Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Great Memories, Vacation 2016: My Camera and Grayson's Phone

Back in May when we bought "the pool camera" (aka, a Nikon waterproof, shockproof underwater camera), my plan the entire time was to practice using it at the pool so I could learn its tricks and take awesome pictures at the beach. (Keep in mind, our beach plans at that point were, "We really wish we could go to the beach.")

When the South Padre trip became a reality, I still wasn't getting the photo quality I wanted, but I still thought I could get some great beach shots. I was so prepared. The battery was charged, the charger was packed, the SD card was wiped.

Then our first time on the beach Friday evening, I excited snapped pictures for about forty-five minutes. Then--just when I was getting the hand of using the camera at the beach and the lighting had suddenly become perfect--the camera stopped working. The shutter button got stuck. I pressed it down, and it never popped up again. The video button still worked, but the camera refused to let me capture video because since the shutter button was stuck, it wouldn't leave picture mode.

Since Merry and I were playing with Penelope and Gideon on the sand just then, at first I assumed that sand had gotten stuck under the button. I thought soaking the camera might help. No such luck.

As I thought about it, my assessment of the problem began to change. I started to recall that pushing the shutter button had become increasingly difficult over the past few weeks. That day on the beach, I was sometimes having to press it so hard my fingers hurt. I just wasn't lingering over that at the time. In the moment, I had to get the shot and that was it. I hardly noticed that I was pushing down so hard my hand was turning purple. What did that matter?

This past summer, we went swimming almost every single day. Each time we swam, I took at least 100 pictures. As I relayed this to Derrick, he said, "I'm not sure that camera was intended for that kind of use. I think you just wore it out." I think so, too.

But before the pool camera died, it did me a very courteous turn. Less than two minutes before the camera stopped working forever, a crazed seagull flapped down onto the beach practically on top of us, and even though the shutter button was stubbornly sticking, the worn out camera did capture that moment for me. 

 It's a fantastic shot, probably the best ever taken by that camera. I guess it figured it could never top it and resigned itself to a quiet, dignified death.

I messed with it for a long time and did horrible things to the tips of all my fingernails, but finally I had to give up and admit the camera was gone.

Not long after the camera died, Grayson grabbed his new phone and jumped into the ocean. Merry was aghast. It's a Samsung smart phone. I think it's an S7 active. It's very nice, and he just got it and takes meticulous care of it. I guess since it's active (with a built in tough case made to resist everything), he reasoned it was okay for ocean diving. And at first, it seemed fine. After the beach, he took it all up and down the halls of the hotel hunting rare Pokémon we couldn't catch at home. (We're all obsessed with Pokémon Go right now.) Everything was great...until he battery wore down and it wouldn't charge. It turned out to be a safety feature that deactivated once the phone was completely moisture free, but for a while there, we were all on the edges of our seats.

At one point, I asked Grayson, "Did you at least get some good pictures?"

"Oh, I didn't take any pictures," he replied.

I was totally bewildered. I can understand the temptation to risk your phone for an amazing shot or video, but if he wasn't taking pictures...

Baffled, I asked him, " Then what were you doing out there?"

As if it were obvious, he replied, "Catching Pokémon."

Great Memories, Vacation 2016: Gabriella's

After our 2013 trip, our kids were almost as excited to return to our favorite South Padre restaurant, Gabriella's, as they were to go back to the beach.

It's a family owned Italian place that's extremely popular. The food is fantastic, of course. (Derrick and I usually split a wood-fired pizza, and often Grayson shares with us. Penelope always goes for the spaghetti and meatballs--a favorite with Gideon, too, as it turns out.) What I really love, though, is the ambiance--dark room, red-and-white checkered cloth, slow-burning candles dripping red, white, and green.

This time, on Friday night, we got a table right away. (It was kind of a miracle since there were eight in our party. I think an enormous party had left at just the right moment.) We got to sit in the dining room I had always admired on our first trip--frescos of Italy painted on the walls, a projection screen showing Casablanca just behind Derrick's head.

I'm kind of a weirdo. To me, 90 percent of what makes a meal special is how it looks. Will it photograph well? Of course, I don't have too many photos of the stunning dining room Friday night for two reasons. One is that after my pool camera broke on the beach that afternoon, I resolved to live in the moment and just capture moments in my mind. (Of course that resolution was soon broken! What was I thinking???!!) 

 The second reason is that after being cooped up in a car for six hours for the first time ever, then being dragged straight to the beach, Giddy was out of sorts, restless, and hungry. Until our dinner actually arrived, I spent most of my time walking him up and down the breezeway outside in front of the retautant. He particularly admired the many sets of dangling silvery wind chimes down at the opposite end of the walkway.

The next night we almost didn't make it back to Gabriella's because the wait was too long for eight. The kids so desperately wanted to eat there again, though, that we ended up splitting into three and five. We still had a bit of a wait, so Giddy and I ended up pacing the breezeway again. I longed so much to walk a bit farther to see the giant sandcastle in the next driveway, but in the end, I decided it was imprudent to roam strange, dark alleyways at night with just a thirteen-month-old for company. Plus with Giddy in my arms, how could I possibly get a decent picture? (You can see how long Friday's resolution lasted.)

All of that breezeway pacing with Gideon was itself one of my favorite memories from the trip. It reminded me of how I pushed a similarly impatient Penelope all around the parking lot outside the crowded Bucca Di Beppo in Anaheim while we waited for a table on our 2010 Disney trip. At that time, I remember thinking, This is my moment as the mother. This is my baby. This is what I have always wanted, and now I have it.

Motherhood is, I think, a very magical thing. With most things, you don't know what moments will be especially memorable while you're still busy living the memories, but with motherhood, you always know.

Giddy was so cute on Friday night when I brought him back inside because the food was about to arrive. He saw her carry in a tray that included his spaghetti and meatball. He pointed to it very excitedly and made a sweet, inquiring face and noise, as if to say, "Oh! Why that's for me, isn't it?".

Another great aspect of eating at Gabriella's was that both nights we had wonderful servers. The one the first night was particularly charming and friendly, and she tipped us off to the s'mores pizza that we broke down and ordered for dessert the second night. 

When we decided to get dessert, the kids were practically aghast. I guess we never order dessert. (I haven't really given that trend much thought.) Not realizing the s'mores pizza would be the same size as a full sized dinner pizza, we also ordered tiramisu. 

It was delicious, of course, but the s'mores pizza was unbelievably, amazingly phenomenal. I thought, "Oh this will be fun for the kids!" (And fun for me to photograph!) I had no idea it would taste so heavenly! That's probably the best dessert I've ever had in my life (or else I just thought that because the waitress the second night kept bringing me Mountain Dew after Mountain Dew, and I was hallucinating from the sugar/caffeine rush).

Another amazing moment came during dinner the second night when an illusionist hired by the restaurant came to perform at our table. During one trick, he told us, "I actually have an assistant that helps me. Watch closely this time, and see if you notice my assistant." Then a creepily tiny arm and hand slowly emerged from the depths of his curved palm. Penelope's stunned reaction is what made this so great. Of course she realized eventually that this was all a trick, but for the first couple of seconds, she clearly thought it was a real creature. You should have seen her face!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dark and Baa

I realized last night that I forgot to add that Gideon says, "Dark," and "Baa."

I'm sure there are lots of others I'm forgetting, too.

He also makes a lot of gestures, like dramatically putting his hand to his ear when he hears something. Often he wants to know what he heard.  Sometimes he wants to know if you hear it, too.  It all depends on his facial expression.  Once someone in the grocery store spoke to him, and when the man walked past us again minutes later, Gideon put his hand to his ear and gave me this look as if to ask, "That was the man who spoke to me, wasn't it?"  He makes a number of specific gestures.  I don't remember Penelope communicating through gesture that way.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Gideon's Words

I wanted to write down some of the words that Gideon says clearly:

turtle ("turta")
meow meow (for the kitty)
that (Usually this is a question, accompanied by pointing.  "That?" as in "What is that?")
this (more like "dis"  Usually an answer.  "What do you have, Giddy?"  "This.")
quack ("kak kak")
tiptoe ("tit-toe"  That's when he's sneaking up on you.)
row-row (to try to convince us to sing "Row, Row, Row" your boat with him)
Wow! (one of his favorite expressions.  So much amazes him)
hoo hoo
kiss (and he also makes a kiss noise at you)
roar (he roars)
Uh-oh (frequently heard)
Hmmmmmm (putting a pensive finger on his lips)
ho ho ho (for Santa)
six (He points out the number six to me all the time in the swimming pool, where it says 4'6" on the wall.  The first time he said it, he touched the six.  I was floored, but apparently Grandma taught him that.)
tick-tock (and tick-tocks.  Every time he sees a clock, he does this.)
vroom vroom

I know he says more things, but those are some I can think of.  I wanted to write them down because we've been thinking that Nellie said more words at this age, but I think he's saying more than we give him credit for.  He also frequently "talks" as if saying words, with an inflection that suggests speech.  He also loves to sing.

He'll mimic almost any sound or word.  I mean, it's easy to get him to say something back.  The words above are the ones he says independently.  I still have trouble getting him to identify body parts.  I think this is mainly because he doesn't want to, but I'm not sure.  When I ask him, "Can you touch your...?" the only thing he will consistently touch is his wee wee.  He seems to find this hilarious, which may be why he agrees.

He is fond of brushing his hair and loves to brush his teeth.  Especially if he thinks he's impressing someone, he will enthusiastically brush his teeth for half an hour at a time.

We just realized that he never says any food related words.  Maybe that's because I'm always offering him food, so he never has to.  But when you give him his milk, he always smiles in such delight, to thank you.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Great Memories Vacation 2016: Giddy's Truck

Hands down, my favorite memory from our 2016 Padre trip is the truck Gideon flirted his way into on the beach.

The majority of my favorite memories involve Gideon because I spent so much time in his company. I'm the Mommy. He's the baby. We're together more often than not.

When we happened to run into my parents on the beach in Orange County when Nellie was about Giddy's age, Mom, Dad, and Merry actually spent a long time cuddling Penelope in the sand while I braved the waves with Derrick and Gray.

That's because toddler Penelope got tired of the ocean pretty fast. Grandma wrapped her in a towel and fed her cookies, and she was like, "Perfection!" (Except for the part where Aunt Merry accidentally caused her to rub sand into her eyes because Penelope didn't understand "don't" yet.) (Honestly, I think you could lure seven-year-old Penelope away from the ocean with cookies and sandcastles just as easily.) Toddler Gideon doesn't roll like that.

Mom couldn't keep him contained and had to throw in the towel (or wrap herself in the towel and leave the beach) pretty early in the game. Gideon is big and strong and fearless with dizzying speed and an energy level off the charts. Nobody could really handle watching him but Derrick and me (and I mean, we are his parents, so...)

Giddy Goes and Goes

Derrick spelled me a few times to give me a chance to savor the deep (or whatever), but ninety percent of the time out there, it was Gideon, Mommy, and the sand.

It's probably a good thing the underwater camera was broken. After Mom, Dad, and Merry all went in, I needed my full attention and hands free to keep up with my little beach bum (in behavior, less a bum than a racing scarab beetle on speed). He kept skittering off everywhere.

Late in the afternoon, he decided to make friends with literally everyone he saw on the beach as he manically speed crawled in elaborate serpentine patterns. He would smile and laugh and wave and clap at people as he passed, and everyone would joyously call out to him, "Hi Baby! Hi Baby!" It was like one of those movies about the dog the whole town loves.

The woman to our left was wearing a big floppy hat like one my mom has, and he crawled up to her in such delight that I'm pretty sure he thought she was Mom at first. By the time he figured out she wasn't it didn't matter because he had already practically crawled into her lap and they were clapping and laughing together.

This was all very heart-warming but also terrifying to a degree. It would be so easy to kidnap an outgoing child who comes from a happy home. Fortunately I was sticking close as his shadow (not to imply that any of these particular friendly people had menacing intentions, of course).

The woman to our right (facing the hotel) was younger, maybe Merry's age. She had beautiful thick dark hair, pulled back, and really large, animated eyes. She was busily digging herself into a really big pit, which fascinated Gideon, who was especially drawn to puddles of salt water.

I kept pulling him away. Finally, she said, "Oh he's okay. He's so cute! He can have this truck to play with!" It was a big, brightly-colored, plastic dump truck that looked like it came in a kit of beach toys. I thought it was her kids' truck and she was letting us borrow it. My instinct was to decline, but that's because I'm so shy. Gideon is not. He immediately laughed in gratitude and began driving the truck all over the whole beach.


When he came back around, she cried in amazement, "He's so fast!" No kidding! I had to run to keep up with him!

And then he got a brilliant idea. He began driving his truck directly into the ocean. Before he got far, not surprisingly, the tide made him loose traction, stole his truck, and completely flipped him over.

I picked him up (and was careful to grab the truck). He cried and cried. I could hear a couple of people in the background murmuring sympathetically, "Ohh. The baby."

I told Giddy, "You are so brave. You are so strong." I set him on the dry sand again with his truck beside him.

Immediately he took that little truck and drove it right, straight back into the ocean.

Later when I tried to return the truck, the woman insisted, "Oh no.  He can keep it."

When I protested, she laughed, pointed to her boyfriend (or maybe husband) and reassured me in delight, "No, it's okay.  We're the kids!"  Apparently the truck had come with a bundle of beach toys they'd purchased to have fun digging in the sand.

Gideon was absolutely delighted to keep his truck.  We brought it back from the beach with us, and he continued playing with it all evening.