I give up

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Jack went potty all by himself downstairs. I’m upstairs neck-deep in sorting all the boys’ clothes into their proper boxes. Max is cleaning the bathroom for the third time (whole other story). Max goes downstairs to get something and all I hear is ‘Oh, no no no no!’ Ugh. I calmly go downstairs to see what’s up and Max tells me Jack’s trying to flush his pull-up.

Chores, etc.

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Now that I’m back in the blogging business guess I have no excuse for blogging about the poop-a-rama Jack left for me in the bathroom this morning. At the beginning of the week I was getting up at 6am to catch him waking up and before he went in his pull-up. Then he started sleeping later (probably because Max is home from church camp and they’re keeping each other awake later). Yesterday he didn’t wake up till 6:40, so today I went up there at 7am. BIG MISTAKE!! He’d pooped in his pull-up, taken it off, gotten poop all down his leg/on his shirt/hands/floor/etc. in the process, sat on the toilet and smeared it all over it there, then I guess he gave up and started looking through the cabinet and pulled out the humidifier. Needless to say that bathroom is spotless now and I need to go buy 3 more cans of clorox wipes. I thought I’d bathe him and make him stay naked in the tub (can’t let him play in the water, that would be like rewarding him) while I cleaned the bathroom, but then he was shivering so I had to wrap him up in a towel while I wiped everything down. After all that I went and got two glazed cake doughnuts for me and didn’t share. Yeah.

Yesterday he initiated going potty twice, and today the only time we made him go potty was before and after his nap, he took care of himself the rest of the time. Here’s hoping!

On to other news…

I’m starting to seriously think about his schooling. I’m not sure how much of a schedule we can have with Tj’s lack of a consistent schedule, and with Jack probably needing frequent breaks. I talked to HSLDA today and decided that we’ll have him repeat K this year, and I’ll try to permanently exempt him from testing. They should be sending me info on renting Bergance tests for him yearly. But part of his school will definitely be life skills, so I started that portion a few weeks ago. I found a magnetic chart with days of the week at the top and 7 empty columns below. I made some icons for our chores and stuck them there (I even used a write-on-wipe-off marker to mark when we’d go pick Max up and to draw a pic of me getting my hair cut). We’ve talked about what we do each day several times now, so I wanted to list what we’re doing housework-wise and what Jack’s doing to help us now.

For more than a year Monday has been meal plan and laundry day (Max gathers and sorts, I start laundry. I fold when all laundry is done, it’s not unusual for me to finish washing sometime Tuesday. Then Max puts up all of his and Jack’s clothes, and everything in the two guest bathrooms. I put up everything else.) and Tuesday has been grocery shopping/fill-up-with-gas day. I thought if I just add a vacuum/dust/water plants day and a clean bathroom day we’d have this whole house cleaned every week! So now Jack gathers the laundry (he gets my laundry basket and the one upstairs they use and brings them to the laundry room, and he puts them back when they’re empty), Max sorts, I wash, I fold most of it and when we’re down to the bleach load Jack folds the white rags and sorts the socks while I fold Tj’s t-shirts, then Max and I put up and J puts up his socks. On Tuesday Jack goes with me to Goodwill and to get groceries. He’s not always a pain, but I know it’s boring for him. The first time we went on this new schedule we had a lot of fun noticing the numbers, counting, etc. I always get him a produce bag and blow it up like a balloon when we get to that section. On Wednesday Jack can help dust with his new duster just like mine :-) He also helps move stuff around as I vacuum. Thursday he uses the little vacuum in my bathroom while I’m cleaning it. If there’s ever a day when Max and I are doing chores and I need to find Jack something to do I’ll have him spray the kitchen table and wipe it down (I just need to teach him to not soak the map under the glass, and to not use a whole bottle of spray). He also is good at getting ice and water in cups at mealtime, or the white rag for me. He’s a decent gopher, but there are times…after he’d folded/put up the white rags at least once (and we’ve been using those rags for several years now to wipe their hands and faces at mealtimes) I asked him to get me a rag because he’d spilled some water. I wasn’t anxious about the spill, but I want him to be more responsible when he makes a mess to clean it up. So I asked him to get me a white rag and he headed off in a different direction. I repeated my request and he just looked like he had no idea what I was talking about. I talked him through it but it took a good 5 minutes even though he was standing right at the drawer with the rags in it. It’s like if he’s already thinking about something he has a really hard time switching subjects. He often freaks out when he spills something or can’t properly manipulate his hands to do something he wants to do, and then it’s like he can’t even hear me calmly talking him through the situation. I think he was so fixated on the spill he couldn’t process what I was saying. This boy will teach me patience even if it kills me!

Today as Jack was matching socks (our chore days were off because Max came home from camp Tuesday) Max walked in the kitchen. I asked Max to count how many matches Jack had made and Max was such a trooper! He counted them touching each one, and then sincerely praised Jack for his hard work. He’s such a great brother. Jack is lucky to have him, and we’re lucky that Jack has him, too. I know he has helped Jack’s progress just by being around Jack.

Tonight Austin is spending the night. They were in the dining room and Austin was telling Max to look at this drawing of the boys Tj had done when he was in Colombia. One of the boys looks a little wonky, and Austin said ‘Dude, Jack looks a little bit Asian in this drawing’! Heh, made me laugh out loud.

I just remembered that not long after Mom/Jo left (after the cruise) we saw a stuffed toy monkey. When we asked Jack about it he just started singing ‘Happy Birthday’! It was so sweet. I guess they got it for him for his birthday (which was the day before we got home).

Catching up

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Now that all the cruise posts are behind me I have so many other things to get caught up on.

Today I was getting discouraged with how slowly we’re progressing on potty training. Just the night before last I told Jack when he went into his room at night that if he needed to go potty while he was in his room he should go all by himself to Max’s toilet. He said ‘No thanks, by myself’. We had a little talk and I felt like he understood a little bit better. Then he actually did initiate going potty! But later that night he came out of his room with no pants on. When I went up there he’d taken off his full-of-pee pull-up and peed on the floor in 4 places. He was kinda groggy, so maaayyyybe he wasn’t fully awake when he did that??? Maybe? Who knows. Hence the discouragement. But then I counted the happy faces vs the sad faces on the chart I’ve been keeping for almost 2 weeks, and there were twice as many happy faces as sad faces. That’s progress! It does help to have it written down and not just rely on my memory. It’s nice to think about all the diapers I haven’t had to change now that he’s going potty, but each trip to the toilet is work as well. He’s gotten into a bad habit of splashing the mirror with water, the soap ends up all over the counter, he loves to laugh and laugh at himself in the mirror while the water runs and runs, and I’m really having to crack down on washing hands as the last thing. When he washes his hands before putting his pants on he’s always to tempted to play with his plaything…and his hands have to be washed again! I guess I should just stay with him through each bathroom trip from start to finish, but I’m as ornery as he is I guess.

Here’s a snippet of life with a special needs kid:
Two days ago I was taking Jack (7yo) with me to get my hair cut. Half an hour before I needed to leave I was on the computer so I told Jack to go get his shoes and socks on, and left him to it. I heard him messing around and assumed he was obeying.
After a bit I check and he has socks on but no shoes. I tell him again to get his shoes, he says ‘upstairs’, I think that means shoes are upstairs. I could believe he just brought them up to put them on…it seems like I heard him go upstairs after he was in the laundry room. I check the laundry room and don’t see them so I tell him to go up. After a bit I go to the stairs and call up ‘Get your shoes on’.
After another bit I go to the stairs and call ‘Come here’; he still doesn’t have shoes on.
I tell him in my super serious voice if he doesn’t get his shoes on I’ll give him a spank. I wait and he disappears into his room.
I call him and he comes out again with no shoes! I start upstairs and say ‘I’m coming to spank you’ and he starts to fuss.
I look around and the shoes aren’t upstairs. I ask him where the shoes are and he says ‘downstairs’.
We go down and shoes aren’t anywhere! I ask him where they are and he points randomly and says ‘right there’ like he knows they are right there.
Then I remember they’re outside. He played in the water outside yesterday and I put them on the railing to dry.
20 mins of my life frustrated all because he doesn’t know to say ‘I don’t know’ when I ask him where his shoes are. He doesn’t even understand the concept of not knowing something. I don’t remember teaching Max that concept…but there are so many things that Max learned with just one or two repetitions that Jack takes months of repetitions to understand, and then a few more months to master.

The day we got home from our cruise someone said something about ‘plus’ and Jack said “6+1= biscuit”!!! Oh my how we laughed.
He called his elbow his ‘other knee’
Jack’s vocabulary: Reak a bork = read a book. Fis-kit please, Mama = fix it

A couple of months ago I was sitting outside while the boys were playing, my boys and Aidan and Jaxon. Max told Aidan that Pawpaw had just had a heart-attack and open heart surgery. Aidan said that was nothing, that happened to him. I suppressed the urge to ask if he’d had an heart attack and just listened. He said his mom got a call once and it was because his grandmom died. They had to miss school then to go visit family. Max asked him ‘So was she crying about your education or her mom?’
A little while later they were on a completely different subject. All I caught was Max saying to Aidan ‘Just ask Jaxon to attract Leanne and other girl’ and Aidan replied ‘No he only attracts Trinity and another girl whose name I don’t remember’.
Later Jaxon came back from his house and asked Aidan which popsicle he wanted. Immediately Aidan yelled out obsidian! Purple! Yellow!

About a month ago on our way to VBS Max told me he’d taught Jack the planet names. He said sometimes they play this game where Max asks Jack if he wants to go to another planet. Jack says yes and Max asks which one or suggests one. Then he tells Jack to hop on and puts his hands together like he’s holding a joy-stick and flies to another planet, sound effects and all. What sweet brother games!

14 July Jack said ‘Move a chair, Mom’ so he could get his flag topper that had rolled under my desk. I’m hearing more full sentences from him like ‘Stop it, Max’ and ‘Quit it, Max’. Heh. I’ve also heard a lot of ‘stupid truck’. Wonder where he gets that from???

Last week Max was outside playing while Jack and I stayed inside. After a bit Max burst into the living room and told me to close my eyes, he had a surprise! When I opened them there were Jack’s flags!!!! I’d been looking for them off and on for about 6 months! I’m so sentimental about them because they’re the only toys Jack has ever been really attached to. Max had his Mr. Horse for ages, slept and ate and rode with him, but Jack never really got attached to a stuffed animal. But these flags! He loves them! I didn’t realize we didn’t have them for a while, and when I started looking for them but couldn’t find them I wondered if I’d given them away in a fit of cleaning. I even went out to the Morgan building and opened a couple of sentimental boxes to see if I’d packed them up. Turns out when Addy had her graduation party next door Jack brought the flags and left them there. They knew they were there, but didn’t see any urgency in getting them back to us. By the time I realized they were gone I had no idea when the last time I’d seen them was. Anyway, I teared up when Max brought them in.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

There’s not much to tell about our travels home. All of the previous posts I wrote each night before bed, but I don’t have anything from that last day.

We’d talked to death about how we were going to get to the airport…they’re building a new harbor and the transportation from the city to the ship was really poor. With prices so high I hated to get a taxi, and with so many people disembarking at the same time we hated to ride the bus. On our way to the ship we rode a bus and the weather was so bad we felt pretty lucky to have that bus. But this day was so beautiful, and we weren’t in any rush, so we decided to walk to the train/metro. Tj knew it would be about 40 minutes, but that was nothing compared to what we’d done over the last week and a half! We got to the station which was obviously a commuter train…there were so many bikes parked outside! And there was a little trench/grove in the pavement all the way up the stairs so you could walk you bike up the stairs and not have to wait on the elevator.

We were super lucky again and got business class on the flight home. This time I took advantage of the snack bar. There was a huge basket of strawberries, some chocolates and several candies there. We didn’t really sleep at all. There was a baby on board who cried a bit at take-off, but that was all. I met his dad at one point and commented on the baby, and later he and his wife brought the baby over and I got to hold him a bit. Sweet!

We made it to Chicago and got to talk to Mom. It was good to hear her voice after that long time. Then Tj found out that storms had gone through Little Rock and power was knocked out at the base, so his schedule would probably change, but more importantly our flight was delayed! We had a 4-hour layover which changed to 5 hours. All in all not bad, but it put us getting home at 1 in the morning instead of midnight. I felt bad for my sister who came to pick us up. I also felt bad for us…I didn’t want to hang around on airport seats for 5 hours. Fortunately I heard an advertisement for the USO, so we found it and hung out there. It was glorious! There was a big leather sofa I dozed on the last half-hour there. We got hot dogs, chips and granola bars there and just bided our time.

We got home around 1:40am or so, slept soundly, and then woke up around 3:30am, wide awake! That’s what jet-lag looks like on this end! Around 5am we heard a thump and I went up to get Jack thinking he was probably awake. He wasn’t really, but he woke up soon enough :-) We snuggled with that boy and gave him tons of kisses. We tried to go back to sleep after a bit, but we didn’t really make it.

When Jo and Mom got up I toasted some waffles Tj had made/frozen before we left and served them with a syrup I’d made. I told them all about our trip, showed them a few pictures and all I’d bought, and had a good time. They left before lunch and life returned to normal!

Cruise Day 11, at sea

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

This was our last real day of vacation! Tj said a few times that in 24 hours we’d be doing this or that. After lunch we packed our bags and got all ready to disembark.

Several days ago, I don’t remember which day, during supper two of the ship’s crew came by our table to make small talk and see how we were enjoying our cruise. When they were just about to step away they asked Tj if he was an architect; he told them I had been. They said the captain wanted to talk to an architect; they’d already asked us for our room number, so they said he might call. I was nervous at that…it’s been about 13 years since I’ve worked in an office, what could he want?

A few days passed, and I didn’t think any more about it. Then today while Tj was gone CP called and said the captain wanted to invite us to the bridge! I didn’t know if it was because I was an architect, or if it was because Tj got us a nice-sized suite and maybe they ask all passengers in suites to visit the bridge? When Tj got back I told him what was up, and we called CP. He escorted us to the bridge, but he looked very uncomfortable when they told him he should stay with us while we were there. It was pretty impressive, with glass the entire width of the ship. We looked around a bit, and talked to the pilots about their maps and autopilot, etc. They asked us to wait a little bit, the captain was exercising, but he knew we were there and he was coming. In just a few minutes he came in and introduced himself and shook our hands. Then he brought out several letter-sized sheets of paper with house plans and elevations on them and said he was building a new house in Oregon and wanted an architect to look over the plans and see what they thought about them! That was right up my alley! I looked them over and we talked about them a bit. I told him to double-check the distance between the island and the counters, agreed with him about angling the garage, and said I think the walk from the garage to the pantry was a little long. We talked about that for a bit, then he and Tj talked planes for a bit when he learned Tj was a pilot. We had fun chit-chatting a bit about NC where he currently lives, and about our boys we’re eager to get back to, and other things. After about 30 minutes or so he thanked us and CP escorted us back to our rooms. CP said several times that the bridge was a very sensitive place, and he generally seemed nervous to have been there. He apologized a couple of times, and said he had no idea why the captain wanted us, he hoped it had all been ok. What a fun thing we got to do!

We spent a lot of the day in the library, reading and doing sudoku and crossword puzzles. I’m not bad at sudoku, but I don’t do so well on crosswords.

This day at 5pm there was a Russian bazzar, and sales at each of the ship’s stores. We went and looked around, but there wasn’t much we wanted, and we’d bought so many souvenirs that we weren’t shopping too seriously. I’d debated buying some Russian eggs for earrings, and there was a stone globe with a pedestal I liked, but again, we’d bought so much already.

We went to a variety show at 7 that was pretty good; the skill and poise of the dancers always amazes me. Now that I’ve been working on some push-ups I realize even more how much effort it takes when they pull themselves up by one arm, or support another person one-handed, or slowly balance while bending over backwards. After that we rushed right over to watch about half of a magic show, and then we went to Cagney’s for our 8:45 reservation. We had a different server this night, Mary Lane. We’ve had some really bad servers there, indifferent almost to the point of being rude, and then we see other patrons hug them and talk about how wonderful they are…what gives?! This time when I ordered I told Mary that I’d like my steak cooked medium with pink in the center, but that the night before when I’d ordered medium there was no pink. She made sure that my steak was perfect! We were so full we decided not to get any dessert, but Mary said we had to. She brought us a piece of chocolate cake to share.

Cruise day 10 Stockholm

Monday, July 21st, 2014

We both woke up before our alarm this morning, which has never happened to me when I took a sleeping pill. I’m not taking one tonight, and probably not tomorrow night. I think about taking one on the plane, but wonder if that’s a smart thing to do.

Tj told me last night to order room service, but then he fell asleep before he could tell me what he wanted. I ordered 2 eggs and bacon for each of us. This morning he had no recollection of asking for room service! When CP brought our breakfast he asked if I knew that when I put 2 easy over eggs I was actually ordering 4 eggs? How could I know that? When I ordered 3 pieces of toast I got 3 pieces, but for eggs it’s doubled. Whatever. It was a good breakfast. One funny thing, I ordered fruit hoping for a bowl of mixed berries, but I got a tiny bowl with half a peach. Tj said it was good.

During breakfast we heard them announce that due to the heavy fog we were an hour delayed. Fortunately we had our first tour through the ship so it didn’t really affect our plans. We headed down to the theater to wait for them to call our tour. When we got there (at the extreme front of the ship) I started fretting that I’d be cold…I’d only worn my undershirt, long sleeve and fleece. One day this cruise I’d also needed both vests I’d brought (one of them fleece), and one other day I also needed my rain jacket, but was plenty warm with those 6 layers. Today was supposed to be a high of 62, and we were doing a rooftop walk so I assumed it would be even colder up there. They said the ship hadn’t even docked, so I ran back to our room (at the extreme back of the ship) and got my vests. Of course then I was warm, so I put them in Tj’s backpack.

We got off the ship and on to our bus. On the way the tour guide, Katerine, said that there would be lockers at the tour. Then she said 10 of us had to stay on the bus and we’d tour the area first, then we’d switch with the other 20 and do our rooftop tour. We dropped them off, drove up the hill by bus, and we got out. She said to leave our bags on the bus if we wanted. It wasn’t too cold there so I left my vests and rain jacket. We walked around about an hour and saw some pretty cool things, among them the Royal Palace, the iron boy with his moonbeam-projecting light on the corner of the nearest building, Stortorget (Stockholm’s oldest square and site of their bloodbath), we saw the changing of the guard purely by accident after we watched one very young guardsman walk past in all of his finery and drive off in his car, a 3-masted ship which is actually a youth hostel, and the Nobel museum.

When it was our time for the rooftop tour we headed back. I was so excited to do this, and thankful that the fog burned off and it didn’t rain at all today! We got our gear on and our cameras firmly attached, and then we climbed out. I had so much fun; it was wonderful to look out over the city. I didn’t think I’d be nervous at all, and I wasn’t for the most part. The only tricky part was you often needed to tap the part of the harness that was attached to the cable on the roof. They said to just tap it with your foot, but we were walking on this 2′ wide ledge with no handrail, so you had to balance on one foot while tapping your ‘dog’ as they called it. The only nerve wracking time was one of the ledges wobbled as people walked on it. Fortunately it wasn’t the one on the very ridge of the roof! Oh, it was a great excursion! It was so exhilarating!

When it was over Tj had 4 geocaches picked out. I don’t know if I mentioned it before but he found 1 in Copenhagen, 1 in Germany and 3 in Estonia. Today I helped him find 2! Woot! By that time I was pretty hungry. We found the restaurant (heh, Tj found it) that the tour guide suggested and were seated by 1:55. I noticed the time because the dude sat us promptly, but it was several minutes before we got a menu. I asked him what the people next to us were having for dessert and got a dirty look with my answer. Fortunately a woman came to take our order. By that time we’d seen a set menu and had enough time to figure out what it all was. For our appetizer Tj ordered the reindeer with cream and I ordered marinated salmon with mustard sauce (his looked just like dark red bologna, but it tasted great!), then we both ordered roasted reindeer with a quiche-like thing that may have been made with potatoes, and raspberry cake with custard. They brought us bread, and I saw the woman next to me get a Coke in a glass bottle and it looked soooo good, I ordered that for my drink. The last caffeine I had was in Germany, but I haven’t been having so much lately so I never had withdrawals, I’ve been getting water on the ship; that Coke tasted great!

They brought our appetizers not too long later, and then took our plates away in a reasonable time. Finally after forever another guy came and asked us if we were waiting for our dessert. When we told him no, our main dishes, he walked straight to the back and straight back out with our plates. I was so annoyed that they’d forgotten about us, not just because of the time, but because Tj did the conversion after we ordered and we were going to pay much more than we expected! When I pay a lot for a meal I don’t expect to be forgotten! After we got our main dish I realized my reindeer was cold!!! I was livid! It tasted good, but that was beside the point. A group of Italians came in at that time and the guy who brought our plates out was serving them. I stopped him before he went back to his station and asked him if the reindeer was supposed to be cold. He said no, and that he was sorry, and that he could heat it up. I told him we didn’t have time to heat it, I just wanted to know if it was meant to be served cold? He sincerely apologized and said he’d take some off our bill. I thanked him and was surprised that he offered to do that, I didn’t expect that here in Europe. He brought us our dessert as soon as our meal was finished. Tj went to his counter to pay when we’d eaten our excellent dessert, and the guy took 25% off the bill!

We hoofed it back to the ship, and were able to slow down a little when we were about halfway there. Sadly we didn’t have time to shop…we still had Max to buy for. 3/4 of the way to the ship Bossy and Bossier stepped in behind us. They made some small talk, and then Bossy apologized to Tj for how he snapped at him the first day of our Russia trip! I was surprised, and so was Tj, but he was gracious too. Right outside the ship Tj stopped at the cafe to get internet access on our phones, and I went into the shop to find something for Max. It was crazy in there! Some old lady thought I was cutting in line and gently stepped in front of me. I asked her if she was in line to check out, and when she said yes I asked to go around because I wasn’t buying anything. She said certainly.

I left the shop empty-handed and met Tj. Mom and Jo had sent several emails, some with pictures of the boys. I emailed them that they’d cut Jack’s hair too short! He has Audry Hepburn in Roman Holiday bangs!!! I guess they’re carrying on the family tradition. :-)

By the time we were done checking mail the line for the ship was wrapping way around! We walked all the way back to the end. After a minute a great group of people just walked right on past us to the ship! After about 5 people passed us I said ‘Did you know the back of the line is right here?’ He said they were crew members! I quickly apologized :-/

We got to our room and had our canapes, and each had a little nap. We checked out the menu at Aqua, but Tj decided to go for the buffet. Every time we’ve gone to the buffet this trip we go get a little bit and sit and eat while it’s hot. Then we go back and find a new table (they’ve usually cleaned off our table by then). One time yesterday Tj was reaching for an olive on our shared plate and before he could get it a waiter picked his plate up to clear the table! Aggressive!

After supper we went to a show…some guy who could play many instruments. When he started playing the pan pipes we left. We looked through the ship’s store to see about Max, but there was really nothing fit for him. I think he’ll be fine with a gift from home, honestly.

This morning while coming into port it was beautiful to see all the tiny islands go by. Even with the fog it was wonderful. Watching them as we went out of port was fun, too, except for the fact that that was our last port. It reminded both of us of Alaska.

I’m not ready to go home, but I’m really excited to see my boys.

9:37pm and I’m signing off.

Cruise Day 9 Helsinki

Monday, July 21st, 2014

This morning the alarm went off at 7am. I think I was almost awake this time :-) I showered and got ready. We went to Cagney’s again and Tj had steak and eggs. I had two eggs over easy and toast with mixed fruit again. Wonderful.

We got off the ship around 9 and walked a short ways to wait for the bus. We met up with nice Bob there and chatted. We saw our bus, and after it passed us by Bob said oh, I think we’re supposed to wave at them to get them to stop. Heh. Sounds like something I’d do. We caught the next one. Tj was the first one on and he asked to buy 2 full-day passes. The guy mumbled something at us and sold us 2 single use passes. There were about 10 other people behind us, and they all wanted day passes. We went around a few times and one woman pointed to something in her guide book, but finally a passenger who’d already been on the bus came up and tried to explain several times, even pointing at the first woman’s book again. The bus driver just didn’t understand. Finally he just waved us all onto the bus! After we settled in and had gone a few feet and we were all talking I said it looks like we just bought you all tickets, and laughed; they all laughed too and thanked us.

The bus ride after that was still a bit of work. Everything’s in Swedish and Finnish, practically no English. Tj did a super job figuring out where we were and following along so we knew when to get off. We were even able to help a few other passengers figure things out. When we got off at our stop we saw a station where we could buy full-day tickets from a machine, so we did. Then we walked on to the Rock Church.

What a wonder! It was carved out of rock, and was beautiful. The best part was that there was a woman playing the piano beautifully. I could’ve sat there for an hour or more, I think Tj felt the same, too. We walked around outside it and took some pics.

We missed our next stop for the Senate Square and instead got out at the fish market, so we did that one first. It was right on the water so there were lots of fresh fish, but I was more interested in eating some reindeer. Sadly our breakfast on the ship was so good that neither one of us was hungry. We walked through slowly looking at all the cool stuff; hats, gloves, wooden carved spoons and bowls, etc. I was beginning to stress about finding something for mom. I knew I wanted it to be useful, but beautiful, too. I almost wimped out and bought her some cute mugs, but Tj said I was panicking, so I waited.

Now we went on to the senate square. There was a beautiful building there that I took several pics of. Tj connected to wifi after a minute, so I went shopping at this store across the street called Okra. I found some little bowls for Mom and Jo, hallalaluja! Now we only need to find something for Max.

Our last stop was the flea market. Sadly it had started raining in the fish market and hadn’t let up, so there were no stalls set up. Bummer. Tj didn’t really want to go to a flea market here, this was all my thing. But I told him all the stores we were able to find would be stores for tourists. But buying something at a flea market was a way to buy something truly Finnish.

We headed back to the ship and I bought a tiny pewter viking ship with spoon I’d had my eye on. When we got back to the room Tj found 10 more euros he didn’t realize he had, so I went down to the ship market to see what I could get with 12 euros we had left. Of course I found some cute gloves for 13 euros, but I had to make do with some really stripy socks for 8. That’s the way it goes sometimes!

By this time our canapes hadn’t been delivered by our canape fairy, so we cruised the ship a bit. We got some ice cream and saw Jan eating outside, so we crashed her party. We laughed at Bob’s plastic bag, rude cruise passengers (Germans get her goat the most), and the word pianist. Then we went inside to get an eclair but they were gone. Going back we saw a muffelotta and had to try it. It needed more green olives. It was ok, but it really made me miss Anthony’s in BR.

We hung out at the library for a while doing sudoku and crosswords, and I sketched a bit. Then we watched some parasailors going round and round in circles, and the people on the balcony below us were feeding the seagulls as we left port…there were tons of them! We passed lots of islands again. It was so cool.

We went back to the room and CP had some oatmeal raisin cookies and fruit and cheese. We hung out in the room and watched Hunger Games until it was time for our reservation at Cagney’s. We both ordered Waygu sliders for the appetizer, and they were huge! The Mexican caesar salad wasn’t worth it. The filet mignon was only ok, but after I doctored it with butter/salt/pepper it was great. I was disappointed that there was really no pink even though I ordered it medium, but it was good. Tj wants to go back. We’ll see. One crazy thing was that some crew member came around some time during every course and told us to enjoy it! Weird! I don’t think that made me enjoy it more.

We talked to a couple from SC a bit. They were funny, but hard to get away from.  Afterward we walked the deck once around (I got cold…it was the only time on the ship I’ve worn a skirt/short sleeves), and killed time till it was time for the show. We didn’t watch many, and this was the only one worth it I think. The things the people did with their bodies/muscles was amazing. It was crazy to see a man and a woman both on the trapeze, either one on top, facing the other one upside down, and the second one slipping almost out of the first one’s arms, but not quite.

Well, I’ve left this kinda late and I’m getting sleepy (for once). So I’m gonna go fill out the room service card and hit the hay.

Days 7 & 8, Russia

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Cruise Day 7, Russia

Tj woke me up at 6…I was sleepy, but ok. We dressed and went to breakfast. I had challah french toast and eggs benedict. Tj had a waffle. I know what I had, but I still don’t remember eating it. That sleeping pill was nice, but a little strange.

We went right out to meet our group at 7:45. We had our passports checked for the first time; the guy was like out of a movie, piercing eye contact and almost a grimace. After we walked through (Tj was first, I was second) and looked for but didn’t find our guide,  we waited in the exit room for a bit, but then the guard told Tj we had to go outside to the busses. I asked if he literally said we had to go out (cause I wanted to wait inside) and Tj said he implied it, so we went out. After we’d waited outside a little bit (which seemed like ages) Tj finally saw the American guy who had been in contact with our Russian guide. When we walked back inside to meet him he was arrogant and pushy, asking why we were outside, and when we told him why he sarcastically asked if we were trying to leave without them? He was a real jerk. Tj was super peeved. We headed over to the bus and the guy’s wife asked how we liked the scowl on the Russian passport inspector? I said it was about like her husband’s scowl when we walked back inside, but I said it with a chuckle. He didn’t seem to have any hard feelings though I’m sure he heard.

The day was good, but super fast paced. It was hard to be on this tour after Dave’s tour. He knew we couldn’t see everything so he chose a few spots and we spent a good bit of time at each one. This lady has so many places picked out that we had to fly through each one. I think I’d rather leave out some places and do others well. Tj says all the Russian tours were pretty much the same. I totally get that, but our guide was really not a great guide…she didn’t have good people skills. She kept telling us to be quiet and listen to her, hurrying us up after making us wait, saying ‘chatterbox chatterbox’ if we’re not paying 100% attention to her, and scolding us to ‘look look look’! We’re not kids on a school tour…we paid for this!

The other hard part of this tour were the couple who were in touch with the guide. The woman kept shooing us, and babying us, telling us to hurry along. She actually twice helped a grown, married man find booties to put on his shoes (they were required in two museums). When the guide asked who would be drinking champagne she piped up and said the 16-yr-old boy wouldn’t instead of letting him or his parents say so, and she kept explaining things to him that the guide already explained. Her husband made a few comments and was just the icing on the cake. (In the end we never even got champagne!)

I know this is a gripe-fest. I do also know how lucky we are to be in Russia. Especially without our kiddos. I know they wouldn’t appreciate it at their age, and that we couldn’t keep up this rigorous pace with them. There are two couples on this tour (one with the boy) who’s company we enjoy, and it’s nice that our group is so small (just the 9 of us).

My first impression of the city was just sad. I know the whole sky is gray and has been so all day, so I’m sure that affects the mood, but so much of our ride into the city was past super-old/worn out buildings. On into the city proper the buildings looked ok, I took a ton of pictures. The museums were often super-gaudy with the really outrageous rooms full of gold and mirrors. The inlaid floors were beautiful, though. The guide often insisted that we leave our jackets at the coat-check station. I don’t know, but could believe, that it was a rule of the museum. She was so kindergarten-teacher about it. After we left the coat-check place once she spied the bossy-guy’s jacket hanging from his camera bag and made him go back and check it. She let a girl keep her jacket on, but at another museum she made both guys who had zipped up jackets take them off and check them. Whatever. I kept my purse/backpack on the whole time with no word said. In Russia you do as you’re told!

We stopped to see a pair of sphinxes which Julia said came from Egypt. Supposedly their beards had to be broken off before they left Egypt so as to not give Egypt’s power away.

I bought a fake fur hat in a souvenir shop we stopped at. I saw but missed out on a little pewter bell. If I see one tomorrow I think I’ll get it. We bought a postcard we need to fill out and mail to Max.

We visited the Hermitage for a couple of hours…it would probably take 3 days to see everything in there. This was the Romanovs’ Winter Palace, and it houses art collected by Catherine the Great. There were works by van Gogh, Rembrandt and Matisse among many, many others. Not only do you get to see the art she collected but also the ostentatious rooms where royals spent their time. Some of the things we saw included the War Gallery of 1812, the gold Peacock Clock, the Benois Madonna (baby Jesus looking at a flower) by da Vinci, Crouching Boy by Michelangelo, and Danae by Rembrandt.

Lunch at Pavlovsk Palace cafe was a cafeteria line that was literally 30′ long including the register, napkins, etc. The options were: ham or fish sandwich, layer cake, greek salad, 4 fruit juices and about 4 types of Coke, cherry foldover, a small pastry, 2 kinds of muffins, chicken cooked with mushrooms and cheese that was now room temp, meat and mushroom soup, cream of mushroom soup, bread or apple pie. Tj had ham sandwich and cream of mush soup, and I had the chicken bake and cherry turnover. It just seemed so funny to me that we’re in this elaborate palace with so many ornate carvings, but the pickings were so slim (by American standards, admittedly).

We also visited Catherine’s Palace, mostly to see how royal people live. The ostentatiousness of the whole thing was crazy! The room that stood out the most (or at least the room that I’m sure was here, we’ve seen so many in the two days in Russia I get them mixed up) was the amber room. They (forget who) saw the amber panels somewhere and bought many of them. When they built the room and went to install the panels they were too short and narrow, so someone (famous, I’m sure) painted above them to resemble the piecemeal amber panels, and filled in between each panel with tall mirror panels. After all the rooms we’ve seen I really think that royal people didn’t try to make their rooms look nice, they just tried to spend the most money on them and shove as many expensive things inside as they could manage. That amber room was downright ugly!

We got back on the ship and ate our canapes like we’ve gotten every night, then headed out for supper. We started with crepes, then Tj had a hamburger and I had fish and chips, and we finished up with another crepe :-) Now we’re back in the room watching Wikileaks. I don’t think we’ll stay up much past this movie and it’s 8:40 now.

I took a sleeping pill at 10:15pm.


Day 8

Russian per Julia:
Ya lou blu vas = I love you
Lada = my darling

I heard the alarm this morning at 6am, but I still didn’t want to get up. I did anyway and got dressed. Today was our last day of organized tours, so I just had to tough it out and we’ll set our own pace (within the ship’s time, at least) for the next two days. The bad news is that then our vacation will be over! I’m not wishing it gone, though; just wishing for my own time.

Today I had two over easy eggs, bacon and mixed fruit/nuts/honey. Tj had an omelet.

We met up with our group at 8am, but we were missing two; Jay had a fever so Lisa stayed with him. I was sorry they had to miss the tour for their sakes, and also because I enjoyed talking to Lisa. She’d shown the tour guide (Julia) her ‘portfolio’ on her phone and I was hoping to see it myself.

Today was gray and drizzly all day. I’m so glad Tj decided to get a new rain jacket and suggested I get one for the trip also. We went on a boat ride for about an hour. It was cold, but I think because I was taking so many pictures I didn’t feel it too much. I took a billion photos this trip, but I also made sure to experience the trip. The best part of the ride was taking pictures of the Church on Spilled Blood. I can’t wait to see how they turned out…I hope I have a killer picture or three there!

We visited the Peter and Paul Cathedral and saw the tombs of the Romanovs, Peter the Great, his son (who was tortured to death by his dad), Tsar Nicholas’ mother, etc.

We were supposed to take a hydrofoil to Peterhof, but it was canceled because the water was too low (?!). We drove there instead. We had lunch before looking the place over; Julia took us to a crepe place. I ordered one off the menu which said chocolate/strawberry/honey…it was a hurried choice as all things are with Julia. After I chose it and she asked me a time or two if I was sure, the waiter told her that those things would be on the top of the crepe even though the listing said ‘fillings’. Whatever, it was good. Julia told us all that guys usually like the ‘royal’ and pointed at one that looked great, probably strawberry and it might have been cottage cheese. We asked her what was on it and she said we could see the pic, meat and other stuff, it was really good, etc. Tj nor I saw any meat, but we knew it would be good, and we aren’t picky. When we got it it looked like ‘cheese’, and I saw something green like parsley! I made a joke that it was a Big Mac; turns out it was!!! The picture she’d generally waved her hand at was at right angles to the one we were looking at. She’d made a comment as we were ordering that we shouldn’t eat at the McDonalds nearby, and she probably commented on McD’s 10 times over the two days, so Tj ordered her suggestion and he basically got a Big Mac wrapped up in a crepe. What a laugh! I also got a Pavlova and split it with Tj.

We went inside the Peterhof and had to all put our rain jackets in a bucket, and the lady who worked there walked it to the other end of the museum to meet us when the quick tour was over! Marie helped Randy with his shoe coverings again today (blug). We saw a bit of art; Julia said the humidity was so bad which was why we had to leave our jackets. We also had to rush through the Chinese room so as to not change the temperature in the room with our body heat. I assume the humidity is also the reason the wooden french doors were taped shut with clear packing tape at every joint! I guess they never open them anymore.

We left the gallery and toured the grounds; Peterhof is called Russia’s Versailles Julia said several times. It was beautiful, and had many statues actually covered with gold. I was surprised because they’re right out in the open and at arm’s level…many people were touching them to take pictures…how long until the gold wears off? There were trick fountains in several places where Peter the Great would lure people to just the right place and then soak them. We saw plenty of kids with their rain jackets on waiting to be showered.

We went to the Russian Museum and saw such great art. I know we saw ‘Portrait of Sergei Diaghilev and His Nanny’…Julia said it was one of her favorites. I saw a few things I love, and of course I don’t know who did them or what they were titled. One was a massive Russian Cossack on a massive horse. He was huge and hairy, lots of facial hair, and had a big thick coat and gloves/mittens. I think it was made of tiles, super-colorful. The other ones were Turner-esque, lots of water scenes. These paintings were huge, probably 8′x15′, and there were even bigger ones. I can’t imagine painting something that you had to build scaffolding for to reach the top. How wonderful to have art you ‘must’ get out inside of you. Julia said he would visit the scene and sketch, then go home and paint. I’ll have to go look these guys up when I get home.

Bob wanted to see some particular art (which was absolutely fine), and Bob the aloof didn’t, so we left him at the gift shop and tore through the museum. Julia tried to take us straight to the paintings he wanted to see but she kept getting side-tracked with stuff she wanted to tell us about. For as annoying as she was she was super-knowledgeable and pretty easy to understand. I have to admit (and I’m sure it’s partly because we’d recently been to Germany and had an explanation of the word ‘fart’ there, which means ‘journey’), but I really thought at one point that Julia said when she saw some graffiti it was a ‘piece of fart’. Heh.

Since we had extra time because of the cancelation Julia took us to see the metro. I have to say they were the most beautiful metro stations I’d ever seen! They were almost a nice as a museum. I literally saw one piece of trash once we got underground. I don’t understand how they can spend so much money on beautiful subways and tons of gold statues and restoring museums, and have such sad apartment buildings everywhere! I forgot to mention earlier that many of the palaces and museums had been restored after being (most of them) totally destroyed during wars, or totally looted by the Germans.

After the museum no one really wanted to see the inside of the church nearby, so we opted to skip it. Bob the nice guy had to buy souvenirs so Julia took us there for our last stop. Overall today I bought a little bell; Tj bought his mom a lacquer box and Hoop a t-shirt.

When I started writing this we were watching a movie and looking out our balcony…passing by several small islands, some of them so tiny they just had retaining walls and a few trees. It was amazing. We passed several ships and some buildings on those islands. Now we’re much farther out to sea…I’m not sure that I see any land, but there are two ships of some sort in the distance. What a great vacation!

We ate supper just before coming back to the room for the evening. Among other things I got a pasta made with cream sauce, mushrooms, bacon and tomatoes. The guy put it together like it was Mongolian BBQ. Super! Tj got some desserts from the buffet, but I called Cipriano and asked if I could have the lunchtime dessert at Cagney’s; warm chocolate mocha brownie with tons of walnuts, and a scoop of ice cream. At first he said he couldn’t do it cause it was well past lunch, but then he brought it to my room!!

The time has changed an hour earlier each port we’ve traveled East, and today marks the first change later. It’s 9:20 according to tomorrow’s time and I’m about done. Downton Abbey is on now, Tj’s gone to get a drink, and I’m about to put my pj’s on. What a day!

Tj bought us new shoes for this cruise. The soles of my feet have never hurt on this trip, but the shoes are a little too tight across the top of my foot. I realize now that I didn’t feel my calves today, and don’t think I did yesterday either. Can’t believe it took this long for the pain to completely go away. Also love my little portable keyboard with Bluetooth that links to my phone. Being married to an IT guy has great advantages :-)

Sleeping pill at 9:38pm.

I’ll get back to the cruise…

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

But I want to record:

We’ve been disciplining Jack for wetting his pants for 4 weeks last Saturday. We’d been leaving it up to him to initiate going; we did ask him often if he needed to go, but we rarely made him go. I did this because the PS Sped teacher said if I always made him go he might end up like other students she had who never went on their own…they’d pee themselves if someone didn’t make them go to the bathroom. Saturday I decided to continue the discipline, but we’d make him go to the bathroom when we wanted him to go. Basically he’d have 1 wet/dirty pullup a day generally, with about 1 dry day a week. Sometimes more wet/dirty pullups, but never any more dry days.

Yesterday he ran to the bathroom and frantically pulled his shorts down, but when I got there he’d already pooped. Today I told him that in a few minutes he’d have to go to the bathroom because we were about to leave; in a couple of minutes he went on his own! He was dry Saturday and Sunday. Wet/dirtied himself twice yesterday, and sometime last night/this morning he pulled his soaking diaper off in his bedroom, peed in 7 places and pooped in 1. Great. He was dry all day after that, though :-), even with a couple hours out of the house this morning and 3 hours out this afternoon.

I also took the door knob cover off his door and told him no more potty in his pullup at night. He wakes up and goes in his night-time diaper every morning before I go get him…maybe leaving him in a pullup with the option to go to the bathroom by himself will help this whole business. Or maybe he’ll just poop other places in the house. Guess we’ll wait and see.

Cruise day 6, Tallinn

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Tj woke me and I’d showered by 8:50am. He ate a bit of fruit while I got ready, I didn’t eat anything.

We walked through the right-off-the-ship shopping area and I saw a sweater perfect (I hope) for Sara Lu. I didn’t want to get anything right away, so we kept on. There was a small hot air balloon nearby for tourists to ride…I really want to one day.

Our first stop was a large sculpture erected in memory of many who drowned crossing on a ferry. Tj found a geocache there. Then we went into the city. There were so many beautiful and cute old buildings there…I took a ton of pictures. We walked and walked…lots of cobblestones, very little concrete. It was cold, then nice, rainy, then sunny, then rainy and sunny. It was a good day. We ran into some cruise critic friends and chatted a minute. Then we went into a pastry shop and I picked out a horseshoe shaped almond-flavored cookie. Tj found another geocache in the old city. We ate at Old Hansa, a very kitschy-touristy shop. They had good mushroom soup, various sausages, a nutty bread with herb cheese, and at the end rose pudding with rose petals on top. The whole restaurant was lit by candles. The bathroom was a little strange, too. The toilet was built into a stone bench with a curtain that allowed only my knees to be seen. Strange. Fortunately it was a one-person-at-a-time room with a locking door. So why would I want the curtain? The sink was a big brass pitcher you had to dip down to pour (it constantly refilled), and the soap was liquid in a little brass bowl you had to dip your fingers in. Strange.

Before lunch we went through the tourist market area and I got a little toy for Jack and a wooden butter knife for me. At another store I found tons of little ceramic houses. The girl said they were replicas of houses in the old city. I bought several for Kelly, Jennifer, Amy and myself. At another place I bought myself some hand knit winter socks.

On our way out we went towards the new town and Tj got another geocache. Then we headed back to the ship and I (not without sweating it a bit) found that sweater I’d found for Sara Lu. As I was trying it on Tj said I should get one for myself. I never even considered it, but I liked it more and more, and so I did! :-) Now I just need to find something for Jo and Mom. And Max. I should have bought him some horns here…that would’ve been fun.

We got back on the ship by 5pm. Close to 7 we went to supper, to the buffet. We both started out with a chocolate crepe hot off the griddle. Then I had a salad with some goat cheese, some roast beef, some pizza bread, etc. We played musical tables for supper every time we went to the buffet. It made us chuckle. For dessert we bought sweets; Tj got a chocolate cannoli (not great) and I got a Cake Boss Chocolate cupcake with chocolate fudge icing…it was great!

Randy and Jay and FAM got their luggage last night! Poor saps not having any of their things for almost a week!

Man, being on a ship seems to bring out the worst in people! I was standing at the hostess stand at Versailles, literally touching it, opening my mouth to give the hostess our names for the wait list and an old Asian lady cut in front of me to ask how long the wait was. Not a big deal. But then she said she wanted a table for six. Before I could say we were next (in the nicest possible voice, of course) the hostess told her we were next. I thanked her.

Now it’s 8:40pm and the sun is shining like it’s 4pm. Tj and I are ‘watching’ some Cameron Diaz move set in the 70s or so. Funny and extremely strange.

I took my sleeping pill at 9pm. Last night Tj showed me the map on his phone and said tell me when you see the lines moving. These pills affect him quicker and stranger! I’ve never seen anything like he does.