Thursday, August 28, 2008

Natalie Becomes Tall Enough

Most of the big rides at Disneyland are for kids over 42 inches tall (for some it is 40 and I think the Matterhorn is only 36), and Natalie's been over 40 inches tall since last Christmas... but she's never been tall enough, if you get what I mean.

Perhaps there is a certain rite of passage parents need to go through to accept the fact that their children are getting old, growing up, and being able to handle more of what life can throw at them. They take their first steps, their first bumps, their first disappointments, their first joys…each time, growing stronger, wiser and more able to withstand the journey to adulthood.

For us, one of these little rites of passage has been the “big” rides at Disneyland: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain. She had to be 40 inches tall to ride any of them but she’s never had an interest in going on them until today…partly because it is her birthday. We are usually emboldened on our birthday or days where we are made to feel special.

Once we got into the Disneyland proper—we made a stopover first at California Adventure because Natalie’s teacher has a fun job in one of the parades and she wanted to see her—we bee-lined to City Hall to announce that it was Natalie’s birthday. They gave her a button with her name on it, and every cast member we came across—and some random people too—wished her a happy birthday. She beamed.

One thing she wanted to do was ride Splash Mountain, now that she was tall enough (you have to be 42 for that one), and before California Adventure closed and the hoards from that park filter into Disneyland, we got in line, which was a brisk 20-minute wait.

Of course, Natalie loved it…and I think I was more worried about her falling out on the big drop than she was, but that’s just the worried parent in me. In the picture—they take snapshots of each boat…er, log, as it plummets down the final fall—Natalie has her hands thrust into the air with an ecstatic look swept across her face, and I’m the one holding onto her like she’s suddenly going to flip into the air and fly away.

It’s funny how protective I can be sometimes. But then again, she’s only going to be five years old for another 364 days.

We’ve got to make them count.

**The picture above is Natalie and I before Splash Mountain started…and yeah, we got soaked!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fountain of Joy

I love the sound of running water. That is, running water in a natural setting; a leaking faucet or someone who leaves the water running while their brushing their teeth makes me gnash mine together at the sound of liquid money swirling down the drain. However, a brook, stream, river, waterfall and even a fountain is like the sweet melodic sounds of Mother Nature singing me to sleep (a bit much?).

For the past six or seven months, I’ve been in the market for a fountain, something to add to the front yard to delight our guests as they approach the front door. Plus, I figured I could open the window in the front room and hear the trickling water waft throughout the house. Target had a fountain I liked. It wasn’t too ornate, quite plain really, and was a single tier fountain, meaning water drained from only one level into the main basin. It was about four feet wide and maybe five feet tall; However, it was also $400! I don’t want to make payments on it, so I searched CraigsList and eBay for comparable fountains that might be much cheaper. I found cheaper ones in the $300 range, but they were gaudy: naked mermaids, pineapples spewing water out of their tops. Plus, all of the fountains I saw were giant, over-dominating concrete structures that the ancient Greeks would marvel.

Since I only have so much space in the area I want to put it (to the north of the porch), I didn’t want something that would look too large, out of place, and become the main focus of the yard. I wanted it somewhat hidden out of sight, something you would hear before you see it. For the past six months, I found nothing that got my attention, nothing in my price range that I wanted to pay, and nothing that I would settle on, except for the one at Target…

Every time I would go there, I’d see it in the corner of the garden section, that $400 price tag mocking me. That is, until last Friday. Taking a pilgrimage to the MotherStore for Matthew’s diapers (each box I hope is the last), I saw the coveted 50-percent-off sale tag on “my” fountain. Of course, I inquired. The price was slashed to $199, and Vince, the garden-supply guy that I always see working the register (he used to work for if that recalls any painful stock purchases) said I could get an additional 10 percent off of that. As well, he’ll scour the back room to see if he could locate any more parts from other fountains, and he returned with an extra water pump, which is nice to have.

I was tickled to get a 50.25 percent discount ($400 marked down to $199) and then get an additional 10 percent off of that. Now I’m not a mathematician, and I don’t consider myself a good shopper, but I think something originally price at $400 and marked down to $179.10 equals a 65.225 percent discount.

And there was a time I was tempted to buy it at full price. But I guess timing is everything, as someone else was taking advantage of the savings too, buying a nice fire pit, originally priced in the $300 range for only $89.00. My advice to you is if you’re looking for something outdoorsy for your house/yard and you see it at Target in March… wait until late August for their end-of-summer sale. It is well worth it.

So, once home, I went to Home Depot and bought some pea gravel and a few concrete blocks, as I wanted it level (gravel) and elevated slightly, about a foot off the ground. It assembled easily and once I plugged it in and leveled out the top tier, it worked like a charm.

What’s left is to plant a ring of bushes around the base to cover up the elevating blocks and I need to wire a new plug so I can get rid of the extension cord that is currently snaking across the porch and doorstep. While I’m doing that, I may hook it up to a timer so it will come on in the morning and go off at night.

For once my usual impatience impulsiveness didn’t get the better of me and I waited until it went on sale, saving a couple hundred bucks!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Zoo, Up Close

We got a rare treat while at the San Diego Wild Animal Park last weekend. While we were idly admiring a rambling brook and I was gassing on about how it would look cool in our back yard, a cheetah appeared out of nowhere...on a leash. Apparently, he was out walking his dog. That's right, the cheetah's dog. At that zoo, they provide pet dogs to all of the cheetahs to keep them calm in loud situations, as the dogs are more than likely to check out a disturbing noise rather than the cheetah's inclination to run (that's what cheetahs do, we were informed, at zero to 60mph in a little over three seconds...try doing that in your car).

They walked the cheetah and his dog to our side of the brook and right by us--I could have reached out and touched him--and he hopped up on a big flat rock in front of us and purred, deep tremulous and heavy purrs like a small engine. Of course, they constantly reminded us not to move, to keep our "feet planted," which gave me a sinking feeling that it wouldn't take much for this 150-pound cat to shred us all like pulled pork, especially after getting a look at the size of his feet and knowing that somewhere tucked above those giant pads were five razor-sharp talons. But it was okay, I reassured, cheetahs can jump nearly 20 feet and we were only five feet away; the cheetah would jump right over us. I learned that lesser-known fact from the Jungle Cruise.

It was the highlight of the day.

*In the video, it shows Matthew not even looking at the cheetah, but he was. Something shiny distracted him, apparently.

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