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20 posts from April 2010

April 29, 2010

It's a little smudged,

IMG_1798 but the feeling is there.  It's Teacher Appreciation Week at Kelsey's school. On Tuesday, each child was to take in a card of some sort.  Kelsey wrote out this card for her teacher, and then enclosed a Starbucks gift card.

I didn't read the card until she was tucked into her bed.  I didn't tear up, but I thought it was incredibly sweet.  I remember liking some of my teachers, but never to the point of not wanting school to end or being upset about leaving school early.

Fast forward to our car ride home tonight.  We were out getting shoes for her First Communion (on Saturday), and ran a few more quick errands.  We were on the way home and almost to our exit when it hit me that I had completely blanked on tomorrow's teacher treat.  It can be anything from a pack of stickers to a hand-written card.  What did Kelsey come up with?

"I want to make Mrs. H. a card, and put a photo of me on it, and then she will always remember me."

Cue waterworks on my part.  It's not even the leaving, in this case, it is her matter-of-fact responses to everything.  Even when we asked how she felt about the move recently, she simply stated,

"Well, let's move and then we can always come back and visit.  I could come back next spring for maybe a week and visit with my friends.  Let's do that, that's a good idea."

Is there such a thing as being too well-adjusted? 

April 27, 2010

Wicked Awesome!

IMG_4352 Our dear friends, Shannon and Mark, came up with a splendid idea last summer: instead of trying to figure out three separate birthday gifts for the Dinoia gals, they would splurge on one large combined present. If you haven't guessed from the title, they cleverly thought up the idea of tickets to Wicked!

Now, I was lazy at first.  I kept putting off giving Shannon dates, as each weekend seemed full, and I feared purchasing them only to find out we had some unforeseen event that couldn't be missed.  Our kids are not in an overwhelming number of activities, but the niggling fear remained.  Then we found out we were likely moving, and I decided to stress about that instead of just shoving that worry away and planning an adventure.

Fast forward a few months, and I had likely driven Shannon nuts by not committing to a date.  I realized if I didn't commit, we would never go and I would be the worst mother in the world for life.  I buckled down, looked at dates, looked at them again, and picked the emptiest Sunday out there.  I didn't want a chance of anything else interfering, and more importantly, wanted to make a day of it in the city.  I went back and forth on what to do, and finally settled on lunch and the show. 

IMG_1791   Believe it or not, I ended up planning the day to the minute (I know, what did the body-snatchers do with Jen?).  I realized the last thing I wanted to do was drive into the city, since our our lunch choice was not exactly next door to the Orpheum.  I found that not only does BART have online schedules, but one can plan their trip from door to door.  I entered our start address, and the tea room's address, and the BART quick trip planner gave me station options, departure times, and follow-up directions from the BART station to the tea room (over half a mile away).  Seriously, how incredibly cool is that?

(For those of you who knew about this capability for years and years, and are now laughing at me...well, hush...we all learn something new each day!)

The distance from the tea room to the Orpheum, however, was a good 3 miles.  I didn't see us hoofing that in our Sunday best (well, close to it, no jeans allowed!), especially if lunch ran even slightly over.  Enter Google Maps.  When getting directions from the restaurant to the Orpheum, I realized it offered options such as driving, local transportation or walking.  Sure enough, the site pointed out how the J line on Muni was just two blocks up from the tea room.  For $3.50, that 45 minute walk would become a 10 minute walk and a 20 minute ride on the light rail....and the station ended right at the Civic Center.  Walk out of the station, and voila, one has arrived at the theater.

IMG_4338 IMG_4340 So, at the wee hour of 9:55 a.m., we stepped onto the Bart train and rode comfortably into the city.  It was a fairly quiet, clean ride on upholstered seats, no less!  The one way ride cost us a mere $14.70 and we had to do nothing more than relax.  There was a bit of conversation I could have done without (person in front of us on his cell phone, need I say more?), but other than that, a fast and easy trip.

We walked up the steps at 24th and Mission, and what a gorgeous day!  I thought I would be freezing, but no, sunny, little wind, just a beautiful, clear day.  We had good hike uphill, and arrived at the Lovejoy's Tea Room by 11:03 a.m. for an 11:00 a.m. reservation.

IMG_4342 IMG_4347 I must admit, the girls were a bit iffy at first.  A bit whiny, a bit "I don't know if I like this...".   However, I think it was a combination of not enough breakfast, and being a bit overtired.  By the time the tea and hot cocoa arrived (in an Alice in Wonderland tea kettle, as part of Kelsey's "Wee Tea"), our moods had significantly lifted. 

IMG_4343 Two pots of tea, many sandwiches, salad, tea cookies, scones, jam, cream, and several petit fours (or PAST-rees, as Kelsey called them) later, we were sated and ready for our next journey.  We couldn't help but stop at the shop operated by the proprietors of the tea room to procure a bit of tea for home. We made our purchase, and then realized we should probably head towards the theater.

IMG_4348 I had thought ahead (twice in a day, who knew it could happen?!) and  had correct change for the Muni (pick that jaw up, please).  We hopped on the rail after a 10 minute wait, and enjoyed the winding trip through the backyards of San Francisco.  I am sure the homeowners are used to it, but I still wondered if they see the little trains barreling between the backyards or just ignore them out of habit?  I enjoyed watching one man prune his roses, and could tell others were just stepping outside of their back doors into the sunshine for the first time that day.

Halfway through the trip, we stopped by a large park (note to self: look up name, it looked awesome for kids, dogs, parents...).  Kelsey looked a wee bit envious of the families hopping off to spend the afternoon swinging and picnicking.  However, given how much time we spend at parks and given where we were headed, I knew she would soon forget her regret.

I must admit, though, I was a bit envious of the city-dwellers.  Whether I was standing on the light rail, hand on that metallic bar, or whistling through the tunnels on the Bart, I realized I missed my days of living in the city.  I remember knowing the Metro like the back of my hand, and we used to traverse DC back and forth, and up and down. Reykjavik wasn't quite as big as DC, but we could walk everywhere.  Peter had a 5 minute commute to work, and Tjornin, a tourist hot-spot, was "our" pond.  Whether playing on the ice in the winter, or Cait spending hours riding her scooter on the path around the pond...and having restaurants and shops within shouting distance..definitely something that we miss.  Not that the suburbs don't have their benefits, especially if one's employment is nearby...but, today I felt that pull of the city more strongly than usual. 

We arrived at the Civic Center station with a whopping 45 minutes before show time.  Even better, it was the Farmers Market.  Well, honestly, we were a bit sad, as we couldn't really purchase anything.  My spirits lifted a bit, though, when I recognized several vendors from our Farmers Market (currently in Danville, San Ramon opens this Saturday!) and realized I wasn't missing as much as I thought.

IMG_1793 We headed to the Orpheum and went inside, looked at the offerings (um, $39 for a t-shirt??).and eventually found our seats after arguing over candy purchases.  A farmers market around the corner and the only thing the Orpheum vendor has is grocery store candy.  I know, I know, food/junk food snob, but it's messy, sugary, and after such a healthy brunch...I acquiesced to one Kit-Kat that we all split, though apparently not fairly enough.  Note to self: always bring hand wipes to the theater for cleaning up of melted Kit-Kat off hands.

We were in our seats 20 minutes before showtime, and I was thrilled that no one was seated in front of the girls.  We had balcony seats, so a bit of a distance, and I didn't want their views obstructed anymore.  Cue two terribly tall people popping into said seats 2 minutes before the show started.  Even more annoying, though?  The 5 adults who showed up 5 minutes AFTER it started and blocked everyone's view while they stumbled into their seats...if we can show up not only on time, but 45 minutes early....

And?

The reviews by each girl:

Kelsey: "I didn't just like it, I loved it!  I can't wait to see it again!  My favorite part was the whole thing!"

Caitlin:  "I more than loved it, when can we see it again? My favorite part... the whole show!"

So, one can probably tell that it was a hit with them.  I agree with their assessments wholeheartedly, and we all concurred that Elphaba was our favorite character.  Now, just two questions remain:  who gets to read the book first and when will we get to see the show again?

A huge thank you to Auntie Dr. Shannon, Uncle Mark, Baby Nate & Cousin Sandy for sending us to Wicked!  I have a feeling we will see it again and again and again...

April 25, 2010

In 6 weeks and 1 day,

 we will be at the local 'suite hotel of your choice' busily loading up the car with the suitcases and checking the hotel room to make sure we have every toy, piece of clothing and knick-knack.  The movers will have come and gone and extraneous items they forgot will likely fill a box in the trunk.  The cat will be safely ensconced somewhere that is not the rear of said vehicle (he, too, inherited the car sickness gene).  We will finish up, check out of the hotel, and probably do one last drive by the house.  Nope, I swear I am not tearing up...

 
Gulp.

I do that a lot (both gulping and tearing up) lately, because while the above paragraph makes it sound as though everything has just fallen together as easily as a 24 piece puzzle, that is not quite the case. Instead, we have an incredibly short list of completed items and a very long list of things that we either cannot do or I simply have not had the time/energy/desire to face.


 
The short list:

  • We have a house under contract that has for all intents and purposes, passed inspection.  I no longer wake up sweating and shaking with fear each morning.
  • Did I mention we have a house?


The long list:

  • Orders: we have none.  Without orders we can't even plan a pack-out.  No orders, no date for the movers.
  • The cat:  um, yeah, he is not vomiting, I mean, driving across country with us.  Must come up with flying/boarding plan for the sweet, dear, little Bailey.  
  • The house: we gave our notice.  We are out of here on 31 May, and must have oodles of stuff done (carpets cleaned, etc.) between the time our stuff leaves and we technically vacate.  However, since no idea when the movers are even coming...
  • The schools here:  in order to not face reality, I haven't yet really given notice to the schools.  Well, Kelsey's teacher knows, but I have to buckle down and write to both of the principals this week.  Actually, I have to write to several as...
  • The schools there:  have no idea we are coming.  I know people move in suddenly to a new district and just show up with their burgeoning bags of supplies, but I would love for the kids to at least get a glimpse of their new educational environments prior to the end of the school year.  This, however, means I have to actually get off my duff and write to both of the new schools...and maybe the Montessori, while I am at it...though I really doubt Nicholas would start preschool before the new year. 

IMG_1784
Since I am clearly excellent at procrastinating, and have so much free time, why not fill it with more exploration?  We were supposed to attend a Greek Dinner tonight in Castro Valley, but it was canceled at the last minute.  Kelsey was devastated as she is in love with everything Greek.  I wasn't sure what to do, so came up with the second best idea:  dinner at a local Greek Tavern.

IMG_1783
It was recommended by our friends who are very, very Greek.  They participated in the festival last October, and it was their church that was to host the dinner tonight.  On their word, we drove over to Livermore and supped at Demetri's Taverna in the middle of downtown.

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If a long line is a good sign, then we were in the right place.  There was a crowd hunkered around the front desk and choking up the free space on the patio, so I put our name the minute I could nab someone who looked remotely in charge of the waiting list.  We were promised a table in 30-35 minutes.  Normally that would sound a bit ominous with a toddler in tow, but the sidewalk that bordered the patio also abutted a gorgeous green space.

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Numerous children and their parents were running up and down, playing tag, hanging out at the nearby fountain, and enjoying their pre-dinner time by burning off a little extra energy.  The kids raced each other, stomped on puddles in the fountain, and lolled about in the grass until it was time for dinner.  Livermore is generally known for its wineries, but one should also note that the downtown is downright adorable, completely walkable, and has quite the selection to satisfy almost every palate.

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We were seated in fairly short order, and it was not a Greek festival, but the food very much met our expectations.  Nicholas ate his weight in hummus, I could not get enough of the House Spreads & Olives appetizer, and we all agreed the grilled garlic bread was divine.  We couldn't even think of trying the baklava, but I have a feeling it would not have disappointed.  There's always next time...right? 

April 23, 2010

Liar, Liar*!

IMG_4323

Well, he didn't really say that, but the implication was there.  I told Peter there was a park with Redwoods only 30 or so minutes from our house, and he didn't believe me.  Nope, he tried to convince me that the only park with those gorgeous, tall, stately (and oh, so, shady) trees was Muir Woods.  Recently my friend Linda mentioned a more local Redwood park, and I realized this was the place I had heard about so long ago...but had been told didn't exist.

IMG_4324

Now don't get me wrong.  We LOVE Muir Woods.  We can all fit inside the hollow tree for family photos, and one feels millions of miles away from...everything.  They have trails for every type of hiker, the trees, of course, recycling bins, compost bins, the snacks sold are wholesome, and with one exception, I just feel one with nature being there.  Corny, but true. The Redwoods are just awe-inspiring.

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What is not awe-inspiring?  The drive.  One has to go along a twisty, windy road for what seems like days, after it has taken almost an hour just to get to that road.  It is eerily reminiscent of the way leading in and out of Colonia Tovar **(a little German village nestled in the mountain top just outside of Caracas).  We prayed non-stop the entire time we hugged the side of the road as the one lane (for two cars) wound around the side of the mountain, going up and back down. This type of driving (and, more to the point, road) did not bode well for those with weak constitutions.

It's not hard then, to recall the ride home after we visited Colonia Tovar with Auntie Shannon.  Caitlin was about two and had been very excited about the day.  Colonia Tovar is famous for its strawberries, and we were so excited to taste them.  Caitlin ate loved them, and  ate berry after berry.  We were in strawberry heaven until the long, twisty ride home. We stopped counting after 6 emergency stops (with little to no parking area) and Cait hasn't eaten a strawberry since.

So guess what happens when you have children (yes, Kelsey, too, on occasion) with you who are still prone to motion-sickness (and like to exacerbate it by reading novels in the car while on the uber curvy road to Muir Woods)?

IMG_4327

Lots and lots of low grumbles, small moans, and then finally, just as you have passed the last scenic overlook with room to park the car for an emergency stop...the actual request to pull over and, well, you can figure it out.  We haven't made it to Muir Woods once without someone getting sick, and can't even consider taking the shuttle there (from a random parking area) for that reason.  When my friend Linda (yes, the lady who can get anywhere in Northern CA without a GPS) suggested we have a nature outing at the nearby Redwood Park, we signed on that dotted line immediately.

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Now, if only I had just Googled this place last summer, we would have been in heaven on those terribly hot and sticky days.  Instead, we rushed over there today, hurrying to try and fit it in and everything else on our pre-move to do list.  Gorgeous.  Utterly gorgeous.

It's in Oakland, just off a long, twisty road, but not nearly as long as the road to Muir Woods, and minus the drive to get to the road to Muir Woods.  We parked inside the main gate, and headed toward the playground to wait for the rest of the group...it wasn't that hot out, but cooled off incredibly once under the shade of the trees.

After a bit of playtime, and meeting up with other folks, we continued our walk.  We ambled along the trail, stopping to see banana slugs, water-gos (creeks), fields of wildflowers, picnic tables (they are very big with the 2 year old set), and random empty shelters that have benches and windows.  They create hours of entertainment, believe it or not.

We only had to depart as we finally ran out of food.  Nicholas even consumed the emergency fruit bar, which led us to a cranky state of affairs by the time we were back in the car.  Luckily for Nicholas, Cy was able to share a bit of his extra snacks, and all was well with the world. It was a very happy Earth Day, and, yes, we carpooled.

*Pronounced in the manner of Carol Kane in The Princess Bride.

**There is now an actual web-site for Colonia Tovar!  When we lived there, the best directions we could find were:  Leave Caracas, drive outside the city, turn right at the McDonald's, make a right turn once you get to the middle of the little town in the valley, and then stay on that road until you go up the mountain and back down into the town.  Oh, and it's about a 1.5 hour trip, one way.

April 21, 2010

Eyjafjallajokull

Volcano1

It's all one has heard about for days, and the news may not end anytime soon.  I probably should have posted something sooner, but since we aren't there, it seems hard to have a true opinion.  I have heard from friends there, and have gleaned that it is not the disaster (for Iceland) that it could be.  After hearing snippets here and there, reading (hopefully) reliable reports, and listening to an interview by The World  with the President of Iceland, my suspicions were confirmed that it is having a much greater effect on other areas of the world.

Volcano2 I realize elsewhere things are crazy, people are trapped in many areas of Europe, shipments are coming to a standstill and travel plans are being disrupted right and left.  However, in Iceland, it is by all appearances, if nothing else...a photographer's paradise.  Every photo that pops up on the internet, especially Facebook (thank you to our Icelandic friends for posting frequently), is a new and fantastically awesome photo of this incredible act of God.

I know it seems awful. I know it might seem like a disaster in many respects.  However, I like to think of it as a reminder that there are things out there that we can't control and sometimes we just need to let go and be amazed by what Mother Nature can do when she puts her mind to it.

For a teeny bit of humor regarding the pronunciation of the name of the volcano, try this video below:


*The photos above are courtesy of our friend, Mary.  Many thanks to her for sharing these views of the billows of smoke that could be seen from the backyard of her summer house.

And one more video just in case you need another good laugh:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Volcano Eyjafjallajokull
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News



April 20, 2010

24 months, 26 months

IMG_1747really what's the difference? The Little Guy finally had his two year check-up today.  I realize he is 26 months old tomorrow, and I know this is a bit late.  However, with the exception of the rare cold, which is generally solved with rest, lots of water, a tad bit of nursing, and the occasional homeopathic remedy, the boy just doesn't get sick, and we rarely go to the doctor.  Or maybe it's all of the lollipops and sugar cereal?

 IMG_1743Since I am busy being a lazy mom (see previous post), I forgot about the whole check-up business.  When I remembered, I put it on the list for next week (and the next week, and the next week...).  Finally, last week, I got it together and called, and we had a brief sojourn to the pediatrician today.

IMG_1709-1 IMG_1707-1 All was well until we tried to leave the waiting room, and had to leave a truck behind.  He was furious, but I understood:  trucks are his life.  Given his current obsession with trucks, trains, and everything else transportation-related, this was akin to removal of a limb (in his mind).  He ended up getting the truck back, eventually and this was quite a relief.  He spent most of the rest of the appointment on the floor discussing 'playing trucks' for the doctor. He was calm, I 'thoughtfully' answered the doctor's questions, and LG ended up getting a great report on his language skills and weight gain.  I am a bit skeptical of the language business given the parameters she gave me, but it made her happy, so who am I to rain on her parade?

IMG_4307Officially, he weighs 30 pounds, and is 35 inches tall...which really just means that he has grown (tell my back something it doesn't know), and that's good.  Now, I would go ahead and schedule Kelsey's visit, but since I forgot to do last year's until July....

Since it wouldn't be a post about Little Guy if I didn't put up a few recent photos him performing some of his favorite activities: 

  • running and hiding from Mommy, then grinning like a banshee when found
  • hanging out with Sissa
  • dumping half a box of cereal on the table, and spending the morning pushing it around in a dump truck...though a "boosseleeay" (we like to think he is trying to say bulldozer in French) might do the job better...
  •  just being a happy, grinny Little Guy
 Why do they have to grow up so quickly?

April 18, 2010

Judy & Stink

IMG_4309 IMG_4310 IMG_4311 are two of Kelsey's favorite characters from the Judy Moody & Stink series.  If you haven't heard of them, they are brother and sister...and that's really all I know.  I haven't had a chance to read the series yet, but Kelsey is pretty much enthralled.

IMG_1738 Which means when she found out that the author, Megan McDonald, was going to be at the library on Saturday, she was ecstatic. Right about now, you must be thinking to yourself, "Oh, my, what a thoughtful and caring mother.  She learned of the author's intention to stop by months ago, and even went so far as to let her daughter know about the essay* contest, so that she could enter.  Who knows, maybe Kelsey was even one of the 14 winners?"

No, I am the worst kind of mother:  I found out from Kelsey** on Friday (yes, Friday) that the event would take place yesterday, and had no clue about the essay contest. Note to self:  put name on email list for every event at the library, despite the fact that we are leaving in 6 weeks.  Will improve self-esteem, if nothing else.

So they went, they saw, they conquered the line after the hour long reading, which included each essay winner reading his or her winning entry.  By the way, apparently Nicholas was not thrilled with this idea.  I think Peter only had to leave the reading 6 times (or only told me about said 6).  Nicholas loves books, thinks he can read, loves anyone to read to him, but does not sit still for speeches about reading...which I completely understand. 

Now, you might think, "Peter took him out?  Where were YOU?  Not only didn't you know about the event, you slacked off on attending, too?" 

Yep, I did.  I was busy.  Decided to have myself a girls day out, and left Pete alone with the kids and had a spa day!

HA! HA! HA! As if....

No, I spent the day learning how to camp.  Yes, I have camped before (heard that snicker, too), and yes, I could do it without training.  However, if you are a Girl Scout co-leader and intend to go camping with your troop, you must attend a GS specific camp training session...all 8 hours of it. 

Now that must sound snide, but it really wasn't that bad.  If nothing else, it boosted my confidence about camping, and gave me several ideas that I just hadn't thought about before.  I went with the troop's other co-leader and another parent volunteer, so it was not as though I felt 'alone' attending the training.  We even had a chance to sneak in a bit of a field trip on the way home.

My friend, the parent volunteer, has a favorite Japanese grocery store in San Jose and really wanted to stop by.  I am always up for new food experiences, and since the three of us had carpooled (and she was the driver), we headed over the minute training was finished. 

 IMG_1733 It was gorgeousIMG_1736IMG_1737! Completely non-descript on the outside, but the decorations, the space, the lighting...and the simplicity.  The bakery/sweet shop (not sure if that is exactly the right term...) was to our immediate right as we entered.  The sweets were stunning...incredibly prepared and almost too perfect to eat.  I didn't end up purchasing anything, not one tiny morsel, as I simply couldn't choose...maybe next time?

Then we hit the main part of the store.  Everything from rice cookers to fish to what seemed like hundreds of kinds of sesame oil.  Pickled...everything!  I picked up a few items, a sushi plate, pickled ginger, a pickled radish salad, bean paste desserts and green noodles (all natural Ramen).  Then I noticed the restaurant...

Apparently it is a widely known and loved noodle house.  My opinion?  One giant yum.  Seriously, this was Ramen like I have never had before.  Thick, soft noodles in a slightly salty soy broth.  A tender slice of chicken and a pink and green slice of ...radish?  I was so enthralled I forgot to verify the ingredients (hard to do while slurping it up as fast as you can without burning the tongue, but it's so so good...) and also forgot the picture.  Next time, I promise!

Oh, yes, six weeks or no six weeks, the Ramen House (well, my name for it) is calling, and we have already made plans to go back.  If you are in the San Jose area, and have a hankering, I doubt you will be disappointed...we weren't and think others feel the same way!

* for those of you wondering, I have bombarded them with information about the FSYF contest.  However, they are both nervous about entering contests (gee, where do they get THAT from?), so we shall see.  

**This makes us sound like we don't go to the library. I am just usually too busy with the Little Guy when we go to notice much else.  We are there quite frequently, and in fact, each girl has approximately 10-20 books from said library in her room at any given point.  I can only say thank goodness for email reminders about due dates! 

April 16, 2010

Do you know the way

to San Jose?  No, we did not get enough of the Children's Discovery Museum a few weeks ago, and just had to go back.  It was another outing for the outdoor playgroup, and not only did my friend Linda organize, but she also offered to drive.  And, do you know what?

IMG_1714 She can drive there without a GPS.  This town is 40 minutes from here!  I am beyond amazed.  I had the recent experience of driving around a neighboring town for 30 minutes trying to find a Michael's that I have been to countless times (first time sans GPS).  In my case, no GPS, no Michael's.  Seriously, almost two years after moving here, and I am still reliant on that darn thing.  I'm like Pavlov's dog:  the minute I hear myself turn the key in the ignition, my hand is on that dang machine pressing every button I can find.  I won't even go into the time (granted, we weren't quite moved into the house yet) that I had to use the GPS on my iPhone to find the girls school...*sigh*.

Linda volunteered to drive us today, and this was heavenly, as not only did I not have to worry about getting lost (yes, even with the GPS), but Nicholas completely and utterly adores her little boy, Cy.  He is almost 3, and has acquired almost a god-like status in Nicholas's eyes.  Anytime we pass a park or even get out the jog stroller (I heard that snicker), "Cy? Cy? Cy?".  Needless to say, when Linda offered the outing, and then said she'd drive so the boys could hang out a little bit longer...we hopped right on that.

IMG_4299 IMG_4302 IMG_4303  If you remember from our last visit, we focused primarily on fire trucks and sand pits.  We did visit the fire truck briefly today (it's impossible to walk by it), and pretended to drive the ambulance, but the biggest draw?  The garden. Oh, and the water area...we spent a good 30 minutes there throwing balls and enjoying the heck out of ourselves.  In the end, though, the garden won hands down though as the place to be today.

The children's garden is an area where kids can run around, shovel, plant seeds, dig holes, dig more holes, shovel, move dirt around in a wheelbarrow, and did I mention, shovel?  Today was a bit more special than usual as it is Green Week and the museum partnered with other groups, like Recology,  in order to expand the kids ecological horizons. 

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In addition to shoveling compost (yes, the boy was in heaven), they were able to make small planters (out of rolled newspaper) and sow a few seeds to take home in said planter.  Exciting, but the compost still won.  The irony is that we did nearly the same thing in our own backyard for hours yesterday.  Our compost bin is fully of nearly finished compost and is earthworm heaven.  Whether we were in our backyard or the museum's though, Nicholas was ecstatic.  I nearly had to drag him out of there (the bubbles were calling) and you can bet planters for him are high on the list of items for the new house.  A small backyard, maybe, but plenty of room for a Little Guy-sized garden.

IMG_1730-1 IMG_1731 We hit the bubbles for a while, and I even managed to get a halfway decent shot of the boys playing with the bubble sprayers.  We finished up with a last run on the fire truck, and headed back to the car for a snack and the ride home.  Little Guy fell asleep about halfway home, snoring just a bit (it's very cute when they are two and it doesn't sound like a freight train), and proceeded to sleep for another 3 hours after getting home.  A good day, and I am trying not to think about how I explain the lack of Cy after June 6. 
Instead we are going to hit every event we can with the walking group and outdoor play dates until we leave. 

 Then again, it's not like we have our pack-out scheduled or anything...but we'll worry about that another day!

April 15, 2010

Ardenwood Farm

 IMG_4278 IMG_4279 has beckoned us for some time now.  We have tried to get out there many a time, only to realize too late in the day that we missed toddler time, or that the train wasn't running that particular day.  Thanks to my friend who started an outdoor nature time meet up group, we finally made it Tuesday morning. 

Each week touches on the care of a different animal, and this week happened to be goats.  We ended up arriving a few minutes late, but still had a chance to grind corn for the goats.  Well, I had the chance to grind the corn, as Nicholas was a little less than enthusiastic.  Not sure if the grinder scared him or he just needed a little more meet and greet time, but he opted out of that part.

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After the grinding, we headed over to the goat pen to feed the mama and her babes.  Nicholas held out his hands and accepted the food from the ranger.  He climbed up the slats of the pen and waited patiently for the goats to come...and then he ran off.  I think the idea of the goat eating out of his hand was a bit more exciting.

IMG_4288 He watched the goat lick my hand, and after the dispersal of organic corn on the cob popcorn, Toddler Time ended.  Our group ended up staying for a bit, and we had snack time with Nicholas's friend, whose mom also runs my walking group (did I mention how much I will miss both groups when we leave?).  Little Guy's buddy ended up leaving earlier than expected, so we did a solo tour of most of the farm.   We investigated bunny hutches, piled hay in wheelbarrows, and the best part?  Falling head first into what looked like a compost bin of sorts.  He was filthy and absolutely thrilled (what 2 year old boy wouldn't be?).  Given how much we love to dig in the dirt at home, no surprise at all.  In fact, his filthiness was relatively clean compared to when he helps me with the gardening at home.

IMG_4289 IMG_4290 We followed up the dirt pile with a visit to the pigs.  Sadly, Nicholas was not that entranced.  However, he was quite taken with the chickens, who were being carefully watched over by a giant turkey.  I thought he was making some sort of low hissing sound, until I realized it was his giant wings scraping the ground as he secured the chickens' perimeter.  The turkey was all business, but did pause so we could get few photos. 

IMG_4291 We continued our walk, traipsed around in a circle on bales of hay, chatted with more friends, and eventually made our way back to the car.  We were sopping wet, more than a bit dirty, and now quite warm.  A quick change into cooler clothes, and we were off to head back home to pick up Kelsey from school.

We may not make it back for any more animal feedings, but so glad we had this opportunity.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again...the East Bay has no shortage of nature-oriented outdoor activities for kids.  Whether making mud pies in the backyard (during the rainy season, of course), or visiting any number of parks and museums, this area (anywhere in the bay region) is heavenly for those who love the outdoors.  And tomorrow?  Back to the Children's Museum in San Jose...the first two times just weren't enough!

April 13, 2010

Nicholas & Chachi

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Not that Chachi. Chachi is the name he has given to Jenny, his ISR/swim teacher.  If you recall from early 2009, he took extremely intense anti-drowning lessons.  I say that, as they really aren't teaching him how to swim at that point so much as they are teaching him to react to falling in a body of water.  In other words, teaching him how not to drown, but instead to float until he reaches help or help reaches him.

One might consider this extreme, but I have always thought the above to be an invaluable skill.  I knew that once the ISR lessons were completed, we could begin regular stroke work (paired with ISR brush-ups), and he would presumably be an early, faster swimmer than his sisters.  Not to stoke the fires of sibling rivalry, but both girls had an intense fear of sticking their head under the water from about age 2, and I never wanted that to develop with him.

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We tried every type of swim lesson under the sun with them (Mommy & Me, group classes, one on one), and nothing worked until they were older and had a better understanding of the sport (read: surrounded by pools open year round in Iceland). I remember wanting Caitlin to take ISR lessons when she was an infant, but the only teachers at the time were in Miami. 

Fast forward to Kelsey's infant/toddler-hood and instruction was now available in Virginia Beach.  Unfortunately, that was still a bit of a hike. I was also a tad bit overwhelmed, as Peter was on the 'detail' and trips were fast and furious.  He loved the travel, I loved the over-time, but I was essentially a single parent and we had other pressing things to think about.

I could have waited with Nicholas, but thought I would at least give it a try.  There was a school just around the corner in Danville, and what better time than the present?   We are generally near the water a lot during the summer, and I thought the sooner we start, the better.  I signed him up for the official ISR course last winter, and graduated with flying colors on his birthday. It was nothing short of amazing to see him be 'pushed' into a pool fully dressed, and to watch how he instantly kicked himself into a float.

Last fall, once he was a solid walker (or runner), we signed him up for stroke and review lessons.  He is amazingly happy in the water now (earplugs needed for first few weeks of ISR, not so much these days), and thoroughly enjoys jumping in and swimming to Jenny.  I realized yesterday that I did not have any recent photos, and figured I should add a few for posterity.

IMG_4270 IMG_4271 If you are wondering, the teachers, Brian and Jenny, also work with children who simply want to improve their strokes, whether for competition or simply to be stronger swimmers.  Kelsey has been seeing Brian for the past few months, and has made amazing strides in her lap swimming.  She has declared an interest in a recreational swim team, but wanted to really "know" her strokes.  It was this or group lessons, and while the group lessons were okay, these have really boosted her confidence.  Regardless, all of the lessons will come in handy this summer, whether at pool in Maryland, at the beach, or at the pool in our new (old) neighborhood, which happens to be right across the street.

April 11, 2010

If only trucks grew on trees,

IMG_1700 Mr. Quinn would be a very happy boy.  I think between the rain and sheer exhaustion (on all of our parts) of the past week, we were all quite happy to sleep in late, pad around in our jammies, and just relax as a family.  And, yes, design new style parking garages.

Yesterday was another long travel day, to include a four hour layover in Salt Lake City, and between that and the long (but fun-filled) week, I was ready to really sleep in. The layover was longer than I am used to, and I am fairly sure I got quite a few looks spending over an hour walking through the terminals just to stretch my legs (here's a thought: gyms*/workout areas in airports!). 

It's funny how there are so many places to sit, so many places to get a cup of coffee or a beer, so many places to eat (though, granted, not always that tantalizing), and, yet, unless you are under the age of 5, very few places to stretch one's legs.  Two terminals had kids play areas, but I realized without having a toddler in tow, I would look pretty silly asking if I could play Little Tykes basketball with the rest of the pint-sized bunch.

What about a library of sorts...a book room/coffee house where one could hang out, read available books, and just chill until one's flight.  Or local food places?  I know, I know, it's just an airport, but still, after several hours, you start wondering.  I did appreciate the exhibit on the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, and noted it as a possible leg-stretch stop this summer on our much-anticipated drive across the country.  I should note, these are tips for any airport..as a whole, SLC was quite nice (especially the re-charging stations), and the views of the mountains were breathtaking.

I made it home just a tad later than I should have, and had quite the welcoming committee.  One Little Guy was loathe to let go once he attached himself to me.  Naturally, when he decided he needed to get down, he immediately ran at break-neck speed toward the exit.  Peter got his work-out running after him, and the rest of the folks got a good laugh watching the both of them.

After a lengthy wait for the luggage, we headed home and most of us went straight to bed (including the Little Guy who crashed half-way through the ride home). Given Pete's lamentations of getting nothing done all week, the house was in very decent shape, and there was even a fresh bag of coffee waiting for me. I didn't even try to plan anything for today, and glad for that.  Oh, we spent some time looking at pictures of the new place, and reviewing our travel schedule, but nothing terribly heavy.  Sometimes I think one just needs a day for everyone to unwind and do nothing more than imagine a place where trucks grow on trees.

*I realized after typing this post, that I needed to consult my best search friend, as perhaps I was, gulp, incorrect, and such a thing does exist.  Enjoy this:  I was *squirms in chair for several minutes*... wrong. Click here, and you will find a list of airports with gyms, and those that have them in fairly close proximity.  I still think in-house (read: past security) would be best, but if you have a long enough layover, could be a good way to spend the time.

April 09, 2010

Status: Contingent

with no kick out.

Possibly the sweetest words I have heard lately.  Well, no, actually, those words were,"Hi, Mama!" while on the phone with Nicholas and Kelsey today.  The above phrase does offer me a great sense of relief, though, and while we still have much to do, I can check one large item off the to do list.

The irony is that "the" phone call came as I was looking at rentals in the area where my hosts for the week live.  I found two equally as great homes here, and would have had a very tough time trying to decide which to live in, if the Virginia deal had not worked out. 

So, now what? A huge thank you to everyone who has helped me this week!  I know I probably fretted a bit too much, but the underlying reason for the hurried house-hunting just set me on edge.  I know it probably shouldn't, but I am sure other friends would agree that this can be an extremely stressful time.  Given that, it was such a relief to have so much assistance from the Salty Dogs, my Realtor*,  Shannon's Realtor,  everyone who has been so supportive online, Delta for frequent flyer miles, and, most of all,  a certain someone who kept things running smoothly back home:  a big thank you to the Little Guy! 

Just a pint-sized joke there.  Of course,  I meant 'thank you' to Peter for forcing me to take this trip, holding up the fort back home, and being such a great dad and husband.  I managed to not only find a house, but had a chance catch up with so many people, and realized that I am actually pretty excited about the upcoming year.  I think it is safe to say that we all feel like a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders and we are almost looking forward to moving in, painting, arranging furniture and the like.  Oh, and for those of you in the area:  can we say open house and BBQ sometime in July? 


*Carolyn is not only a former Foreign Service spouse, but also the very same Realtor who had our previous house under contract in 19 days in June of 2007 when the market was not so hot.  She was not challenged by the fact that we still had renters in the house, and went above and beyond the call of duty, despite having never met us in person.  Everything but settlement was taken care of through email.  Yes, we highly recommend her!

The contract

was signed, sealed and delivered (or emailed, rather) this afternoon.  No word as of yet, but we hope to hear something by the morning.  As much as it is seems to be such a large decision on our part, it must be equally daunting for the seller to contemplate.  For that reason, I will just bide my time and think happy, cheerful thoughts about the quality time I get to spend with "Baby Nate" tomorrow afternoon! 

April 08, 2010

Make offer?!

was the text I received today from Pete.  I had just urgently sent him a text as my iPhone was about to die (note to self: write that letter to Apple about ridiculously low iPhone battery life) that I loved the second house we saw.  We had finished our tour of homes for the day, and had reached a time for decision-making of sorts

After my late-night trolling of sites, my back and forth between renting and buying (still looking at rentals, I know this isn't a done deal, and the rentals are in a gorgeous area), waking up too late, and frantically hitting the road, I made it to the Realtor's office in the nick of time.  We had a list of 7 possibilities, an email with Peter's thoughts, and my gut feeling that I knew which one I would like the best.

Now, the Realtor, to her credit, offered that we might get a better deal and more selection in June.  However, given the very short amount of time we have between our arrival here and Peter's departure for his unaccompanied tour, we want to have as much time as possible to get properly settled in.  So, we gathered the listings, and off we went.

We stopped at house #1, just outside the beltway, and explored the three level townhouse.  It was originally the top contender on my list, but changed when #2 popped up on Realtor.com.   It was primarily a case of the photos being a bit better online than in reality.  The kitchen looked spacious and updated on the screen of my laptop, but in reality was a bit worn and not quite as roomy.  The master bedroom was not tiny, but not what I hoped for and other areas needed more updating than I originally imagined.  We still had quite a list to work with, and viewing a storage room that took up over half the basement (not much room for anything else), we departed for a neighborhood that was a bit more familiar.

Yes, the second house is in our old neighborhood.  I admit it, I really like it, and since this could be our third house there, apparently, we just can't get away.  I didn't necessarily like the floor plan in our old house, but I the construction was solid, and  I loved that it backed up to a nature center and woods.  The playground and pool were both a bonus, and we made so many great friends living there.  When house #2 popped up on Realtor.com Monday night, I was stunned.  Not only was it the model with the garage (yes, it trumps a 4th bedroom for us), but the layout allowed for a generously-sized kitchen and roomy bedrooms.  These models are rarely available, and generally tend to go quickly.  I pointed it out to my Realtor, she agreed it looked quite promising, and it was added to the list.

We parked in the driveway, she fiddled with the lock box, we walked in, and I knew this was it.  It was confirmed when I found the kitchen, and realized the photos didn't do it justice.  From the Corian counter tops (with matching cutting board) to the pull-out shelves in the pantry and cabinets, I was in heaven. 

Did I mention the breakfast bar?  I could already envision the kids having a pre-school nosh or enjoying a snack (the scent of chocolate chip cookies wafting in the air..) after school.   The extra counter space would make dinner prep so much easier for all of us.  It would be especially useful when the girls cook, as they tend to need a bit more room.  The kitchen also allows for a generous amount of table space,  and perhaps even room for a small desk  and the kitchen play set for Nicholas.  Oh, and a gas stove...

The rest of the house did not disappoint, from the spacious master to the cozy, low-maintenance patio (though still room for a small garden and compost bin...), and the garage which as already been outfitted with pegboards, a work bench and the old kitchen cabinets (excellent storage that little hands can't quite reach).  We left after discussing the pros (many) and the cons (few), and hit the 5 other houses on the list.  While not bad, each seemed to lack that certain something, or had issues that townhouse didn't have.  Whether it was road noise, too much lawn for my taste, or stairs to the basement in the kitchen (no door, just stairs), they were items that either could not be fixed or not without much work (and $$$).

Tomorrow I head back to McLean with the  checkbook, and will hopefully (fingers crossed) have a signed contract by early afternoon.  Now, I know things go wonky with real estate issues all of the time, so by no means is this a done deal.  I also have other options if it doesn't work out, and when this finally smacked me in the head today, I felt much of the stress melt away.  It has also helped immensely to have so much support from friends and family. 

Oh, and I know we haven't signed the dotted line, and don't yet hear the jingle of the keys, but did I remember to mention the window seats that come with what would be the girls' rooms?  I can already see them curled up on cushions, reading for hours...

April 06, 2010

"Mama?"

was the first word out of Nicholas's mouth yesterday when he awoke from his nap.  Kelsey was nearby and quickly reminded him that I had left on the airplane that morning.

The next utterance:

"Baby?"

IMG_1673 Yes, I need to be quite clear:  95% of the reason I came to visit is this absolutely adorable new Little Guy, Master Nate (short for Nathaniel).  I have house-hunting to do, but I have been extremely nervous about that and would much rather spend hours playing with this sweet wee one.  Yes, the notion of buying or renting a new house is exciting, but the fact of the matter remains that I am obtaining the house for the four of us to live in and for Peter to visit.

If we are lucky, he will spend a sum total of 40 days (give or take) in said house over the next year.  When I have asked for his thoughts on the matter, his response was that I knew best.  Translation:  he won't be living there, so his opinions shouldn't hold as much water.

IMG_1677 On the contrary, they do.  Not only will this be a landing pad, should we come back to the area for training (well, theoretically), but I really, really hate making big decisions like this by myself. We are married, it will be our house, so we should both have a say. Therefore, I am quickly preparing a list of homes that we are slated to visit tomorrow, so he can send his yea or nay before he retires for the evening (don't forget, he is three hours behind).  And, I absolutely, positively, will not stay up until 4 a.m. tonight trolling real estate sites.  Not that I did that last night, though technically, it was only 1 a.m. for me...so, really, I went to bed early, or at least on time.

Given that  I spent most of the day on planes, though, I was alternately wired and exhausted.  I schlepped from Oakland to Salt Lake City to Minneapolis to BWI.  I have to say, for the most part, it was extremely smooth sailing.  I expected huge lines and delays, and found next to nothing in both departments.  Oh, except for the passengers who refused to sit down or turn off their electronic gadgets despite many requests from the flight attendants for cooperation (we are talking 15 or so minutes worth of repeated announcements).

Now, it may seem like a number of stops, but I enjoyed stopping in two new states, and although the terminals were a bit of a distance, who doesn't need to stretch their legs after a long flight?  What I don't understand?  How only 6 or so hours of flying can make one so darn tired.  Maybe it was just the lack of shut-eye Sunday night, but I easily slept through most of each flight, no matter how much background noise or turbulence.  Though I did stay awake long enough to realize that the woman next to me on my third flight was reading the exact same book as the woman next to me on my second flight, and the exact same chapter.  I know, completely unrelated to the story, but just struck me as so interesting.  Now the question:  do I find and read this book (particularly that one chapter) that is so captivating my fellow travelers or assume it was just a fluke?

Shannon, hostess extraordinaire, met me at the airport, and we hurried home to meet the baby of the hour.  Little Nate was in a semi-sleepy state, but blinked hello and dozed off and on while having a bit of nourishment.  We had much more quality time today and I not only got several smiles, but also quite a few giggles out of him. Considering he really only met me yesterday for the first time (not sure he remembers that Skype call when he was a week old), I was pleased as punch.  And, I must say, way more fun than fretting over real estate listings!  Which, reminds me, back to the list...

April 05, 2010

Wow!

What a day!  I thought somehow the day was just going to whiz by, perhaps because we were going to early mass, or maybe due to the fact that we didn't have a lot on the agenda.  Instead, we just kept going and going.  

Photo 104 Photo 108 We did not get up at the crack of dawn, but hadn't planned on much other than a light breakfast and basket perusing before church.  We had sour cream coffee cake and bacon, both farmers market favorites, and the kids were excited to receive their baskets and treats from the grandparents in the form of Peeps, chocolate bunnies, gold coins and $5 bills.  There wasn't too much time for candy consumption, though, as we had to be at church by 10:10 a.m.

IMG_1658 IMG_4243-1 The girls sang in the Children's Choir today and I am not sure which was better...their voices or Nicholas shouting, "Yea!" and clapping each time they finished a song.  Yet another item I will have to add to next year's to do list: a church with a children's choir.  They are enjoying this one so much, and Caitlin is being asked to add to her responsibilities within the choir.  No word on what she will do (for sure) just yet, but you can be sure it will be noted here when the time arrives.

After mass, we headed home for several sessions of Skype with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Nicholas alternated his time between showing off his basket, and trying to quickly stuff the entire contents of said basket in his mouth.  Meanwhile I spent almost an hour trying to prepare a lunch that was almost entirely pre-made.  It makes no sense whatsoever, but despite getting most sides from Whole Foods and a Honeybaked Ham, brunch still took quite a bit of time to prepare. 

Nicholas decided to say lead us in the blessing (he simply repeated after me), and I only wish we had gotten it on camera.  Afterward, we feasted on ham, a Greek salad, marinated and grilled artichokes, rice pilaf, and mashed potatoes.  Despite the lengthy preparations, dinner went fairly quickly. I think, perhaps, the girls were more concerned we might never get to the egg hunt, especially considering we still needed to prep the eggs.

IMG_1666IMG_1671I suppose we should have completed that task yesterday, but we just ran out of time.  We thought it could be just as much fun to do it on Sunday, and that turned out to be true.  We ended up just using regular dyes, despite my best attempts to try and do it all.  I had planned on using veggies again this year, but it just didn't happen.

It was Nicholas' first time participating, and I am pretty sure he is sold on this version of Easter fun.  We planned on actually using the eggs in a hunt, however, realized that A. it was never going to stop raining, and B. no matter how dry the eggs were, I was still nervous about an egg hunt with recently dyed eggs on the carpet (we have the world's most easily stained carpet, hands down). 

IMG_4250-1IMG_4252 I realized a hunt of filled eggs might be more fun anyway.  Due to the massive amounts of rain, all activities would be inside.  I quickly filled my cache of plastic eggs  with assorted change and one paper dollar per child.  Other than having to remind Caitlin that it wasn't a race, the hunt went pretty smoothly.  In fact, we were all so in awe of Nicholas's egg-finding skills that he ended up getting most of them while we just stood and watched.  

Though it sounds fairly fast-paced, we didn't finish the hunt until close to 6 p.m.  The girls then took a walk in the rain, while Peter gave Nicholas his water-go (bath in Nicholas speak) and I realized I needed to start with the packing business...which I now need to finish and then try to get some sleep...oh, heck, there's always the plane.  Good night and Happy Easter (again)! 

April 04, 2010

Hop to It!

Have a happy, safe, blessed, and Holy Easter...

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Love, Jen, Pete, Caitlin, Kelsey & Nicholas Q. Dinoia

P.S. Nope, we cannot be taught.  Our son does not like sitting on the laps of large, jolly looking characters, and yet we keep pushing the issue.  Though, to be fair, this is the first time he has ever even seen the Easter Bunny in person.  Thank goodness for the laps of sissas!

April 03, 2010

Caught red-handed!

IMG_4227 In every sense of the meaning.  Little Guy up and disappeared on us this morning (no worries, for a whopping 2 minutes), but you know when it gets too quiet, and they don't answer when you call, you begin to wonder...he could be quietly playing cars or quietly creating a masterpiece on the wall with an ill-gotten marker.

I wondered more when I couldn't find him, walked into the office, and heard a funny rustling sound.  I looked around the corner...and found him peeking out from the closet, his sister's Jelly Belly bag in hand.  Guess he knows a tasty treat when he sees it?  

Note to self:  Jelly Bellies must be stored much, much higher.  In fact, too high for me to reach probably best!

April 02, 2010

A Belly Full of Jellies

IMG_4209IMG_4225Jelly Bellies, that is.  A tour of the Jelly Belly factory was part of Kelsey's class study of Economics.  It was really quite simple:  watch many hungry parents (okay, one mama in particular) race to the Jelly Belly Factory store (when said tour was concluded) in order to spend a tidy sum on, oh, we'll call it "Easter" candy.   Never mind that several of the bags were purported to be filled with flavors that only she likes...

  IMG_4222 IMG_4224 Yeah, I was ridiculous.  Let's start at the beginning though, which was an hour long ride to the Factory, half of which I spent convinced I was going to get a Fastrak ticket.  There was one bridge to cross on the way, and everyone mentioned using the carpool lanes.  So, I did.  Then I realized it said Carpools AND Fastrak.  I then figured it was for carpools only if one has Fastrak.  We do, but it was in Peter's Tahoe, which had been parked for hours in the Financial District.

Guess what?  It really is just for carpools, and I guess they take really awesome photos of each car and decide if the tiny heads in the back seat are real or fake, and then ticket (or not) appropriately.  I have just never heard of any carpool lane allowing you to avoid the payment of a toll entirely...pay it faster with something like Fastrak, but never avoid it.  Live and learn! 

We arrived at the factory in good time (yes, on 1 Jelly Belly Lane) and had no problems parking.  Note to anyone interested in going:  go early!  We arrived at 9:02 a.m. and the parking lot was nearly empty.  By the time we left at 10:38 a.m., it was packed to the gills. 

We headed inside, snapped a few photos (sorry, about your nose President Reagan), and began the tour almost immediately.  I also learned the best way to ensure there won't be a long wait is to decide to use the restroom.  If there is a wait, it immediately dissipates the minute you walk away.  Thankfully, there was some snafu with the number of Jelly Belly hats distributed, and we didn't miss a thing.

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We went up the candy corn staircase, rounded the bend, skipped the optional photo with Mr. Jelly Belly, and enjoyed a taste of the Honey Bean Jelly Belly...pure YUM if you love honey (and I do).  The tour itself lasted no more than 30 minutes, and probably would be shorter if there weren't have oodles of kids pressing their noses to look at the (sadly, not operating) Jelly Belly making machines.  Unfortunately, we went on an inventory day, which meant that the factory was empty save for thousands of pounds of Jelly Belly ingredients and the equipment required to produce them.

Don't worry, JB must have known this could happen, and had monitors with videos of the entire process set up at several key points around the factory.  The tour took place in a  glassed-in hallway that looked down over the floor, and there was no shortage of good views of monitors or actual candy-making equipment.  Nor was there a shortage of samples throughout the tour...banana (okay).and ..juicy pear (super YUM).

IMG_1655 IMG_4220 I am not sure if we spent more time in the factory or the store.  I realized with Kelsey being distracted by the notion of possibly buying the world's largest jawbreaker, I had plenty of time to shop for the kids Easter baskets. If questioned, who wouldn't believe that I was just buying a few little treats my hosts next week, the fabulous Salty Dog crew?  

Now lest you think I have lost my senses and suddenly endorse eating oodles of Jelly Bellies, most of which are made with an ingredient I detest, well...I make exceptions.  I do love many of the flavors, can't stand normal jelly beans, and since we aren't huge candy eaters, I think a bit now and again won't hurt too much.  The funny thing?  Just as I was bemoaning how all of the flavors were only made with corn syrup, I found this mix. Oh, yes, I had to test it...and the flavors passed with flying colors.  Definitely on my list.

I was ever so grateful to have those to snack on for the ride back...one vegetarian potsticker and a mug of coffee do not a breakfast (or "brefits", as Nicholas says) make.  Trip to the Jelly Belly factory $44.19 plus cost of gas.  The fun had with Kelsey (and, yes, getting Easter goodies)?  Priceless.

April 01, 2010

Staying in CA

I know, it's crazy.  Four of us will stay behind while the fifth departs on a jet plane for an exotic destination.  The four will get up and go about life as usual, while the other one explores and tries desperately to maintain sanity while trying to make difficult decisions.  The four will try to pretend that no one is missing, and the fifth will feel like everything is missing.  The fifth will feel terribly guilty for the time alone, and leaving the loved ones behind while balancing it with the excitement at the glimpse of the year to come and reconnecting with those not seen in quite some time.  She will miss her girls, the Little Guy and Pete...

She?

HA! Gotcha.  I know, I know, but lest joking that I am pregnant gives Peter heart palpitations or...well, can't joke about him going to places far away for a year..so, what was that all about? My attempt at a humorous way of saying that I am taking a break...of sorts.

I am now considered to be too indecisive for words.  Despite the fact that it really means that I want what is best for all involved, I am still driving people (read: my immediate family, most especially, dear, sweet Peter) absolutely nuts with my lack of ability to say anything but "maybe" about the upcoming move.  Yes, we know we are going back to the metro DC area (well, pretty sure....see, there I go again!), but I am having a terrible time deciding where in the area to live.  Given that I can only put a portion of the blame on people who refuse to post decent interior photos of their homes for sale on ______(name your favorite Realtor's website, I scan them all daily), Peter thought it was time for some action, so...

I fly to Baltimore on Monday for a week of house-hunting in MD and VA. My goal?  To leave the area with a rental secured or a contract signed.  No idea if either one will actually happen, but Pete can take the week off, I had a boatload of frequent flier miles (Southwest wanted $900 for a RT, choke, gasp), and the kids could really use some one on one time with him.  Not that I won't miss them terribly, but I think it will be extremely useful for me to have a taste of what he will go through beginning in July.  Despite my jokes that he will have all the time in the world for coding and what-not, I know it's not going to be that easy for him.

Oh, and one other thing (and this might be the most important item on my to do list):  I get to meet and spend a good deal of quality time with the newest Salty Dog.  Perhaps even a wee bit of babysitting, should I be so lucky?

Now I best be off to pack those bags (now there's your April Fool's joke!), and make several lists for Peter...lest I come home to find a new addition on the house* and the baby feeding himself canned chili (well, organic with quinoa wouldn't be so bad....). 

*Come on, S., don't let me down!