Tuesday, October 2, 2007 ;
3:45 AM
This post would be about the kids' fun and playing in various playgrounds from July to Sept.

I think I mentioned before that a church member gave us his trampoline. It was a huge one and we placed it in the front cos our backyard's too small. There is a risk though, cos the church friends told us that anything on our property is our responsibility. Since the front has no fence, if any kid comes to our trampoline to jump and falls or hurts himself, then we are LIABLE, and could be sued for compensation!!

Dh joked that maybe he should put up a big sign with all those standard disclaimers you see at all playgrounds. Anyway, I always keep my eye on a lookout after that.

When kids are jumping, I'd also get on, or I'd be watching by the side. Sometimes that can be a dreaded chore. Esp when I have tons of household chores waiting to be done in the house, or a meal to cook, I'd get somewhat impatient and have to remind myself that outdoor activities are good for the kids, and I should just stick it out.

Our iBook (the apple laptop) has a faulty battery already, so I use an extension cord to pull the laptop out, sit on the front steps and check email while the kids play. I seldom get to check more than 1-2 emails in 1.5 hours though. Cos the front is so dangerous, I find myself having to look up ever so often to yell at them.

So in the spirit of exercising, I gave up trying to do my own stuff and instead joined them in the running and jumping for the rest of the summer and fall. However, a big contrast remains: I get breathless and wound up after 30min of jumping, while they can still go on for 1hr! I cannot believe it. The other thing is, I always feel very conscious cos right there, there's this busy street where at least 20 cars pass by every min, and I keep thinking that they must be laughing at me. (The truth is, not many glance at us, but once in a while some do, and they almost crash into my hedge or the mailbox!)
Toys R Us stores all around the area are really huge. They're standalones, not like in Spore where it's most likely in a mall. So instead of having a lot of the huge play equipment in boxes, they are all displayed in the open for kids to try.

To my kids, that seems like a huge playground. Sometimes we indulge and bring them there to "test-drive" their fav vehicles. It's amazing how many kiddie vehicles there are, and how a lot of them are actually replicas of real adult ones, like the Cadillacs, the Jeeps, the Hummers, John Deere tractors etc.

Then there are the MacDonalds/ Carl's Juniors and Burger Kings. Most of the fast food restaurants have a playplace, playground (outdoors) or playcenter. Here, all the restaurants are standalones too, even Subway, KFC, Taco Bell... Over the months, the kids have their fav playcenters already. This is one of their fav, cos it goes very high and consists of more challenges.

You can see ds1 as a tiny head in the pic on the left. Above the yellow tunnel and below the hanging butterfly kite.

We didn't use to eat out much until ds1 started preschool. On Tues and Thurs I have to leave home by 10.30am to pick him up, 1hr away, in the city. By the time I pick him up, chat with the teacher and moms, it'd be 12pm, if I reach home and cook, it'd be 2pm before we can have lunch. Too late.

Sometimes, ds2 takes his nap while ds1 plays!

So every Tues and Thurs, we'd go to a park, a playplace or something to get lunch. I could prepare sandwiches or bring our own food too. Just haven't got down to doing that.

Macs has got this Asian Salad which I love, not sure if it's the same menu as in Spore. Cos at Burger King's, I look for my fav Mushroom Swiss and they don't serve it here at USA's branches!

Anyway, Asian salad has edamame, baby corn, carrots, almonds, mandarin oranges, red peppers and a mixture of greens, topped with grilled chicken breast. The salad dressing is some ginger sesame oil blend, very fragrant. So, I always eat that when we go Macs.

I mentioned we met up with the Msian/ Sporean Catholic couple right? They're Anthony and Jessie. 17th of Aug: we followed dh to SLC, picked them up at their Guest House, and dh dropped us off at Target to get their electronics, and household stuff. After me and kids and them had lunch together, dh came out from school to pick us up, drop Anthony off at a Trax station cos he had to go back UofU for meeting with his supervisor, then drop me, kids and Jessie at Ikea.

As I mentioned before, this Ikea is brand new, and like Jen said in her Boise blog, it's the newest Ikea in USA. Utahns are not used to the Ikea concept yet. Most American furniture are huge, traditional, solid wood and very expensive.

Anyway, I love Ikea, and we had such a great time there. I binged on all the fav Ikea food --meatballs, choc cake, apple pie. I bought a wok for only $8. Couldn't believe it, cos it looks better than the ones I saw at Walmart and Target and I got mine there for $29 when I first arrived in Utah. Arrrgh. So I didn't care and bought another, since my old wok had its Teflon peeling out already.

Their playland is very big, bigger than the Alexandra's Ikea, but they did not have a time limit for the kids inside. So when we reached, it was full. If you wanted, you can be placed on a waitlist and be given a buzzer with remote sensor. So you can carry on shopping but when it lighted up and buzzed, you could drop your kids off and continue shopping, alone, kids-free.

Both kids had a lot of fun with the normal Ikea exhibits and the kid's area, so I didn't need to place them there anyway.

The other place I didn't expect a playroom (above) was the Toyota dealer we went to get our 2nd hand car from. But according to dh, it is standard here. Cos this state is very child-friendly, supermarkets and many companies have playrooms for kids, so parents can shop or discuss things with ease.

So after we test drove the cars and looked through stuff, me and kids went to the playroom, dh negotiated the deal. Good thing the room was well stocked, even had TV and DVDs but I didn't turn them on. There were enough toys and ride-ons to keep kids occupied. And there was a TV broadcasting news for parents, and I happily watched that. Theoretically, I could leave kids inside cos there was a staff member there and it's very safe inside, with a door that has see-through panels.

The car, it was a good deal too. It was almost new, a 2007 Toyota Corolla, 1.8L with only 900miles on it. It belonged to the dealership's owner's son, who suddenly decided to upgrade. Besides having automatic transmission, dh asked for, and got a lot of extras. It already had most of the works inside, like power windows, power this and that, full security system, remote keyless lock. But dh also got keyless engine ignition, and remote boot unlock.

So I could actually start the engine, get the aircon on before we got into the car, from under the shade of the school porch, during summer. Then it won't be scorching when we enter. Or, in winter, I could get the heater running without even opening the doors or entering the car yet. Then when it's warm enough, I shoo the kids and myself into the car, without freezing. Great feature.

If, I have my hands full while grocery-shopping, I could get the boot to open by pressing the button with my little finger, drop off all the bags, then place ds2 in car seat. Ds1 has already been trained to get into car, and belt himself up. Very kid-friendly.

Besides these, dh also got some protectant cover thing, where they spray the interior with something (yikes, I am not a technical person) and the exterior with something else, to protect the surfaces. Interior one was helpful, cos ds2 peed in the car!!! I am toilet-training him but sometimes accidents happen. It didn't soak into the seat, fortunately, and I was able to clean it all up.

It also came with 100000 mile warranty or 7 years warranty, whichever came first. That's a relief cos our Malibu (above) has no warranty, so if we go on road trips, we'll take the Toyota, in case there's a breakdown and we need towing, everything would be covered. Ok, the cost? It's $17K before taxes. I would like to think we had a good deal here! :-) My Proton in Spore cost $70K, and it was only 1.3L, manual transmission, no power windows and no power anything!

Above and below shows playgrounds in some parks or around our neighbourhood. ds1 currently loves the monkey bars. He really looks like a monkey swinging across!

Below left: this one I had to do it before he would try it. It was real fun though, and when the other family left the playground, I myself went on it several times. It's more thrilling than a slide cos there's nothing under your bum. :-)

Above right: ds2 overcame his fear of climbing the spirals after he saw ds1 going up.

Below: each ds with their hand standing up after sliding down the tunnel slides, cos of static. It's quite funny how, once they put their feet on the ground, the hair falls back.

This below is the tumbleweed. ds first watched it in Barney's VCd, the one on cowboys. The one in the VCD was already dried and tumbling about in the wind. This is the live one, still growing. In New Mexico, there were a lot of dust and sandstorms, and the wind was so strong that, while driving on the interstate, we saw huge tumbleweeds rolling across the desert!

Below: our own backyard is still where they spend the most time. This was on a Wed night, after Bible class. We'd stroll back home, and then they'd want to "play somemore, please" before bedtime. That's me trying in vain to do a chin up, so dh quickly snapped a pic of the sheepishly-grinning, embarrassed me.

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