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10 posts from January 2010

January 29, 2010

100% Brownie

Tonight we* held the investiture ceremony for Kelsey's Brownie Troop.  We had an hour long practice session last Saturday, and it paid off in spades..the girls could not have been more prepared nor the parents more proud. 

IMG_3743  This is her second year in the Girl Scouts, and I don't think we could be more excited about her participation.  She is so enthusiastic and truly enjoys spending time with every member of her troop.  I remember Brownies being fun but nerve-wracking, as it was just another activity with the kids from my private school.  Being that I was a bit on the shy side (really, an off-the-scales INFP shy??), I enjoyed the service aspect, but the social parts were only so-so. 

It is so different for Kelsey, and it just warms my soul.  She is truly happy, they are all excited to meet and all participate equally.  There is rarely a squabble and to watch the way the girls have embraced the notion of all Girl Scouts being sisters is amazing. 

IMG_3750 The ceremony was fairly quick with last year's troop being invested first, then welcoming a newcomer from another troop, and finally introducing the new girls.  With pins on their vests, they proudly sang for their parents and then served them...what else?  Yep, brownies.

IMG_3759  It was a fun night, made only a little bit hectic by Nicholas's occasional outbursts (he would have much preferred to help me on stage...).  Cait did a great job trying to take care of him during the ceremony, but it somewhat hampered her efforts to photograph the event.  We did manage a few from the celebration and once the Little Guy was double-fisted with a cookie and a brownie, all was right with the world. He immediately went back to being  his usual charming self and even insisted on cleaning up at the end.

The only missing piece was Peter, however, the joy of Facebook came through at this point.  I was able instantly upload a photo so a proud father (a mere 3,000 miles away) could see his daughter immediately following the ceremony (yes, FB is faster than snapping a photo with the iPhone and emailing).  Despite the fact he wasn't there, we still felt linked to him.  And that, my friends, makes me feel much more positive about our upcoming adventure that commences in late July....

*By we, I mean the other co-leader and myself.  I have probably not mentioned prior to now, but, yes, I am a co-leader this year.  I know I said 'never again', but I did have previous experience, and while it can be a lot of work, it couldn't be for a better cause.  Oh, and then there was the look of sheer delight (yes, really) on Kelsey's face when she found out I was going to take the position...that sealed the deal for me.

January 27, 2010


I have been unsure what exactly to post about Haiti.  There has been so much in the news, and I am sure more than a few people are simply overwhelmed by the tragedy of the earthquake. I would say our being in the Foreign Service might make it hit a little closer to home, but with a disaster of this size, it seems as though many people might have a connection to those affected.

In scouring through articles and blogs, I found a few notes that I thought to be of interest.  One post had a mention of a different perspective on the Foreign Service and the tragedy, and I couldn't agree more.  I have linked to both the original post here, on The Skeptical Bureaucrat, as well as Digger's thoughts on the matter at Life After Jerusalem.   As an aside, if you have an interest in anything related to the Foreign Service, especially a comprehensive blog roll, I highly suggest you pay a visit to her site.  She also linked to an article, courtesy of the Washington Post,  that pays homage to Victoria DeLong,  the FSO who lost her life when her house collapsed.   

Since then I have learned that family members of another officer were also killed during the earthquake (with an official statement posted here on the State Department web-site).  Andrew Wyllie lost his wife (on her birthday, no less) and two sons in the tragedy.  I found a blog written by a friend of his who was living in Haiti at the time, and knew the family.    He writes poignantly of those he had befriended who lost their lives, and has included photos from happier times.  It is a very touching tribute, and should not be missed.

January 26, 2010


is a fabulously easy and, apparently, inexpensive way to get oneself through the doors of many museums and science centers throughout the country without paying (an additional) dime.  We first visited the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in November of 2008 at the recommendation of a friend.

It is not only a museum, but also an animal hospital for injured and orphaned animals, as well as a permanent home for animals that are then considered "non-releasable". We were impressed and decided to join, figuring we would be frequent visitors.  We didn't go as often as we would have liked, but as mentioned in the above post, there are benefits to be reaped not only there, but at the Oakland Zoo and many other not-so-local science centers.

IMG_3715 IMG_3716 IMG_3717 In trying to 'do it all', we never actually made it back (at all) until this past Sunday.  It was the beginning of Week 4 sans Pete (NOT that I am complaining...) and we needed something different to do.  It has been pouring rain the past week, and I just couldn't channel my inner Icelander.  We are always receiving emails about the Museum, and realized a lot could have changed in the past year.  We decided it would make for a fun and relaxing Sunday afternoon (did I mention no school AGAIN today?), and twenty minutes later I was debating a new membership.

IMG_3720 IMG_3722IMG_3721  IMG_3723

Why?  Why would we join a museum for only 6 months (oh, wait, 5 months).  Perhaps because after adding it up, I realized that by joining Lindsay in the fall of 2008 for the small price of $55 (for a family membership), we ended up saving almost $130 over the course of the following year.  How?  We visited the Oakland Zoo three times, the Maryland Science Center,  the Springfield Science Museum, and, of course, the Wildlife center.  Admission to every place (with exception of the initial fee for Lindsay) was free with our card.

IMG_3726 The Wildlife Museum and the other science centers are members of the Association of Science-Technology Centers.  With a membership to one of the affiliated centers, you have a passport of sorts.  You will not want to leave home without it, as even many international science centers are members.  This can add up to quite a bit of savings when traveling.  You won't get free parking, and forget about the discount at the gift shop (which isn't really the point of the visit).  However, the savings on the entrance fees alone is generally enough to warrant a membership somewhere near home.

I won't do a play by play of the day (or the website), but the kids had a great time.  We found a room we missed the last time (the Discovery Center) geared towards the younger set, complete with live walking sticks and enjoyed by all.  Nicholas was thrilled to pet a rabbit, and the kids entered the naming contest for the new ground squirrel.  Nicholas finished writing his entry, crumpled it up, announced it was trash (he meant recycling, but can't enunciate that just yet), and promptly tried to stuff it in the collection box.  I am sure the folks will appreciate his rather abstract entry, if they are fluent in toddler scribble.

If in the area, I think it is well worth it to stop in.  In addition to the indoor activities, there is a playground attached for further energy release.  They also host birthday parties, offer camps in the summer, and special fun mornings for the preschool set during the school year.

IMG_3727After finishing up and catching a quick late lunch/early dinner in Walnut Creek, we headed home to finish up a project we had started the night before.  Sort of a surprise of sorts for a special someone, so will just show a few pics and hopefully not completely ruin the treat (if you will).  Hmm, what could it be?


January 23, 2010

The little mimic

borrowed Cait's iPod today to listen to a bit of Abba.  He enjoys almost any kind of music, and more importantly loves to copy those around him.  Hopefully no one out there will seriously think that my child actually uses earbuds to listen to music, but, just in case, he doesn't.  He simply enjoys emulating his sisters who only occasionally use them. 

IMG_1439 IMG_1440 IMG_1441



  He also had another introduction today to the art of finger-painting.  I know, the horror, 23 months old and the only artistic mediums he has thus far painted in are mud and/or sand.  Yes, we are pathetically behind the art curve.  I am much better (these days) at the getting to the park or play area than I am in the artistic realm.  He is just so rough and tumble and really needs big energy releases.

I realized, though, that I bought this finger paint set ages ago and never bothered to use it, primarily because I misplaced the paper.  Turns out it was under the couch (where it belongs, of course) and found it when I was straightening up for yet another Brownie event at our house this afternoon.

IMG_1443 IMG_1446IMG_1452 

I broke it out while the girls were working on a project (sort of a surprise for someone somewhere out there), and he was completely mystified.  I put the paper in front of him, dabbles of paint, and even tried to swirl some.  He loved the 'designs' Kelsey and I created, and even went so far as to declare my blob of blue 'the ocean'.  Finally we tried with paintbrushes and he sort of got the idea.  The girls got into it, and the trio had another successful hour of playing together without any friction. In fact, he became so interested in the painting, that he found a more durable and interesting canvas than his paper caddy.....no worries, the Nicholas was not really upset, just a little overdue for a nap.


January 22, 2010

So yesterday the Little Guy

turned 23 months old.  Wow.  To think of all that has happened in the past two years, and realize that I still can't believe I have a toddler, and I really need to get moving on the birthday planning.

Yes, he is still growing and changing (primarily in that  increased vocabulary arena), but for the most part we are simply on an even keel of enjoying toddler-hood.  One of his newer words (and my personal favorite) is hudge.  It actually means hug, as in "Nighttime Squeeze Hug", a tradition Cait started when she was a toddler.  It is the way they close each Skype call with Pete, and is very sweet.

When Nicholas says the phrase, it is more like "Frissalis hudge", which may not sound logical, but I love hearing as I know he won't say it much longer.  I can't say we worry about much with him, other than the fact that we forgot how darn fast they grow, and sometimes I wish we could just slow things down a tad.

With regard to the aforementioned birthday party, I am at a loss.  Not sure what to do (that won't get rained out) nor how crazy to go.  In fact, I only have one idea, and that's for the cake.  Even worse?  I am basically stealing the idea (granted, I was given permission), so I think I am actually in the red when it comes to the amount of work I have done thus far. Considering I am still trying to get thank you notes out from Christmas... 

On the other hand, we seem to have fallen into a good routine on the home-front.  I am the only one being a cranky-pants (at the moment), and I am extremely grateful for that.  The house has been surprisingly peaceful this past week.  We went out to dinner last Friday night (I know, what AM I thinking) and not only was the dinner calm and indigestion-free, but the girls sat next to each other and didn't fight.

This is amazing.  We had nearly given up on the eating out (and I mean at all) because Cait and Kelsey have been going through a bit of a stage (for about two years now), that includes a lot of:

"I don't want to sit next to her!"

"She chews with her mouth open!"

"She talks while she chews!"

"Mom, she's singing again, and it's giving me a bad headache!"

"Mom, she's touching me!"

Not that it's any better at home, but at least we can spread out if need be.  Plus, we have the advantage of not ruining other diners' dinners.  Don't think any amount of  "You are so lucky to have a sibling to fight with!" did any good.  It's no use trying to explain, and frankly, they just don't seem to care.

I don't know if it was my idea: a fun dinner out, followed by early to bed for Nicholas, and a girlie movie for us...or if things just started to fall into place.  Dinner was almost blissful.  We went home, Nicholas fell asleep in my lap, and we had an enjoyable movie night.

They also began to realize, at least this week, how much they have missed having Pete around.  Somehow it seems that has actually prevented them from fighting, almost as if they are uniting in their misery.  Cait doesn't sing as much in the car, and Kelsey doesn't yell at her.  Kelsey sings in the car, and Cait doesn't give Kelsey grief.  Both of them seem to love and adore Nicholas more than ever, and have temporarily stopped being annoyed at him when he enters their rooms.  Though, to be quite honest, Cait's is so neat and organized, it would be hard for him to get into anything.  I didn't have that same ability to control my clutter at that age, so I am immensely impressed and proud.

IMG_1432Now this truce of sorts has only been going on for a week, but I think if I play my cards right (much wailing and gnashing of the teeth, if necessary) perhaps it can hold out for a bit longer.  I have tentatively scheduled  dinner out tomorrow night to be followed by another fun movie (fingers crossed the chick flick of choice has been returned to Blockbuster...), and hope that will help.  And maybe, just maybe, we can do a bit of birthday party planning on Saturday...

Here is a picture of the happy trio after several rounds of Ring Around the Rosie with Nicholas. They actually desired to pose together in birth order.  Wonders never cease!

January 20, 2010

This is what happens when you mix a Little Guy

IMG_1428 and a tall, no whip Mocha.  Thankfully, I drank most of it before putting down (and, yes, forgetting about it), but the LG noticed right away.  As soon as I was safely ensconced in the shower, he went to town.  Oh, yes, he does love a good mocha.  And, really, how could anyone be annoyed with that proud little guy?  Not to mention, nary a drop on the carpet.

In other news, we are almost exactly half-way through Pete's training class.  I know, I know, what's the big deal, it's only five weeks!  Not sure, except to say that I think we are pre-stressing the summer departure, if that makes any sense at all.  Instead of viewing it as a TDY*, we have jumped forward into PCS land.  Obviously not, he will be home soon, and has not gone anywhere more exotic than West Virginia (or so he says...).  However, the notion that he will leave soon, for 'good' (well, three-plus solid months at a time), is there and taunts us daily.

It could also be the thought of house-hunting and getting settled prior to his departure.  Not that I don't find joy in spending hours upon hours looking at Realtor.com and various Realtors' websites, but , well, I don't really anymore.  It's one thing when it is pure fantasy..."Ooh, a unique fixer-upper in Vienna for ONLY $500K!", but when reality strikes, it's a different story.  We aren't sure where exactly to go, nor what we should pick.  Rent or buy?  Townhouse or SFH?  Decisions, decisions.  On that note, I am just going to do one quick search...but first, how about one more cute pic (see below)?

IMG_1415 Last, but not least, sorry about the quality of the photos.  You can only do so much about slow to warm up lights when you are in a hurry to snap that photo with the iPhone.  In case it is hard to see in the first photo, Nicholas has a nice set of mocha-colored stripes down the front of his shirt, and a mustache and beard to match.  I don't think the second picture needs any explanation...


*TDY:  Temporary Duty

PCS: Permanent Change of Station

January 17, 2010

It all starts with a tiny knock

Tap, tap, tap...you run to the door.  No UPS delivery is expected, but Valentine's Day is only a month away, and maybe your sweetie sent you something early?

You peer out your door your peephole, but the gentle rapping on the door is coming from someone a bit too short to meet your eye.  You say, "Who is it?" and get a whispered response.  Curious, you open the door further, forgetting that it is mid-January, and it could be no one other than your...

IMG_3714 friendly neighborhood Brownie, Kelsey.  Still a bit shy about sales, her whispers test the hearing of the sharpest canine.  After our Brownie meeting Thursday night, the cookie sales have officially begun, and we hit the neighborhood running yesterday.  After visiting only 5 houses (with folks home), she has sold a whopping 35 boxes!  This does not quite have her to her goal of 1500 boxes* (to win the Apple iTouch), but it's a start.

I know, with everything going on in the world, who can think about cookies?  Sounds kind of selfish, right?  Not so much.  As you know, with every cookie box purchase, the troop receives a portion of the funds (very small, but it's something).  It has not been decided how the money will be spent, but while some will be used for a fun activity, the rest will go to a charity. 

We are hoping to have there will be some sort of activity similar to last year when the girls took their charitable funds, bought groceries, and then took them out to the food bank.  They dropped off the items and were given a tour by a very kind staffer.  The girls learned a lot about buying food (cost and savings) and food donations in general. They were so excited that it is definitely in the running to be this year's activity.

While it may seem there are other places for your money to go right now, the prices have not increased and remain a reasonable $4.00 per box.  There are two new types this year (not so fast, you have to get Kelsey's sales pitch to learn about them!), and don't forget, they freeze well.  Last, but not least, for every box, that small portion will go to a charity.  We are hoping the giving method will be similar to last year, so that the girls are as involved as possible as the money moves along the path of helping others.

Interested?  Just send a note anytime between now and 30 January.  Kelsey can call, write or Skype to confirm your order, and delivery will be on...oh, you can ask her!  

*Yes, it's an exaggeration.  Her personal goal is 50 boxes, so she is well on her way.  However, there is a prize of an iTouch for those selling 1500 boxes or more.  Personally, I think that is a bit much, but at least it was not an iPhone as Kelsey mistakenly thought at first!

January 11, 2010

It was just an ordinary day

IMG_3712 IMG_3711 IMG_3709 that started off with sleeping in, pancakes and a trip to the Farmers' Market.   The girls had an afternoon movie and dinner with a friend, while Little Guy and I had leftovers at home,and  a fun trip to the store where he entertained everyone with his cart-pushing antics. He even helped me clean up a bit.  Slight exaggeration there: in reality he was thoughtful with his messiness and only drew on the sofa with a washable marker (instead of a Sharpie).

Next thing you know, it's bedtime.  Diaper change, teeth brushed, jammies on, and it's "boot" (book) time.  Little Guy is snuggled up under his warm Little Guy-sized comforter (he still loves it, Berta), helps me read, and then nods off while I sing to him.  Just as I was thinking he was in a deep, sound sleep, and could possibly be moved to his crib (mind you, this is difficult to do, as he is so sweetly cuddled up next to me, snoozing away) he...

This post was actually interrupted last night at the exact spot above by a second round of what I was about to describe: a weird choking sound, perhaps a cough, but then followed by a stream of vomit that would have him as a shoo-in for any movie requiring copious amounts of aforementioned yuck.  Our clothes and the blanket took the brunt of it the first time.  I cleaned him up, he donned new jammies,  was off to bed. Caitlin sang him to sleep while I started the laundry, thinking it was a one-time deal.   The second time sickness struck, we did the same exact thing (Caitlin was again a huge help), only this time I brought him downstairs with me.  I wasn't quite ready for bed, and I was no longer comfortable with him alone in the room, even though I was nearby.  We curled up on the couch together, I put a blanket on my lap "just in case" and...

Yes, try not once more, but five more times.  We sat up together (well, he slept, mostly upright in my arms) until 3 a.m.   I was scared to sleep, fearing I would miss the choking sound, and we would both end up covered in vomit, or something even worse.  Finally, after the last bout, it seemed like he had exhausted his system of anything and everything.  We went upstairs, I put him on a blanket on the floor next to me, and he snoozed peacefully for the next five hours.

He woke up the next morning around 8 a.m., as cheerful as could be.  No more illness, and no sign of the listless little guy who slept in my arms the night before.  He nursed for a bit, cuddled, and went back to sleep for a good nap that he had to have needed.  So, what was it?

No idea. None whatsoever.  The only thing Cait and I came up with was a batch of bad Kefir, but it just seems unlikely.  He didn't have that much, and this came on so quickly and was so intense. I am guessing it was just likely 'one of those things' and it just happened to hit then.

Now one might wonder where Pete was in all of this and why he was not a bit more helpful.  I have only mentioned it briefly in another post, but he has left town for several weeks.  Not by choice entirely (well, he chose the time period), but by necessity for his next tour of duty.  He has some, how can I say, heavy-duty training to complete?  It was an 8 week course, now down to 5 (yes, a mere 5 weeks...seriously, we are stoked, he won't miss Reconciliation!) and all of the training is held in the DC area.  You know what that means....Red, Hot & Blue, baby Nate, snow....no, I am not jealous, why do you ask?

What sort of training?  Not sure how much I can delve into here, so suffice to say, if you thought he was getting lean and mean before (am I allowed to mention the 47 pounds you have lost in a year, Pete?), then we can't wait to see him in a month (sorry about the above, dear, but I am tired of waiting to brag).  The training is obviously to prepare for going overseas to certain areas, and tests them in many ways physically and mentally.  There, that sounds standard enough, and since I really don't know that much to begin with, I will quit while I am ahead.

Now one might wonder, why now?  Why not later?  While we did not want to see him go, we thought it would be a good preparation for the long haul and we really want to have focused family time in the month or so before he leaves.  We need to get moved, unpacked, settled, and take some sort of family vacation before he departs in July, and figured it would be easier to have him away now vs. later.  I had also anticipated a possible break, which would make the 5 weeks easier, but that is not going to happen.  What will happen?

Good grief, everything.  We are so busy that we end up finding it hard at times to fit Peter in for a Skype session.  The three hour time difference throws us off, and we are all just occupied doing what we need to do.  We have found the easiest option is to turn on the call, and folks just wander in and out to say hello.  At times, it's almost as though he is here with us, just glued to the couch with a glass screen covering his face. 

Can I put a plug in for Skype now?  Seriously, this method of contact has changed everything.  The kids not only talk to Pete, but 'see' him on a daily basis.  Every time Nicholas walks by the office, he points to the computer and says, "Daddy, Daddy!"  I think he is going to be quite surprised when he actually sees Pete in person again, especially since Peter has taken to pretending to bang on the screen of the laptop, and shouting that he needs to be let out.  This sends Nicholas into fits of laughter, but I think he is pretty convinced that Pete now lives in the monitor. 

He doesn't though, thankfully, and we can't wait to see him in a few short weeks.  I am sure we will have a few more trials and tribulations, but I realized during Nicholas's short-lived illness that I was actually quite lucky.  It was not a school night, Nicholas really wasn't that ill (no fever or other symptoms), I had already decided we weren't going to stress about church in the morning (would spend most of afternoon there for a retreat), and I knew the girls would sleep in and/or could get up and care for themselves in the morning. 

Yawn. I was going to continue with the effects of Pete's departure on the girls (not all bad, I assure you), but have realized I am downright exhausted.   Since tomorrow is a school day...good night!

January 06, 2010

I found a little note

on the computer tonight.  I believe it is what some call a hint though others may prefer the term "giant clue".  Caitlin apparently does not have enough books, and is in desperate need of more stuff to move next summer.   Now, ignore the punctuation and grammar errors, I think she is just tired from homework, and, oh, cooking us dinner tonight (yes, it was wonderful!). 

Dear diary, I wish I could ask my mom for the sisters Grimm book 7 and 8 but shes dealing with so much now it’ll have to wait. Sigh. I want it so badly and I can’t go on Amazon and all the libraries ive been too don’t have it. Maybe Bay Books. I doubt mom will lend me money to buy them.

       Truly yours  Caitlin dinoia

Dealing with so much now?  Oh, the girl really knows how to lay it on thick.  Really, if I could just get more than 5 hours of sleep a night, I would be a happy camper.  Getting more sleep is my honest-to-God New Year's resolution, and I am failing miserably.  So what on earth am I doing at the computer?  Good question!

IMG_1392 Since I have little else to say, and really should try to get some sleep, I will simply post a picture for today and take my leave.  It is Nicholas climbing a rock (which he does extraordinarily well) at Osage Park in Danville during his Bay Area Outdoor Playgroup meet-up.  It is an off-shoot of my walking group, and our kids meet weekly or more often at one of the many great (mostly) outdoor play places (parks, fields, museums) in the East Bay area.  Given we have so little time left here, we are all over the idea of discovering (or rediscovering) the many great regional parks and other offerings.

By the way, I am not that mean, I would gladly take Cait to the bookstore (or she could walk herself to Bay Books!), but the issue is that neither book has been released.  If she can hold her horses, Book 7 is available in March, and Book 8 in May.  She can put the many Christmas gift cards to good use then!

January 02, 2010

New Year's Eve

I am still writing the Christmas post, but wanted to get this up, as two of the photos are just too sweet.  I can't say our New Year's was terribly exciting, but what post-sickness holiday is?   We were thankful to be well enough to leave the house, have dinner out as a family, and enjoy a last night of holiday lights (some of the more spectacular shows close 31 December).

IMG_3683 We stopped at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Pleasanton, The Blue Agave Club.  We found it by accident not long after we moved here, and have made sure to visit monthly ever since.  The waiters seem to enjoy conversing with us en Español (yes, we are really hoping that will come in handy soon!), and they have a house margarita that Peter can't resist. 

Their salsas are excellent.  There is a classic mild tomato salsa, a spicier green salsa, and my favorite, a smooth, but very spicy red sauce.  There is never a wasted chip with that selection.  Though I am boring and choose the same Enchiladas con Vegetales (with the mole sauce, of course) each time, I never regret it.  The girls usually end up with a junior steak (pulled and tender), Nick gets a side of grilled chicken (no nasty coating) and eats the girls' sides, and Peter tries something new each time. 

IMG_3685  IMG_3686 Nicholas was a little harder than usual to entertain last night, but we found a solution.  Yes, the boy loves the iPhone/iTouch/iAnything.  He has had his own Nano since Pete gave his up last Christmas, and immediately learned how to turn it on for music at diaper change time.  It's a much easier than having a cd player in the room, so I will grant him this bit of technology at this age.

Since he learned how to use it when he was barely a year, you can imagine that it didn't take long for him to pick up on the iTouch or Phone. From scrolling through pictures to trying to update Peter's Facebook status (last week's attempt was "PMS", thankfully he couldn't post quickly enough), he is a natural.  I certainly don't think it's anything he needs, but nothing calms him down like scrolling through pictures of friends and family.  Or zooming in on a photo of a new buddy that he can't wait to meet.

IMG_3690 IMG_3691 After dinner, we headed to, well, Bobville.  It is the home of Bob Widmer, in Pleasanton,CA.  Rumored to be an excellent show of lights, we just had to stop.  The home is a modest two-story typical California style house on an unassuming cul-de-sac.  Bob apparently started his Christmas display in 1978, after moving to Pleasanton, and it has grown from a few lights to a display that I would daresay must be permanent.

From a K'nex carnival to an American Girl doll bakeshop (well, seem to be American Girl dolls), there is something for everyone's taste.  Lots of singing Santas, and a Christmas village to excite the entire family.  It was a bit disconcerting knowing we were tromping through someone's backyard (especially when we noticed them watching), but still a very interesting collection, and worth seeing if you are in the area and want that extra oomph of holiday cheer.

While we still had several hours before our ball dropped, we headed home and simply had family time.  We played games, gathered party favors, and watched that classic, It's A Wonderful Life.  Totally boring, but sometimes the quiet nights are the best. 

From our family to yours, a very happy and healthy new year!IMG_3703(2)