Monday, October 27, 2008

Aussie Invasion (of Three)

A few months ago I learned that a friend of mine, Nettie, from the Museum of Hoaxes forum would be traveling to our neck of the woods. She lives in Perth, Australia. She and her sister and niece would be visiting her father and step-mother in Vancouver, British Columbia.

We couldn't get up to see them because we don't have a passport for Sydney. But if they were willing and able to go to Seattle for a visit we were willing and able to go to Seattle to meet them.

So plans were made, hotels were booked, plans were changed after Nettie got to Vancouver and started looking into the schedules for the ferries to Seattle and hotel bookings were changed again. But in the end it all worked out.

We drove to Seattle on Friday. Nettie, her sister Jo and Jo's daughter Darce would be arriving on a ferry late that night. I would meet them at the ferry and get them back to the hotel. We would spend the day Saturday doing touristy stuff, having fun and hanging out together. Nettie, Jo and Darce would go back by ferry very early on Sunday and we would drive back home not long after that.

A couple weeks before the trip we found out that another friend from the forum, Transfrmr, had just moved to Seattle. Last year he had moved across Canada to Vancouver. His new job kept him busy and we didn't see much of him around the forum. But he just got a new job that relocated him to Seattle. So we made plans to meet up with him, too.

So Anne, Sydney and I drove across Washington to Seattle. We stopped in Snoqualmie at the Salish Lodge and had dinner. We overlooked the Snoqualmie Falls from the dining room. (The following picture was not taken from the dining room, but from the overlook area outside the Lodge. We could have gotten a better picture but didn't feel like walking around to the observation deck.)

Snoqualmie Falls

We drove to the hotel and checked in. Sydney and Anne were both beat and went almost straight to bed. I still had about an hour and a half until the ferry came in. The pier was about a five minute drive or a twenty minute walk from the hotel. (And I should note that I'm a night owl. I wasn't tired or ready for bed yet, so staying up to meet them was no problem.)

With assurances from the valet staff that it would be safe to walk to the pier I set out. I figured I had no idea what the parking was like there. I could walk down, see what options there were for parking and walk back to get the car if I figured I needed to. I had plenty of time.

It was a very nice walk. The evening was chilly, but not cold. There was good traffic around and I didn't feel unsafe. So I found where the boat would be coming in and hung out. There weren't very many people around the pier and no one even showed up so I could ask if I was in the right spot and where they would be coming through until about ten minutes before the ferry arrived.

Nettie had her dad's cell phone and I tried to call it a few times while I was waiting. I wanted to see how tired they were and whether I should go get the car. Either I had the wrong number programmed in my phone or I was unable to get through for some other reason (when they got there the phone was roaming, so the phone carrier might not have been available in Seattle).

The passengers disembarked from the ferry but I saw no signs of Nettie. Hmm. A lady standing a few feet away was also waiting for someone who didn't get off. Luckily she was able to get a hold of her friend. It seems the passengers with checked luggage had to wait and get off last. And those people all seemed to be on the far side of the boat so we couldn't see them through the windows from the angle we were at above them.

So a few minutes later Nettie, Jo and Darce got off the boat. We waved and said hellos through the fence and the difference in heights of the platforms we were on. I asked if they wanted me to head back to the hotel and get the car while they got through customs/immigration. They said they were fine for the 20 minute walk.

I didn't bring the camera with me since I didn't want to walk through an unknown city at night with it regardless of assurances of safety from the valets at the hotel. But I did manage to snap a picture of the new arrivals with my cell phone.

Nettie Arrives

That's Jo in the foreground in the light-colored coat and Nettie smiling (?) for the camera. Yes, it was dark on the pier and my phone does not have a flash.

And, unfortunately, I found out the next day that my camera had gotten broken somehow during the trip and that is the only picture I have of Nettie from the whole visit.

Just kidding.

So after they got their luggage and made it through the security checks (I'm still not sure how Nettie managed that) we started off to the hotel. There might be claims that it was a forced march, but it wasn't. I gave them the option and offered to go get the car. I just happened to neglect to tell them that the last several blocks would be up a very steep hill.

The next morning we met up and headed out for our day in the city. I tried to call Transfrmr but couldn't get through. Still. I had been trying since they arrived the night before. I asked Nettie if she happened to write down his phone number (I had programmed it straight to my phone). As it turned out I had the wrong number (again?), though it's since been shown he gave me the wrong number. I checked the message he sent the first time and it was wrong. The second time he sent it I didn't double check since I had already programmed it in my phone. But we got a hold of him and he would be meeting us.

First stop was over to Pike Place Market for sightseeing and breakfast. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera in the hotel room. No, really. But I went back and got it and planned on meeting up with everyone. Somehow I managed to arrive at Pike Place Market before they did.

Here are Darce and Sydney standing by a giant piggy bank in front of the Pike Place Fish Market. (They throw the fish around and it's quite fun to watch.)

Sydney and Darce at Pike Place Market

After breakfast it was decided that the Seattle Aquarium would be a fun place to visit. So off we went.

On our way out of Pike Place we passed a little shop with snow globes. Darce collects them so she and Jo went in to buy one.

Jo and Darce Shop

And while we were waiting I realized I didn't have a good picture of Nettie yet.


Then came the tricky part of figuring out how to get down to the aquarium. Most of Seattle downtown is built on a large, steep hill. The aquarium is straight down the hill from Pike Place Market. We're pretty sure there's a way to get down through the market (it does go down the hill for several levels - Anne and I have been through it). But we had Sydney's stroller, we didn't see many options with ramps or elevators and the market was quite crowded. So we opted for taking the streets.

Unfortunately, the streets that go through down to the ocean side aren't really close to Pike Place Market. We would have to go down several streets to find one that went through and then back those several blocks to get to the aquarium. There was a nice plaza, however, that went all the way down. Even though it was all stairs and no ramps we went for it. I held Sydney's hand down the stairs and Anne figured she could take the stroller down with the back wheels down one stair at a time.

That quickly went south as the stroller tilted back and forth. Luckily, a kind samaritan grabbed the front and helped her lift it down. Nettie and I, probably with the same Scottish friends in mind, both snapped a picture.

Anne and Scotsman Carry the Stroller

After they all got down to where those tables are we thanked the man for his help. He smiled, waved and said we were welcome and then went back up the stairs to his day. He was very nice to step in and help.

The rest of the way down (we were only about half-way) I helped with the stroller. Nettie stepped in to help make sure Sydney got down all right.

Sydney and Nettie Go Downstairs

When we got to the aquarium we stopped at the fountain out front for pictures. Look how tall Nettie is!

Nettie and John Are Both Tall

Okay, so she was standing on a bench. Here we are standing on the same level. (Notice my nice new Perth, Australia, hat I got as a gift.)

Nettie and John Are Different Heights

As we got there Transfrmr called. He was leaving his house and would meet us at the aquarium in about a half hour. So we went in and got started. There's a huge tank right in the entrance and we got there just in time for the diver exhibit. That was fun and informative. After that we headed over to the tide pool tanks.

Sydney Pets Sea Creatures

Both of the kids (and the adults, too) enjoy petting the starfish, anemones and other creatures in the pool.

Darce and Nettie Pet Sea Creatures

There were other fun things for the kids, too. If there's ever a wheel to turn Sydney will want to turn it.

Sydney The Sailor Man

Behind Sydney there you can see a jellyfish in a small window of the tank. The tank is a giant ring the jellyfish swim around in. It's about eight feet high and goes down just under the floor. You can walk through it (and have to to get to the ship's wheel).

Right about then Tranfrmr called to let us know he arrived. Nettie and I headed back toward the entrance to meet him.

Sydney Plays With Felt Animals

You're right! That's not Transfrmr. That is Sydney playing with a large felt board, putting felt cut outs of sea creatures on it. She loved it. I didn't get any pictures of Transfrmr until a little later.

And here's Sydney in one of the cut-out picture things where you stick your face through. She loves these things. (We don't know who the little boy is. Just another kid that was at the aquarium.)

Sydney The SCUBA Diver

Nettie brought Sydney a koala bear hand puppet. Here she is, in her stroller, snuggling it.

Sydney And Her Koala

After the aquarium we went over to the Seattle Center area where the Space Needle is. Transfrmr had to move his car from a temporary parking spot to an all-day spot. While waiting for him we enjoyed the sites and sounds of the vendors set up across from the walkway along the piers. There was a Scientologist booth set up along with the little machine that takes whatever readings they take. They were also selling copies of Dianetics. Since they are sometimes a "target" of discussions over on the forums Nettie and I (and Transfrmr when he met us) got a good chuckle out of seeing it. I didn't take a picture, but Nettie did. It will be on her blog, I'm sure, when she gets back from her trip.

While waiting I also scouted out a parking garage with an elevator going back up to the Pike Place Market so we went up there and avoided stairs. We then walked a few blocks to the monorail to go over to the Seattle Center. Darce was a tad nervous about it since it was elevated, but she was a brave young lady and handled the ride well.

We decided to check out the Children's Museum there. No one was interested in paying to go up in the Space Needle. Especially with Darce's apprehension of heights.

The elevator down to the Children's Museum was out of order. So we found another one and then had to go up about five stairs and then down about five stairs to get back to the museum. And guess what they had out front?

Daddy Catches Sydney

I caught Sydney!

Nettie Caught Darce

Nettie caught Darce!

Darce Caught Sydney

And Darce caught Sydney!

We then had a lengthy discussion about who would go to the museum. Would we all go? Transfrmr doesn't have a child, so did he really want to pay to go in? Did both Anne and I have to go in with Sydney? Both Jo and Nettie in with Darce?

We were discussing many different options when Darce decided she didn't really want to go to the Children's Museum. Problem solved! We went back outside (there was a side door with ramp access) and played on the rides out in the square.

While Darce and Sydney were waiting to go on the first ride I snapped a picture of Tranfrmr and Nettie.

Nettie and Transfrmr

The girls then went on the car ride. It was basically a flat, kiddie roller coaster with cars.

Sydney And Darce Ride The Cars

Then we got a picture of the three Forumites together.

Nettie, transfrmr and John

Then Sydney dragged me on the ferris wheel.

Sydney And Daddy Ride The Ferris Wheel

And Sydney went on her favorite, the carousel, with Mommy and Darce.

Sydney, Mommy and Darce Ride the Carousel

Sydney was then out of tickets but Darce gave her two so she could ride on the bumper cars with her.

Sydney And Darce On The Bumper Cars

It was then time to head back on the monorail. Darce seemed fine this time around. She didn't seem nervous at all. She didn't even seem to have any problems waiting for the monorail up on the platform for the ten minutes it took to arrive.

Sydney, Mommy, Jo and Darce Wait For the Monorail

Next stop on the expedition was the Underground Tour. You can't take strollers on it so we headed back to the hotel. Which was fine since we had to go right past it to get over to Pioneer Square anyway. So we stopped at the hotel, freshened up, dropped off the stroller and then headed out to Pioneer Square. Transfrmr headed down to the waterfront to get his car and drove over to Pioneer Square to park.

When we got there just after him we went in and paid for our tour. It was recommended to get there an hour ahead of time since it was first-come, first-served. To kill the time until the tour started we went across the plaza to Magic Mouse Toys and browsed through the shop. We all found things we wanted to buy. Luckily, we also asked and found out the store was open late so we could go back after dinner. That way we weren't carrying bags along on the tour.

The tour tells (and shows) how Seattle was settled on the tide plain. How the city constantly flooded with the tides and how a fire that burned down 33 square blocks solved that problem. The city was rebuilt and the streets were raised to the second floor of the buildings. The streets were raised with dirt ripped from the hills so the hills aren't as large or steep as they originally were.

The "Underground" is really the original street level of the city and you get to go under the current sidewalks and see between the buildings and the retaining walls that raised the streets.

The Underground Tour was the one thing Nettie really wanted to do while she was here. I hope it lived up to her hopes and expectations. She said she enjoyed it and it really was neat if you're interested in history. (The fact we had a really good guide probably didn't hurt, either.)

After the tour we went to dinner at a restaurant in Pioneer Square called Mitchelli's. It's an excellent Italian restaurant. Anne and I have been there twice before on previous trips to Seattle with another (non-MoH) online friend. Aunt Marta drove down from Mount Vernon (about an hour north of Seattle) to have dinner with us, too.

After dinner we went back to the toy store and bought many things. There are some really neat things in that toy store. It would have been easy to spend a whole lot of money there (er, we did). And they didn't even have that much of a LEGO stock.

Nettie, Transfrmr and I took one more picture outside the store before we called it a night. And even though it looks like I'm burping in it and it's a terrible picture of me, I'll share it here.

Nettie, Tranfrmr and John

We said our good byes to Transfrmr and he headed off home. Jo and Darce weren't feeling well and took a taxi home. Aunt Marta headed off to home and Nettie walked back to the hotel with us.

The next morning I got up early to see Nettie, Jo and Darce off. Anne and Sydney had said their good byes the night before when we got back to the hotel. It would have been easy to force march the ladies back to the pier - it's much easier down hill, after all - but since it was so early I went ahead and drove them.

It was sad to have our time together end. It was a lot of fun. Darce and Sydney got along great. Nettie was just as nice and as much fun as I knew she would be. But I'm really glad we got to share the time together. Living half the world away there aren't many opportunities like that to be close and get together.

Transfrmr is also a great person. Just like I know him from the forum. The positive thing there is that he only lives in Seattle. That's close enough to visit again. And this time it's his turn to come see me.

And for anyone keeping score, that's four people from the Museum of Hoaxes I've met. We met Alex, the owner and curator of the museum, when we went to Seattle in February. (Pictures are already deleted or I would post a link to the blog entry.) I also met Oppiejoe in Hell, Michigan, when I was back there for my high school reunion.

So who will I meet next?

(There are a few pictures in my online photo album that didn't make it into this post. If you're interested in seeing them you can do so right here.)

Friday, October 10, 2008



Did somebody flip a switch?

The day after my last post Sydney really did turn a corner, flip a switch, whatever you want to call it. She is doing much, much better with going potty. She's in underwear most of the time (though she sometimes asks to be put in diapers and we tell her no). She holds it and rarely goes in her underwear anymore.

She's not completely there yet, but she's getting a lot closer. She doesn't always know when she has to go, I think. We have to ask her or make her go sit on the toilet before she will frequently. But even in the morning I don't think I've had a day in the last two weeks where she peed in her over night diaper before we got to the toilet.

And she has had a handful of times where she has gotten herself to the toilet, pulled her pants and undies down and gone pee all on her own. And - ready for this? - there have been at least two times (one of them just this morning) where she has gotten herself to the toilet to poop on her own.

So we're getting much, much closer.

And to answer Grandma B's question from the comments of the last post, yes, Sydney does get upset when she pees (or poops, but that's only happened once or twice) in her underwear. But having it happen and getting upset about it didn't seem to help right away in the training process.

So there's a potty training update. And as appropriate as it might seem, that is not the reason for the title of this post.

We had a very long, cold winter with lots and lots of snow. Record-breaking amounts of snowfall. And that's just here in the city. That's not even mentioning the snow pack up in the mountains.

We had a very late spring here. It stayed cool well into May. The second week of May it really started to get warm and all that snow melted almost all at one time. The lake level rose. The flood gates were opened on the dams on the river. The water rose faster than it could get down the river. (The river was flooded, too.)

The last two weeks of May, during absolutely gorgeous weather - the longest stretch of it to that point this year - they had to put a "no wake" restriciton on the lake. Boats could not go fast enough to leave a (significant) wake in the water. So no water recreation.

A couple days before the flood levels were supposed to reach their peak I took my camera to work. I took some pictures of the water levels. (I did it a few days before the expected peak time because we were going to leave for Vegas the next day and would be gone for the peak.)

Then, a few weeks ago I brought my camera back to work and took some pictures of the lake at the end of summer with "normal" water levels. Below are the pictures. The first one in each pair is the flood level. The second picture in each pair is the same location at normal water levels.

If you want to see slightly larger versions of the pictures you can see them over at my Picture Trail photo albums.

This is City Beach next to the Resort.

This is the City Beach but angled a little further out into the water. On the left side of the picture you can see Independence Point. It's a public dock where daily public lake cruises leave from as well as the parasailing and seaplane tours.

Between City Beach and the west entrance to the Floating Boardwalk that goes around the Resort is the Boardwalk Bar. This is taken from the seating area looking back at the City Beach. If you look closely at the right side of the picture you can see a man standing to the left of the tree and to the right of the white sign. That's just about where I was for the first two sets of pictures above.

The next pictures are taken next to our Corporate Offices next to the Resort (you'll see that building in the next pictures). The closest dock is a City Dock open to the public. The further dock with the blue awnings is part of the Boardwalk Marina, which is private space leased through the marina portion of our Corporation.

These pictures are taken from near the top of the ramp of the Boardwalk Marina entrance you saw in the last pictures. The large wooden building is the Corporate Offices. The small, cooper-roofed building near the right side of the picture is the Boardwalk Bar where I took the earlier pictures. The City Beach is beyond that.

The Boardwalk Marina wraps around the south end, lake side of the Resort. At the water's edge we have a nice grassy area with steps down toward the water. People sit there and during the (nicer days of the) summer we have live music out there in the evenings. It's called the Floating Stage area because of the stage off the boardwalk where the musicians play (barely seen on the left side of each picture).