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8 posts from November 2008

November 28, 2008

Top 10 Things

for which I am thankful.  After all, it is Thanksgiving and despite the fact that we sometimes feel things are not 'going our way', we (our family) has quite a bit to be grateful for this year.  In fact, I may have ignored this entirely but for two things:  

1.  Auntie Sharon sent an email today.  It was a very simple email, perhaps a forward, and if so, one you may have seen many times.  I have never received this particular message, but found it compelling it its simplicity.  The gist:  are we upset because we have a long walk to work, have high fuel bills, or those never-ending piles of laundry?  Well, at least we have/can afford those things.  They are not necessarily things we (our family) stresses about but general complaints often heard today.

2.  Kelsey's new motto:  "Did I fill your bucket?" (to be explained in a later post, I promise!)

I thought I would try a touch of humor with a Top 10.  Don't worry, explanation will also follow if deemed necessary.

10.  Despite an auspicious and expensive beginning, a rental car fiasco, lost items, mixed-up furniture, a crazy Home Leave, freak-outs at the price of housing, freak-outs at the lack of housing, and in general, way too much stress for just one move:  we made it.  

Did things go as smoothly as we hoped and turn out exactly the way we planned?  No.

Did we get here safely (even the cat) and have many people as far away as Iceland help us so much more than we could have hoped for?  Yes, many times over.

In fact, the night before we moved, I was telling friends how my only prayer was that we (yes, including the evil one that makes Pete sneeze) all made it safely to the U.S.  We did, and for that, I am thankful.

9.  The fact that while we are not in our dream home, it keeps us safe from intruders (o.k., so does my personal security attache), cool during the summer,  warm in the winter, and dry during the rain (though we are likely to be dancing outside in said rain as we are so thankful it finally appeared).  

8.  We don't drive fancy cars, but they run and even have a few optional features.  They get us where we need to go, and we can afford to have them fixed if they break down or buy a new one if necessary. 

7.  While not always glamourous (to some, I think it's pretty cool), Peter has a great job with a stable company.  As one friend reminded me, it was not luck that got him the job (try his hard work and keen intellect), but I do feel lucky in this economy to know that his job is not dependent on how much people buy (or don't).  Moreover, it has also given (and will continue to give) us a few pretty good travel opportunities.

6.  We are lucky enough to wonder if we are saving enough for our children's  college funds.  

5.  One word:  pension.  It won't be everything, but it will darn well help.  This is also thanks to #7.  

4.  Health.  Other than Cait's frequenting of Landspitali last year, and Kelsey's cranio-facial reconstruction (minor in the scheme of things), we are rarely in the hospital, and almost never need to see a doctor.  And, yes,  I would welcome socialised health care in this country for the many who are not so fortunate.

3.  Education:  I hear so many gripes about schools in this country, and frankly, I find most to be unfounded.  People have the right to choose between public and private, and education is mandatory. Despite my worries about the differences in educational systems country to country, our kids are doing just fine.  A big thank you to everyone, past and present, who has instructed my children and helped to shape their open minds and encourage their loving hearts.

2.  Friends and family, old, new, near, & far:  you are not always next door physically, but you are there when we need you.  You have helped with our kids, pets, crazy moves, and listen when we just need to talk.  The bonus?  You have a random new location to visit every 2-3 years!   We were especially thankful to receive more than one Thanksgiving dinner invitation.  We were able to spend the day with new friends, and had a sumptuous and relaxing meal.

IMG_0093 1.  Beaker, Little C, Nugget, & the Little Guy (LBJ, II for those in the know) who make my life complete with their love, friendship, hugs, sweet kisses, special messages whispered in my ear nightly (Mommy, I love what you made for dinner, it is my favorite dinner.  Can you make it again soon?), and notes that will forever plaster the cover of the refrigerator (wherever we are).

Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a good night. 

November 23, 2008

Tis the Season

Since we moved to the area, I have been looking for volunteer activities that engaged the whole family. Without even thinking about it, one fell into my lap.  An announcement was made through a local mother's club that I belong to and it seemed like a perfect Saturday morning activity.

A group called the Tri-Valley Basket Brigade had formed to allow those (who otherwise might not) have a hearty Thanksgiving dinner.  This is at least the second year of giving, and this year over 300 people/families were slated to receive a basket or a bag, depending on their circumstances.

At 10 a.m. sharp we met in the parking lot of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Pleasanton, about 15 minutes from our house.  It was a gorgeous fall day and we joined at least 300 other folks (many, manyIMG_0054  families) to build and deliver the baskets.  The first task was to drop off the turkey, beans, desserts, baskets, and socks we collected (there was a wide variety of items to donate).  We then lined up and filled two baskets for specific families.  Caitlin easily hefted one basket, while Pete and Kelsey carried the second, and the little nugget (junior) hung out in his Peanut Shell (living up to his antenatal nickname).

After the baskets were wrapped in a cheerful purple cellophane, we were given our assignments.  As we were not sure about squeezing in baskets, we opted for two deliveries. They were easy, close by and frankly, over too soon.   Our biggest concern was that the recipients (they could be nominated by friends, neighbors, social service groups...) would not be home.

On both counts we were pleasantly surprised to find them home, though not really expecting company.  We handed the first basket to a slightly stunned young man and probably didn't give him much of a chance to say no. With a quick Happy Thanksgiving, we were off to deliver the next basket.  

The second family took a minute to get to the door, but the woman who answered was so grateful. She allowed that they really needed the basket and we departed with the knowledge that she and her IMG_0058 family would have a Happy Thanksgiving, whether they opted to celebrate tomorrow or next Thursday.

We all had a great time, and it was amazing to see the turn-out.  There were so many people willing to give up a Saturday morning to fill baskets and drive them as many miles as it would take to get them to the recipients.

It didn't seem like we were doing much to buy a few things to donate for the 'filling'.  However, when we saw all of the items lined up and the many willing to help;  it really reminded us of just how thankful we were to be the ones helping.  And, yes, we have already saved the day for next year's Basket Brigade. 

And the kids?  They loved it and Cait even asked if they do this at Christmastime.  I have not yet been able to confirm, but not to worry, together we have already come up with many ideas of ways to help those around us.

November 22, 2008

Nine Months

IMG_1715 Nine months in (well, more like 10.5) and now nine months out.  The boy has gone from a little strong, mature guy to a bigger, much stronger, mature little guy.  He grins and it lights up a room.  He looks at you, and you feel as if you are his world.  He stares off in his morning pensive manner that he attains, and you wonder if he is just enjoying the silence, or contemplating the universe.

He is a crazy crawler, and can't keep off his newly befriended stairs.  He engages everyone he sees and seems to seek out those that need a lift to brighten their day.  A smile here, a laugh there, and all is right with the world.  Happy 9th month, little buddy!

Here is one fun bath photo from today.   I have also included a few from an impromptu photo shoot last week.  Nicholas and I were lounging about in the leaves while Kelsey attended a soccer class.  He picked up a leaf almost as big as he was and an incredible photo op was had.  Here are a couple of shots from the afternoon, all taken with my iPhone.

IMG_0022 IMG_0019

November 18, 2008

Stair master

Yes, Nicholas has mastered the stairs.  Well, the two going from our living room to the kitchen.  He managed one on Saturday, was distracted and turned around to pay attention to other things.IMG_0464

Today, though, he went up the first step and kept on going.  I managed to get a video tonight, but, alas, I cannot show it.  We (gasp) have clean laundry stacked on the piano in the background, and an empty laundry basket on the floor.  I forgot to make the house look "Pottery Barn Perfect" before filming...give me another 18 years (or a live-in maid) and we will get that video knocked out for you.

In other news, report card day is Wednesday, and I am shaking in my boots.  No, not really, but don't want to jinx a good day by being too blase.   I really am not expecting anything one way or the other.  Conferences were good and the kids are happy...what is better than that?

NOTE: Instead of said video, we have a random cute shot of the Nick-ster trying to steal his sisters' Halloween candy.  Not quite the same, but will have to suffice for now.

November 12, 2008

Lions and tigers and

IMG_0471-1 Oh, my!  No, he wasn't that frightened at all. 

We tried again here, but he didn't buy that one either.  In fact, he looks like he is trying to shake hands. Good practice for a future diplomat, I guess?  

Saturday was a somewhat rainy day, and since we didn't have a rain suit for Nicholas yet, we opted for something semi-indoors. We headed for the  Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA, a much touted museum that only Cait had visited thus far.  Not only is it a wildlife museum, but it also houses a hospital and rehabilitation center for those animals too sick, weak, or domesticated to return to the wild. 

Given the low membership price, which included a membership to the Oakland Zoo, we opted to join.  NotIMG_0473-1  only do we get those memberships, but also free or half-price admission to ten other museums in the are.  I don't know about anyone else, but I am beginning to think there is just too much to do here...is that possible?  Every museum we have been to has IMG_0476-1 been engaging for the entire family, and all so far have had inside and outdoor components.  

Caitlin and Kelsey had Monday off, so we decided to use the time wisely to explore even more.  One of the other museums is the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley.  Yes, we made it to Berkeley at last!  No chance to hit the Farmer's Market yet, but we will get there.  Again, so many Farmers' Markets, museums, trails, so little time.  IMG_0004 IMG_0008
The girls and Nicholas had a grand time investigating the exhibits, especially the engineering room. Kelsey managed to build an earthquake-proof tower of Legos, something we know is crucial for our area of the country.  We meandered around the rest of the building, had some lunch, and enjoyed the play structures outside while admiring the incredible view of the city and realizing once again just how much we have left to see in our remaining time here.

November 07, 2008

Start 'em young, I say

IMG_1698 Well, with the rest of the family taking part in some sort of election day activity, Nick felt a little left out and absconded with my sticker.  Which, as it turns out (and we all know why because we are decent, law-abiding citizens), was not necessary for that free coffee at Starbucks.  Good thing Starbucks managed to figure it out, too, lest their baristas end up behind bars.

We voted, Cait participated in a mock election, and Kelsey's class discussed the election.  Having not become truly politically aware until I was eight and still being upset that Carter lost, I am encouraged that children are involved so much earlier these days.  Whether or not we agree with their choices or the reasons behind them, I think it is crucial they have a clue about the world around them.

Now most will say that children's choices probably reflect their parents views, and we have seen that in action with our next door neighbors.  If he wasn't repeating exactly what was said to him verbatim.  You should have seen the look on the little neighbor boy's face when he tried to lecture Cait by parroting the false notion of global warming, the evils of Obama, and the awe in which one should hold the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

Caitlin choked out, "Rush WHO?"

That's my girl. IMG_0450

So, with the votes counted, the school election had the same results as the actual election minus the 18,000 propositions also on the ballot for CA voters.  And, no, I am not happy with all of the results, but I did my part.  We are quite satisfied with the biggest vote on the ticket and many congratulations to our new President. 

I am still not entirely sure of Caitlin's reasons, but Kelsey was most definitely sure of why she would vote for Barack Obama, "Because it sounds like a GEERL's name".  Maybe not the most politically correct answer, but she's six.  Oh, and did I mention she can name all of the continents, too?

Perhaps the best part of the night?  The cheers of elation, the tears of joy?  Nope, try again.  It was a very tired Kelsey who did not want to go to bed and miss anything.  In her sleepy little voice, she insisted that if she had to go to bed (despite the fact she was quickly fading into her pillow), that Pete needed to tape the acceptance speech so she could watch it the next day.  My proud little American!


                                                                                                    Off to vote in our neighbor's garage.

November 04, 2008

What are you doing here?

Get out and vote!  If you have already voted, excuse me, but just want to be sure no one is lollygagging.  This election is too important.  No matter what your vote, let your voice be heard.  Don't worry, I won't berate anyone unless things go terribly wrong tomorrow...fingers crossed and GO ********!!!

Check back tomorrow night, you may have two very excited girls and their very happy mom...oh, yes, the girls will definitely be up of the election...maybe all, as we are so West Coast.  They are so very concerned about this election and can't wait for President ***** to be elected!

November 01, 2008

Luke, I am your father

said in the appropriately breathy and tiny voice of Nicholas.  Actually, given the time since those words were first uttered, this guy looks more like Luke's grandson.  Here we have the official shot of NQD on his first Halloween....DarthHold

I am not deliberately trying to hide, but wanted to get mostly 'the boy' in the photo rather than boring old me.  Yes, I went as Mom again this year, a mold I am considering breaking for next Halloween. 

The day was so incredibly busy, though, not sure when I would have had time to don said costume.  There was the Halloween parade in the morning, and Caitlin marched with the band for the first time!  She played a mean tambourine and really seemed to enjoy herself.

Kelsey was the cutest witch and had fun marching with her classmates, who dressed as everything from brides to Spider-Man, and the lone, but creative, Exclamation Point!  We had only a bit of time after the parade before we had to return for The Nicholas Q. Dinoia Adoration session in NickDevil Cait's classroom.  There is nothing like a sweet little baby in his front pack to set off oohs and aahs, from the crowd.  He enjoyed showing off his crawling skills and we departed to have lunch before we returned for Kelsey's party..

Which we missed part of due to me driving around for 10 minutes, hoping he would fall asleep...no such luck, but he was still in a great mood.  He finally fell asleep while nursing on a break from the party and that lasted, oh, twenty minutes.

With only a few hours before the hordes arrived en mass (or so we thought), we opted for trick or treating at Whole Foods.  The kids received everything from apples to grocery bags (I have reusable bags for every car, bike, and backpack).  No free steaks as I had hoped for, but still a lot of fun...and no one said boo to the apples they were giving away.

We hurried home to carve one more pumpkin, as the previous ones were already headed for the compost bin.  Carving too early = moldy pumpkin by Halloween :-(.  We had a quick dinner with friends to celebrate a birthday, returned home to an even spookier house (courtesy of Pete & the iPod) and headed out for Nicky Q.'s first Trick or Treat Adventure.DarthCandy

It was a little misty out (you should have seen the fear in parents' eyes...rain, egad!), but we persevered without raincoats or umbrellas and did just fine.  I opted to carry little guy, as no one would be able to appreciate the outfit if he was in the carrier and he is not a super fan of the stroller...plus so much easier without.

And, yes, I agree it is way too much candy for an 8 month old.   Then again, he was called everything from "Oh, look at the, what is he, one?" to "Oh, what a sweet little girl!" Yes, the rain made his hair fuzzy, but really...

Witch The girls had fun, but I have to say I was a bit surprised. Not nearly the turnout we expected, and we had way too much candy left over.  All in all it was an interesting re-introduction to the art of candy hunting and gathering, and we are already brewing next year's Halloween happenings!