldn't but we had a nice chat about how frustrated we were with the doctor.  

By this point, the kids were all starving (I had held off on afternoon snack thinking I would get them a churro as a reward after their appointments around 4:15 - ha!).  But they hung in there.  The appointments went smoothly, but one of the boys needs glasses!!!

I paid our deductible (and didn't get a receipt which I would have normally moaned about but I was just over it) and we went into Costco to check out glasses frames.  They didn't have anything suitable.  My husband made his way over to Costco to meet us for dinner and a churro.  

We didn't get home until long after bedtime.  We were at the eye doctor from 3:40 until around 6:00 - ridiculous!  We were all completely exhausted.

Guess what we purchased on our community website....a snare drum!  I'm sure I will regret it soon....but for now it's pretty neat!



Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pool Party

Yesterday we went to a pool party!  The boys were excited to go and we all had fun...until supper time.  Little Boy decided to not eat his supper, instead holding out for dessert.  This has been a bit of an issue with him lately, and we had discussed it before the party but it still didn't really work out.  Unfortunately it took a while to get back on track, but in the end we all had fun.

Here is a picture of the desserts I made to take to the party....


Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday

Whew!  Friday already!

It's been a very busy week for us and we are heading into a busy weekend.

The kids attended an ongoing summer activity and I did too - I will talk about those later in another blog post.

We met up with good friends and we had a wonderful swim and supper playdate yesterday.

On Tuesday we went to a Lego event at the public library.  It was a bit disappointing.  Unlike last week, it was not organized.  The kids were given heaps of Lego bricks and they could build whatever they wanted for a set period of time.  It was a bit disorganized and, of course, there was a scarcity of fancy blocks.  In the end they had fun.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Pool Parties...or...a Puddle Jumper Love-Fest

A number of our friends have pools (it's quite normal here to have a backyard swimming pool).  This week alone we've been to 2 pool parties!

My 2 younger boys are not strong swimmers and this used to make me very nervous at pool parties.  Last summer I would fret while they splashed around in the pool.  I would hold tight onto Baby Boy and I never let Little Boy more than a few feet away from me.  They had lots of fun while I had lots of stress.

In the middle of swim season last year I picked up a Stearns Puddle Jumper vest for Little Boy (http://www.amazon.com/Stearns-Puddle-Jumper-Basic-Jacket/dp/B00364E0C6/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8).  It changed everything!  The Puddle Jumper allowed Little Boy to swim around and kick to where he wanted to be while floating safely and keeping his head comfortably out of the water.  He didn't have to struggle against the back of a life jacket to keep his head out of the water and he could comfortably use his arms.

After he got the Puddle Jumper, Little Boy started to be more confident.  He would jump in by himself and kick around.

At the end of the summer Baby Boy reached the minimum weight for the Puddle Jumper and I got one for him as well.  He is so comfortable in the pool!  He floats on his back and front and jumps in whenever he can.  I am confident that when they are wearing these vests they will always float with their heads out of the water.

I absolutely love this product.  It makes pool parties and swim outings fun for me!  I can relax and just watch the kids, not hover and cling to them.

Little Boy is growing stronger and braver and he is starting to take off his Puddle Jumper for a few minutes every time we go swimming.  He wants to dive to the bottom of the pool to retrieve toys like his big brother.  He will probably leave his Puddle Jumper behind after this summer.