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15 posts from March 2010

March 31, 2010

Gymtastic!

IMG_4138IMG_4142Yes, we anted up and had the birthday party of Kelsey's dreams (well, since last year) at Gymtastic on Sunday afternoon.  We went back and forth on what to do, and while she wanted a sleepover, we weren't quite sure we could accommodate 15 plus girls in the living room.  It's spacious when Nicholas doesn't have the contents of Kelsey's Playmobil caravan strewn across the floor, but not that roomy.

  IMG_4144 IMG_4164We opted instead to have the party at a local Gymnastics studio.  Kelsey and Nicholas have both taken classes there, and one need only show up the day of the party with the food you wish to serve, favors (note to self: take extra favor supplies next time...), and the party girl.  I was a little apprehensive, as I had not actually been a to party there before, but Kelsey assured me a fabulous, fun-filled time would be had by all.

She was quite right.   They had two "coaches" who kept the girls busy from the minute they walked in.  They had free play, warm-up time, games, time in the bouncy house, and had plenty of time to release any pent-up energy.  When the play portion concluded, it was off to the party room for Z Pizza (2nd note to self: remember to write letter to Z Pizza about 'forgotten' orders....) and cake (yes, we used the Whole Foods bakery again, and yes, I think I gained another 5 pounds...).

IMG_4173 IMG_4124 IMG_4177  The best part?  Nicholas and Caitlin had as much fun as the rest of them.  He did his own thing in the play area, kicking balls and running around, but when it came time for lunch and cake, he had several 'big' sisters.  Cait usually helps with him, but was not necessary as Kelsey's friends were more than happy to sit by the Little Guy...who ate fruit, fruit, andmore fruit, pizza AND cake.  To have that boy's metabolism...

IMG_4180-1IMG_1642 IMG_4206  The party ended with the handing out of the favors (no, I was not up until 2 a.m. finishing them, why do you ask?) and a picture with each friend.  I totally stole the individual photo idea from another mom, but glad I did, as the pics were adorable. 

It wasn't the least expensive party we have had, but all things considered, well worth the money.  I don't think anyone had anything less than a stellar time, and the clean-up was a snap!   All in all, a pretty fun afternoon...now onto those thank you notes!

March 28, 2010

One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock, rock

IMG_4121 Last night was the Father- Daughter Sock Hop, "Bring Back Your Cadillac", for the local Girl Scout Service Area Unit to which Kelsey's Brownie Troop belongs. Considering what happened last year, and where Pete will be next year, this was not an event that needed to be missed.

Now, you all know where he will be next year, and last year wasn't really supposed to be a huge evening of disappointment.  Kelsey was only one of two girls that considered going to the 2009 Hop, and we learned early on that Pete had a trip that weekend.  Then, out of the blue and at the very last minute, the trip was canceled.

No biggie, we enjoyed the extra family time, and decided to give ourselves a break from cooking on that Saturday night.  So, we went to Max's, a local cafe known for comfort food, and a very 50's style atmosphere on the night of the Sock Hop.  We arrived about an hour and a half  before said Hop was to begin and the restaurant was filled with Girl Scouts, Brownies, Daisies and their dads in their most incredible 50's finery.  Poodle skirts, pony tails, scarves knotted just so...I looked at Kelsey, and her face just crumpled.  It never occurred to me that groups of girls might go out for a pre-hop nosh, and where else (okay, a few might have gone to IN-N-OUT) has the look and feel to set the mood for the evening?

IMG_4119 A certain someone didn't eat much that evening, and frankly, I didn't blame her.  There was no way of knowing that Peter would have been home, and I swore at that moment (not knowing about his upcoming tour in the Mid-East) that she would attend this year.  The minute we got the information, Peter put that date in his calendar as booked.  I started thinking about costumes, and even woke up at 2 a.m. one morning convinced I had missed the registration deadline.  Nope, not a chance, still had several weeks.

As the date drew closer, I realized that we needed to get going with the outfit.  I reached out to a local moms club to see if anyone had one leftover from last year, or perhaps I could find someone willing to make one (cheaper than me buying a sewing machine right now, screwing the whole thing up, and then hiring someone to do it).  No such luck, but a costume shop was recommended.  We picked out an outfit, ordered it, and picked it up from the shop last week.  In hindsight, I should have just gone to eBay.

The outfit was...okay.  I was pretty disappointed, as it was huge in the waist, too short (by my standards), and not of the quality I hoped to see.  After trying it on the second time, and finding a rip in the shirt that I hadn't previously noticed, I realized my big mistake and hopped on eBay.

IMG_4123 SockHopKelsPete Within minutes, I found this store, and the perfect outfit.  Not only did one get a gorgeous poodle skirt, but a t-shirt, belt and scarf.  I could Buy It Now, but the only problem was my deadline.  I had to have by Saturday morning...the owner of the store did say to contact with any questions, so I clicked away and found...

The savior of the night.  Not only did the owner write back almost immediately, but had no problems shipping by Express mail (even though not offered) and corrected the sizing of the crinoline we ordered (it made the outfit!).  She was fantastic, and despite the Post Office's best attempts to not deliver, I had the outfit in hand by Saturday morning.  It. Was. Perfect.

I simply can't say enough about how happy I was to have found the store, and if I ever need any 50's related item again, she will be my first stop.  My only regret?  Forgetting to purchase the saddle oxfords.  However, the black ballet style shoes from Payless worked out just fine.

And the evening? They started off at Max's with a few other girls from Kelsey's troop.  I had to drop off funds (not saying who forgot their money), but it gave me a chance to see everyone in their finery.  The girls were adorable, the men were hip in their 50's fashions (jeans and t-shirts anyone?) and all were clearly enjoying the beginning of a great night out.

Peter sent a text only minutes after the dance started to say that they were having an absolute blast.  Kelsey came home glowing with happiness and while Pete seemed a bit tired (perhaps too many rounds of the Macarena...I know, at a 50's dance?), it appears by all accounts not a night to have been missed (especially a second time).

March 26, 2010

PCS: Potentially Confusing Sojourn

As I was reading about The Official Unofficial Acronym Chart 2.0 over on EF'M: The Life of an FS Spouse, I realized that I am (not always, but sometimes) guilty of failing to mention what these acronyms mean.  I have been berated in the past, and while I try to define, I sometimes just plain forget.  Thanks to David, the author of the above blog, the chart is now permanently located in cyberspace.

I know Digger also mentioned it on her blog this morning, and Kolbi had a mention in the Round-Up (have you checked this week?), but thought one more mention couldn't hurt. Take a gander at the chart, and you will realize that David is obviously quite creative and offers not only the traditional meaning, but a more fun definition that may seem a little more accurate. He is adding to the chart as new definitions are needed, and I have no doubt a version 3.0 will be in the offing soon.  As for my title, I did not see it on the list, but then again when you are trying to read while fighting your toddler/elementary schooler/middle schooler*/husband  for computer time, well, you can only see and retain so much.  At least that's my excuse.

I realized this acronym, PCS,  definitely has an alternate meaning and is extremely relevant to our current situation. Yes, technically it's a military term, but it also used in the FS.   And, let's face it, despite the fact that we are leaving this area, the stay in our new locale is really pretty temporary.  I am still completely befuddled about our upcoming move, and have yet to even pick a state in which to live.  The good news:   I think I have finally found a way to get a little more up close and personal with the local market in the metro DC area....stay tuned!

*Shouldn't really include her since she absconded with my laptop ages ago, yet still manages to "need" the PC several times a day.

March 25, 2010

Bliss

by Nicholas Q.  

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Soaring in the air, knowing a Sissa has your back...and wearing "boots, boots!" just because...

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Licking the bowl with your only worry being that you might run out of chocolate...

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And reading a good book in your favorite hiding spot....that's the life!

March 24, 2010

Caitlin said

IMG_1610 that I absolutely must post this picture on the blog.  She found it on my phone the other day, and insisted on not only emailing it to her far away friends, but also printing out to take on a field trip yesterday to show her pals who have not yet met him. She thought it was absolutely, positively the cutest picture ever.  I agree it's cute, but I am still more surprised (excited/elated) about the girls absolutely adoring their brother despite his latest penchant of...well, doing those crazy things two year old boys must do.  It can't be denied that despite the way the two girls go at it with each other, they are still head over heels in love with the Little Guy.

I love this picture because it reminds me of his actions immediately preceding the taking of the photo.  He flopped down on the couch, picked up the book (upside down), scooted up to the back of the couch, opened the book, looked at the page, and immediately turned it right side up.  I have no idea at what age (I suppose a call to the parent police is in order) they are supposed to recognize which way letters should be when they read them.  If I had been worried, I can now check it off the list...providing it was intentional, of course, which we may never know.

On the other hand, I am not in the dark regarding his super-urgent playground needs.   He kept calling "Help, help" while stuck on a ladder held up by chains that he (normally) climbs up rather easily.  I walked over and upon arrival, he looked at me and loudly proclaimed, "I said, help!". Verbal language skills, check.

My other favorite part of the photo (besides the dog on his shirt)?  Yes, he is 'reading' Michael Pollan's Food Rules.  I will have to save more than a basic bit of adoration of this author for another post, but suffice it to say, his rules are right on target and will be my new food rules (the ones that aren't already).  If you aren't a reader or simply need more listening material for a long commute (and you find the topic interesting), you might consider downloading a podcast or two of his TED talks.  Seriously interesting stuff.

Sadly, it's now back to the real estate listings for me.  No word on whether we are buying or renting, only that the properties that interested us have been quickly and cruelly snatched up.  Two steps forward...

March 23, 2010

Coincidence?

Scan0002 AScan0006nd there you have it.  A few weeks ago, I was going through a memory box, and found an envelope full of safely kept invitations that had yet to find a home in a scrapbook.  Now I have looked at this invitation many, many times, and somehow just this last time did the significance of the date hit me.  Who knew that 5 years later, just a few hours later on the same date, and just a few miles away, that we would be showered with this gift?

It might not seem unusual to some, but given our lifestyle, the odds of me giving birth in the area were slim at best .  I was not from the area and by the time Kelsey came along, we were living in Venezuela, having moved there from Virginia.  I just happened to medevac to the area and wasn't even due until early April.  Sadly, I had to deliver early as I had a sudden return of the ICP* that plagued me when I was pregnant with Caitlin.  So, all things considered, an interesting turn of events.  Now, back to the birthday girl.

IMG_4107 She's still as she was on the day she was born: feisty, funny, and faithful, especially to her friends.  She can be cranky, but resilient and brutally honest.  She reads like it is an Olympic sport, and writes notes in teeny-tiny lopsided writing  that I will keep forever, no matter how old or yellow and wrinkled the paper becomes.  She swears she can read minds, and she might be right.  She has a habit of saying what you need to hear, when you need to hear it.  And when she hits bottom, she asks for a hug, which makes everything right again in her world...and mine.

Happy, happy birthday, sweet Kelsey!

From just a baby...

Scan0004 Scan0007 2005-98 2006-53

to a preschooler/leikskola student

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And now presenting, the newest 8 year old in the family (yes, we know, not for long...)

IMG_4118 IMG_4112 IMG_4115 The 8 year-old who requested brownies (from scratch, oh ye of little faith), apple crisp and ice cream instead of a cake.  She naturally assisted with all preparations for dinner and dessert, even reminding me when I forgot to "smash" (tenderize) the chicken.  The brownies didn't even need icing, just leftover candles from a previous birthday.  The result?  A pretty darn happy little girl.

*Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy...nasty, nasty stuff that can result in...wait, this is a happy post.  Trust me, you don't want it!

March 22, 2010

Psycho

was my nickname tonight.  My dear husband thought I was going a bit overboard on a project, and deemed me to be a little bit nuts. Now for those of you who know us (or if you quickly click here), you might wonder what me being crazy this has to do with the nugget...

Yep, Kelsey turns 8 today, but this is not *the* official post.  It will have to wait, as a special photograph needs to be taken first.  We have been waiting almost a year to do so, and, yes, more explanation on that later.  So, why am I loopy?

I guess I obsessed a bit (in his opinion) over Kelsey's birthday favors for her class.  It can no longer be as simple as cupcakes or candy (which is sort of okay with me).  I used to send in a birthday cake in Iceland to Kelsey's leikskola and didn't think twice.  I honestly don't remember what we sent in for her 6th birthday (to the International School), but if it was a craft, it was likely by choice.  However, it seems now everyone here simply gives out small favors.

IMG_4097She wanted to go with pencils and erasers, but I thought since that was quite popular, we should opt for something slightly different, and perhaps, a bit green?  Since it is spring, what better favor than a little grow pot for the garden?  We found a variety of herbs and threw in a few strawberry pots.  Since the carton was not super-sturdy, I figured it couldn't hurt to put them in a colorful paper (yes, recycled) bag.  Then I have all of these letter stickers, and even with the scrapbook updates I need to do, I will never, ever use them all...so I though it would be really cute to emblazon their names on the bag.  Of course, the bag then needs to be sealed, nothing a little hole-punching and a ribbon wouldn't fix.

 With that, you have the favors.  Really not that complicated or fancy, but a fun mother/daughter (til the said daughter's bedtime) project.  And, no, Kelsey is not getting one, but that is just to illustrate the design for the names, without displaying the roster for her entire class.

March 21, 2010

Reunion

It seems like just yesterday I was lamenting our impending departure, feeling torn about choosing between the possibilities that are in our future.  Somehow in the past 48 hours, I have come to terms with the fact that I while I am not thrilled by having to make tough choices, we need to move forward with our original plans.  I may never be 100% sure, but after a brief reunion we had today, I remembered that all is not lost by moving forward, as there are always future opportunities.

 IMG_1613 A friend from Iceland,IMG_1614 who worked at the Embassy with Peter, (I will call her "Mary") came to visit San Francisco this weekend.  She was in town to see The Little Mermaid performed by the San Francisco Ballet, and was able to carve out a generous amount of time to spend with us today.  Having not seen her in almost two years (Nicholas was not even 4 months when we left Iceland), we were thrilled to be able to catch up in the city.  Kelsey had been aching to visit San Francisco as a pre-birthday treat, and we could not miss the chance for the girls to entertain Mary with hours of pre-teen bickering.

One might say, "Oh, it wasn't that bad."  Oh, yes, it was. They insisted on displaying their sisterly love, and bickered through a good portion of the morning.  Sigh.  Nothing like showing off your maturing, growing, hair-pulling, and name-calling sweethearts.  Where did I go wrong again?  We pushed through though, and realized perhaps the ole blood sugar might be a bit low, and that a bit of lunch might be in order.

No, we did not end up at the vegetarian restaurant, but thought the menu (given the name of the establishment) to be immensely amusing.  We let Kelsey choose the place du jour, and, yes, Nan-King is now officially an old haunt.  The girls were separated, Mary and I caught up for a good hour, and Peter and Nicholas had nice father and son quality time.  After lunch, we thought a few minutes at the park might release a bit of energy, and this appeared to be the magic that reignited the real sisterly love.  The girls ran around, played with their brother, watched endless games of Chinese checkers, and enjoyed the unique decorations of this playground in Chinatown.  Nothing like pagodas and cherry blossoms in a park surrounded by hotels, apartments, restaurants, and many gray concrete buildings to feel as though you are in an oasis of sorts.

IMG_4091 IMG_4092 Given that Mary had the ballet (no, I didn't repeat that because I am jealous...okay, it looks amazing!), and we had to get back for Kelsey to participate in her troop's cookie sale (it's almost over...), we had to skip Crissy Field (Kelsey's last request for the afternoon), and nosh on ice cream at Ghirardelli Square instead.  Nicholas chose this area to have his pre-nap breakdown, though the free chocolates being handed out calmed him down a tiny bit (until the sugar kicked in). 

Our final event was a ride down Lombard Street (Kelsey's favorite), which helped Nicholas conk out completely, and then we had to bid Mary adieu (or bless, bless as it should be) and return to our corner of the East Bay.  It's hard to believe it has been almost two years since we last said good-bye at the Embassy, and yet after 5 minutes, it seemed that no time had passed at all.  I realized on the way home, that I needed to worry less and simply enjoy more during our last few months here.  Nor do we have to say good-bye, but rather just, "see you later."

March 19, 2010

Choice

is a 4 letter word in our household at this moment.  Normally in Peter's line of work, it sometimes feels like there isn't much choice about where we go next. We can bid on our top spots, or opt for a position in a country whose language (other than English, of course) we have been fluent in since we could walk, but end up continents away.  For us it has all worked out in the end, and while we may not have made the final decision we realize that we had experiences we couldn't have otherwise imagined.  They help shape us, and our future and we begin to realize that while we enjoy having a say, sometimes it's easier when someone else makes the crucial decision.

There is one time when that does not work out, and that time is now.  I should clarify: it has worked out for Peter.  I, however, am at a complete and utter crossroads.  I have too much choice, the clock is ticking, and the reality is that in 74 days or about 10.5 weeks, if everything continues as is, we will be without a home.  By we, I mean the girls, Nicholas and I.  Peter has had his housing assignment for over two weeks now and need only worry about the color of the sheets he wishes to take with him, or whether to go with merely a good laptop or a great one. I, on the other hand, have begun to doubt whether I should leave, and can't make a decision about where to go (definitively).  I know I am driving people nuts and making their heads spin...I am a total champion of free will and choice, so why can't I handle it anymore?

My tween is the primary reason.  The more we have discussed the impending move, the more ambivalent she has become.  I know she is only 11, and I know there are other issues at play.  However, she was the champion of moving back east, and was more excited about looking at houses than I was.  I noticed a change over the past few weeks though, and finally asked her point-blank if she wanted to move.  The result?  A near break-down and dissolving into tears, as she no longer knew what to do. Invitations have been more frequent, friendships have strengthened, and the anticipation of a year not only without Peter, but in a somewhat new environment has her freaked.  Kelsey has not been quite as emotional, but has shared several worries that just tear me apart. 

The irony is that normally when we receive a final assignment, we are not given the option of living in one of 6 different places (or more, for that matter, since we can go anywhere) around the country in which we can live.  Once an assignment is handed down,  we have choice within the general area, but nothing like our current options.  If we had any clue where we were headed next, it would be a tiny bit easier to decide.  If we knew language was a necessity, we would have a much more limited area to work with.  Or we could opt to stay here, and simply have one big move.  However, not knowing has made it that much more difficult.

I wish I knew the right answer.  I wish I could foresee next year, and tell Kelsey that she will have oodles of friends, as she does here, and will not have to worry that anyone will think she is "uggely" (her latest and saddest fear of no known origin).  I wish I could more convincingly tell Cait that the Middle School will be so much  fun, that riding a bus again will be awesomely fun experience, and that I know for a fact the perfect choir is waiting for her.  I desperately want to move to be closer to old friends and family, however, it can't be denied that the settled-in feeling exists or the friendships that have been made and will be sorely missed. 

I know what I should be able to do, but feel like I am failing miserably.  Ideas, anyone?

March 18, 2010

Singing in the Rain

Scan0001 IMG_4072-1 was the title of Cait's concert this past weekend with the Danville Girls Chorus.  There were fewer photo ops this time, except of a certain little guy, but their voices were as stunning and passion-filled as during the Christmas concert.

Cait tried out for a solo (insert happy dance here), but didn't make it. However, she tried.  She has so much more confidence as a singer, and while I think the church choir helped, DGC has really enforced that, as she puts it so eloquently, "Singing is just my thing".  Mind you, this is when we discuss if she has thought about sports (other than speed-reading) at all.  Nope, not gonna happen unless it's purely for fun. 

We wised up this time, and Peter didn't just drop Caitlin off, but parked, and found a spot in line. Even at 8:45 a.m., he was chair #7.  Keep in mind, each chair could represent any number of people.  Kelsey, Nicholas and I took a little more time to get ready (postponing Nicholas's boredom during the wait), and remembered both the bouquet of flowers, and a cookie for our place-holder.

IMG_4068   IMG_4077 IMG_4079 What can I say?  It was fabulous.  Unfortunately, no video or audio clips (we are such the rule followers), but we should have a DVD from them in the next month or so.  Now, what I don't understand...when an organization goes out of there way to provide you with a free DVD which allows you to enjoy the show...why do people insist on crowding the back of the church with video cameras blazing away?   Sigh.

Another sigh as we are really going to miss this chorus next year.   Cait has really matured, takes the practices extremely seriously, and received an excellent rating.  We are so content with her progress, and with the nature of the group, that I am really sad to leave.  My only hope is that we find a choir equally as stimulating in our next location.  I have found a few online, but hopefully can also get recommendations from the current director.

Now that would imply, of course, that she is interested in joining another chorus.  My guess?  You betcha. I have a feeling there won't ever be another audition like last year's, and yet, despite the frustrations, it was such a crucial turning point for her.  Our heartiest congrats Little C, for a truly fantastically musical year!

March 17, 2010

The Children's Museum in San Jose

I know what you are thinking, and if you weren't, you will be after this post:  do they do nothing but traipse about museums and parks day in and day out?  I suppose, on one hand, that sounds like a pretty good idea.  After all we are out and about, learning about the area in which we live, and the kids get in as much local culture as they can before we leave.

On the other hand, it might sound like we do nothing else.  After all, I was recently told that I "could be working right now".  Yes, this came at me like a bullet out of nowhere during week 5 of Peter's training in DC.  I was on a walk, explaining to someone how I wasn't working right now.  More to the point, why, oh, why do I always manage to sound so lame..."Well, I just want to stay home with Nicholas right now."  I hate feeling guilty for explaining that I am not working, because my husband already works extremely long hours (let's not forget LEAP, we love you, but you wear us out sometimes), has a minimum of a 40 minute one way commute (sometimes two hours each way), and can travel frequently without much notice.  Nope, why factor that into the equation?

Mind you, I am not complaining about the job...just about folks who assume that I am sitting around eating bon-bons all day long because I have the luxury of staying home with Nicholas (oh, and did I mention the cost of daycare here?).  Though I can't complain about the cost of part-time care, as I have found a reasonable sitter for my volunteer days (2x/month) at Cait's school. 

Last year at the Intro to Middle School night, we had the opportunity to sign up for Parent Patrol.  It is one of the few volunteer opportunities in Middle School, and gives you the chance to wear a nifty black vest and bribe your child with candy.  The parents who volunteer assist the lunchroom monitor by keeping an eye on the students as they eat and then as they (for the most part) chat or toss a tennis ball outside after lunch. 

IMG_1590 IMG_1591 Peter was able to cover for me last week, and this left my Thursday free for me to take Nicholas to the actual topic of this blog post:  the Children's Museum in San Jose.  We went with my friend, L.,  who runs the walking group and her son, C., who is three and walks on water in Nicholas' mind.  Our entrance fees (and TWO books on fire trucks) were birthday gifts from C. and L. To say that Nicholas was ecstatic is an understatement.  Not only were we spending the entire morning together, but that also included a round-trip in the same car.  Can one say non-stop toddler talk? 

IMG_4029 IMG_4033 IMG_4036  We have actually been to the museum before, and I am fairly sure I utterly and completely forgot to blog about it. Oops, check the end of this post for pictures!  The museum is about an hour from us, but traffic was extremely light and, despite leaving a bit late, we arrived in time for a brief concert.  Well, more of a story-time, as the musician 'told' the story with musical accompaniment.  Nicholas loved it, but was extremely frustrated by it the fact that he couldn't see.  The seats were aligned just so, and the parents sitting in front of us completely obstructed his view. We lasted 15 minutes, enough to get the idea, and then headed out to visit the fire engine (for the first time).

IMG_4046 IMG_4051  Frankly, I am surprised he bothered with the rest of the museum.  I probably haven't mentioned much recently (too busy pointing out trucks) but he is obsessed with trucks and trains.  Garbage day is heaven and yet the bane of my existence.  Heaven forbid we miss a sighting.  Trash truck, trash truck, trash truck (to be fair, today we only saw the 'cycling truck). Fire trucks are equally as exciting, especially when lights and sirens are involved.  Amazing that we got him away from the truck and managed to investigatethe rest of the area.

I could describe each exhibit in detail, but I think instead you can look here or visit for yourselves.  Lest I list something as fabulous (the circular boat that Nicholas instantly tried to row) that could be of no interest to your child, or as frightening to Nicholas (the ambulance, believe it or not) and other wee ones might have to be carried out of it at the end of the day.  Ironically, the area that captured his attention most was the sand pit in the toddler room upstairs.  He must have spent thirty minutes totally fixated on pouring the sand through the funnels, and in and out of cups.  Two rather large spacious floors of exhibits with everything from street lights to (plastic) pizza-making, and my guy wants nothing more than oodles of time in the sand pit (well, table to be exact).

The morning went quickly, and before we knew it we were headed back downstairs for a photo-op with the fire truck and a bit of running around outside to burn off that last little bit of energy.  We lunched on the ride home (poor L. is probably still vacuuming up dried cranberries...) and Nicholas fell fast asleep when we were back in our car and on the way back to our house. 

IMG_1166 IMG_1167 IMG_1171 IMG_1176 IMG_1177 NOTE:  If you visit the museum, I highly recommend bringing any sort of lunch and/or lots of snacks with you.  There is a restaurant/snack area, but expensive and may not have what your child's tummy desires.  There appeared to be no regulations regarding food (assuming you/your child cleans up any messes), and light snacking in the toddler room was immensely preferable to fighting for a table in the food area.  On a nice day (winter days can mean heavy rains), there is plenty of room outside for a picnic. 

March 15, 2010

The Perks of the New & Improved Central Park

This is yet another playground located not too terribly far from our house.  Not biking distance (oh, to live on the Iron Horse Trail), but located on the same property as the community center, yards away from the middle school, and across the street from the library.  In a nutshell, a perfect, centrally-located park. All of my kids loved it, especially Nicholas (read: several water features), and spent many hours there until last October.

I stopped taking him there when I realized that much of the playground equipment was falling apart.  No, no worries, I have not morphed into a security/safety nut, the condition of some of the 'bridges' (that connected different parts of the structures) were moss-covered and rotting , and it even concerned me.  Considering my baby-proofing methods (nope, didn't work, they still got in), you know it must be bad if I have decided to let the little guy frolic elsewhere.  No matter, there are only 18,000* other parks and playgrounds in the area, right?  Trust me when I say there is no deficiency in the play area arena anywhere in the East Bay.

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From then on, we simply skipped our post-Kindermusik trips to the park, until I realized that we could no longer go even if we so desired.  According to a poster in the lobby in the community center, and huge fences around the old park, the playground was no more.  Gone were the rotting (and I mean not much wood left, if any) pieces of equipment, the old swing sets and the monkey bars.  What would replace it?  I didn't really look too much, just a glance, but it looked bright and colorful and from driving by, appeared to be going up quite rapidly.

Last week, I heard from several sources that the park was open.  Yippee!  We took it to task yesterday, and all five of us spent a good hour and a half at said playground. Results?  An overwhelming two thumbs up from everyone in the family.

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Nicholas loves the new sand pit, which is located next to just one water feature (not two), meaning just enough when the water feature is on, he will be able to build a sand castle, but there will be less temptation to clog the nice waterfall that leads to a little pond (when actually filled with water).  In fact, we wanted him to test the regular playground equipment, but ran out of time, and had to finally drag him out of the sand pit when it was time to go. 

The other two had an absolute blast.  Finally, a playground that really caters to ALL of the kids.  While I love most of them, the age labels seem a bit off.  They are listed as being for those up to age 12, but in reality, you rarely see kids over 10 playing on them, as the structures simply don't seem 'big' enough.  Not that my kids can't play on their own, but it was so refreshing to see them, primarily Cait,  enjoy a playground as much as the younger kids. 

I didn't even think about it at first, but there are no swings in the new playground.  Guess what?  The kids didn't even notice. I looked and looked, but could find few, if any, failings with this gorgeous, state of the art, brand-new playground that I am sure kids in some areas only dream about.  Central Park, you are back on our list!

*Turns out I lied.  There are only 55 parks and 15 trails.  However, they cover a total of 91,000 acres of land.  Nothing to sneeze at there, folks.

March 14, 2010

Lafayette Reservoir

Despite the fact that we are departing soon, perhaps in a mere X (my stomach will flip-flop if I fill in the actual number of) days, I manage to remember (most of the time) that I still need to get out and see more of the area.  My walking group/outdoor kids playgroup had a meet-up last week at the Lafayette Reservoir in (wait, wait, you will never guess..) yep, Lafayette.

Why, oh, why have we never been there before?  Why have we driven past so many times, and thought, "We should go there!" only to never make good on that promise until now?  I know it is a bit off the beaten path, and may not have the glitz or glamor of a walk down Crissy Field (with the Golden Gate perched ever so in the background), but on a sunny, albeit cool, day it is the perfect place to take a stroll.  One can follow it up with a rest  or stretching for a few minutes at the playground (thoughtfully split in two to accommodate both the preschool set and their elementary school-aged friends).

IMG_1581 IMG_1582 Nicholas and I can't always join on Wednesdays due to swimming,  but since class was canceled last week, we had quite a bit of extra time.  He missed his walking group buddy (whose mom runs the group), so we opted for the hike and the post-exercise playground bit.  The walk was great exercise for me (including those little hills every so often), but Nicholas needs his running around time, too.

Now before you think us exercise champions of the world (well, go ahead, if you must), we did not take the super-long dirt trail loop.  We opted for the paved road which runs about 2.7 miles if my information is correct.  We started off at the edge of the parking lot, and hit the hills running.  The bumps that existed on that trail were not that arduous (not like the unpaved trail), but allowed gave an extra edge to the walk and added the "whee" factor for Nicholas on the way back down.  The water-go of the day (the reservoir and many, many puddles) added interest for him and the hour passed by extremely quickly.  I started off with a coat on, but shed it by the time we arrived at the playground.  The sun was quite strong and even though the air was cool, the combination of the exercise and sun beating down had us sweltering by the end of the trek.

IMG_1583 IMG_1585 I should mention we had no intention of doing anything other than a walk on Wednesday, but would definitely think about going back for longer stretches with the whole family.  It's not a huge area, but could easily provide a fun afternoon (maybe even a full day) of walking, hiking, boating, fishing, and, of course, the obligatory picnic.  Even at this time of year (technically still the rainy season), you are bound to find a day with weather requiring nothing more than a light jacket. Just don't forget parking money, and if you are feeling generous, ante up the full $6.00 for parking in the main lot.  The other lot is metered parking (quarters only) and the two hour allowance goes quickly.  Who wants to waste a gorgeous day running back and forth to the parking lot? 

Note:  As you can see from the photos, Nicholas still has a deep fascination with all things transportation-related (and food-related). Trucks and trains are close to the only topics of conversation these days.  On the other hand, Hot Wheels are extremely easy to store in the pocket, purse or diaper bag (which will hopefully not be around much longer) and it is amazing how long they can interest him. Oh, and is it me, or does he seem not quite as....little... anymore? 

 

March 10, 2010

Lessons Learned

This post was supposed to be written back in February.  It was going to be penned when I was on a high of, "Ooh, Peter will be home in hours!"  and we were just coasting along until the plane landed.  Except we weren't coasting, as I realized after three amendments to his proposed departure from DC, I was just downright exhausted.  The thought of dragging the kids to the airport Monday night, instead of Sunday morning, which was instead of Saturday night, had me just plain frazzled.

Before I get the lecture, I know that I *only* had to do to the single parenting gig for 6 weeks. Technically, it wasn't 100% since Peter could still help with homework by way of Skype (well, sort of), and it helped that the kids were in school and had a full load (as full as it gets) of activities.  I know other folks do it for years on end, whether by choice or chance.  That being said, I am still exhausted, almost a month after his return, though some of that is pre-move exhaustion.  I have realized in order to make this next year work, those 6 weeks gave me a great check-list to work with:

  • EXERCISE!  Yes, this is number one, way above sleep.  Getting a good amount of exercise was possibly my one saving grace.  I probably averaged 4 days a week at the gym, 5 in a great week, plus extra walks on my own and with my walking group, and core workouts at home when I couldn't make it in. I CANNOT say enough about how much this helped.  Nothing like killing myself on the elliptical, firming those abs with The Plank (excellent core exercise), or pushing myself on the weights to make me feel as though I had accomplished something.  I really didn't believe one friend (at first) when she said that should be an absolute...but she was 100% correct.  Not only did I not gain weight while Pete was gone (had a head start with my 10 lb illness-related loss at the end of December), my abs were, well, looking more like they should by the time he returned.  The ultimate compliment?  When some rather fit looking gentlemen asked me about one of the weight machines...like I belonged there.  Even better?  After 6 weeks, finally not being afraid to walk around in the gym in Yoga pants (well, not AS afraid).
  • SLEEP!  I did not get nearly enough, and am only starting to catch up now.  Whether I was up cleaning, doing laundry, holding vomitously ill children for hours on end, or gulping down coffee to stay awake and get everything finished, I did not get enough shut-eye.  Despite my current fears of being quite behind in every possible respect for our upcoming move, and Pete's deployment, I have started going to bed much, much...scratch that, a tad bit earlier.  However, this has made it easier to get up earlier (finally, 28 years later, I get (again) the connection between more sleep and getting up earlier...I can be taught!), and easier to deal with those who (like me) loathe the toll of the alarm clock.
  • BREAKS!  I will need more.  Whether an afternoon just to take a nap, or an actual day out to get a manicure or something frivolous like that, I think they will need to be built in.  I didn't do that this time, and this is something I do regret. 
  • PATIENCE!  Having gotten more sleep recently, I have noticed a huge connection between getting more sleep having having more of this precious stuff.  I was way, way crankier with the kids than I should have been, and a cranky parent is no fun.  Not that life is supposed to be 100% fun, but there are times my cranky-pantsness was simply not warranted.  I was proud of myself for being able to recognize those times, and apologized for my poor choice of words or random meltdowns when necessary, but still, lesson learned on my part.  It certainly wasn't the kids fault I was not my usual cheerful self (feel free to insert snicker here), and the last thing I want them to focus on when Pete is gone is an unhappy mama...Not. Gonna. Happen.  
  • STUFF!  Still getting rid of it, gonna have a lot less.  So grateful that the school rummage sale is coming up, those folks are going to make out like bandits.  Less stuff = more fun/quality time with kids.  For the year Pete is gone, that's all that really matters.

Now back to those real estate listings...or has that issue been resolved?  Guess we will have to see!

March 03, 2010

It's been quiet around here,

IMG_4025 as the little guy has been keeping me busy.  The Little Green Machine  has also been very busy.  Today's project for the LGM was stamping ink (from a very, very, very pink stamp pad), but it has also recently tackled melted Stamping Up crayons (several, not just one), Crayola Twistables (much easier to remove than Stamping Up crayons), cat vomit (admittedly not directly Nicholas's fault), general dirt, unknown sticky pink substances (thinking Kelsey might have had a hand in this one), coffee, and red wine*.  On the up side, that little machine has paid for itself several times over.  Invaluable if you have  a child that...scratch that, invaluable if you have a child, cat that doesn't understand ribbons aren't edible, and/or drink way too much coffee.

It took LG all of five seconds to find, get into and drop the stamp pad.  He promptly toddled over and proudly shoved his hands in my face.  Once I got over the shock of it and realized it wasn't blood on his hands, I had to snap a picture as he was just so darn pleased with himself. Or maybe this is payback for all of the times he didn't want me to take his hand-prints for cards and mementos.  Either way, he was happy with his "project" and I was happy (for many reasons) that it was easily removed.  We cleaned up and headed out to get Kelsey just as another rainstorm had finished. 

Remember how much he loves the rain?  And the puddles?  And every kind of water-go?  Yep, he fell in headfirst to the largest puddle on the playground as soon as we arrived and was one happy camper.  There's nothing like those simple pleasures of childhood.

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*In case you are wondering, I use nothing but water and don't bother putting it in the machine.  Just boiling hot water from the tea kettle, suck it up with the attachment from the LGM and the stains are gone.