56 posts categorized "Nicholas"

March 14, 2012

Missions

are very big with us right now.  They involve traipsing through the woods with at least one light saber, a tool belt and several 'tools' (of the made-up variety).  Monday was early day for Kelsey, so we decided it was the perfect time for a good, long mission with Kelsey, her friend and Nick.

We set off with Nick shouting "Let's do it (play Clone Wars) when we get to the energy shield!" 

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 The energy shield is a large cement block just over the bridge, near the creek.  We threw rocks, washed our hands and then Kelsey's friend wanted to take us to her mission area (who knew missions were so popular these days?).  Her mission was far more complex and in addition to throwing rocks, required some digging in the very clay-like mud, taking off our boots, stomping through the creek and... 

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you guessed it:  falling over and getting 100% sopping wet.  If you can't tell, it was a most excellent day for Han and crew (though I was relegated to being Princess Leia's mom, as Kelsey had to be Leia).  Nothing like two hours trouncing through the woods and a creek to remind one that the ingredients for a great afternoon need include nothing more than rocks, mud, water and the occasional light saber. 

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The light saber must never be out of reach...



 

February 20, 2012

Pinch me!

 

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Celebrating at his Montessori...

As it absolutely cannot be 4 years ago, nearly to the minute (as I typed this post), that the Little Guy arrived in this world.  Mind you, according to him, it's his birthday every time he celebrates.  Therefore, Friday was his birthday (party at school), today was another birthday (a fete courtesy of the Salty Dogs) and tomorrow we will celebrate again with a trip out of town.

 

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Can you guess the theme of the party at Chez Salty Dog?

Since all 3 kids and Peter have the day off, we decided we will spend the day in Baltimore.  We'll see as much in the Maryland Science Center as we can and enjoy an early birthday dinner in Little Italy.  We thought about the aquarium, but as Kelsey put it so succinctly, "Nick needs a place where he can run around.  At the aquarium, you just look at things, while at the science center, you can DO things."

 

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A creation by Cait for the Little Guy.


We all know Nick never slows down.  Well, he does have moments of calm, but they are surrounded by hours of action and to say this makes him a bit different from his sisters would be an understatement.

 

 

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One of the few pensive moments at the party...

It is a welcome difference, though.  From his blond hair and blue eyes to his need for so much activity, it has been a wonder watching him grow, interact with his sisters and enjoy life the way that he does.  And while I am a bit sad that it seems he is changing so quickly, it is so amazing to witness and I really can't wait to see what the next year brings.

 

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A plasma car makes an awesome birthday gift, especially when in Spiderman colors!

Happy 4th Birthday, Little Guy!  We love you!

 

January 27, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 

 

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Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  Technically the photo is from two weeks ago, but still a moment I treasure. 

October 08, 2011

It's Great Country Farms,

Nicholas Dinoia!  Today was our second annual trip to Great Country Farms in Bluemont, VA,  with the Salty Dog Crew.  We were lucky that, as like last year, extended crew included Baby Nate's grandparents and his cousin, Wes or "Wesselley" as Nick calls him.  We had so much fun with them last year that Nick started asking about it two months ago.  

"Do you remember last year when we rode the cow train?  Do you remember last year when we ate the popcorn?  Is Wesselley coming again?  I'm older, so I can watch him!"

(Being older is a big theme right now.  In fact, yesterday he reminded me that he's going to be 4 soon.  *Sniff*.)

We had a lazy morning and then headed out to the country in the early afternoon.  We parked, ambled in and after purchasing 'very bad for you but very tasty' crunchy pumpkin peanut brittle, we headed into the play area.  Of course, we took pictures first to see how tall we are.

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Yes, Cait really is that tall and, no, she will not stop growing any time soon.  

We did the bouncy thing.

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We rode the cow train.  (This was mandatory given how long we had been regaled with tales of last year's trip.)

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We played in the corn bin and tried to ignore the folks who shunned the bin.  Seriously, one child said, "Ew, playing in corn, that's GROSS!"  The mom then said, "I KNOW!" and glared at those of us with kids playing there.  

Seriously, that's gross?  Woe to the poor child in that family who dares ever step in a mud puddle...

Anyway, my poor, apparently disgusting-thing liking child enjoyed playing in there (oh, the horror...) and I have the pictures to prove it!  This also made us very dirty and we are quite proud of that!

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We rode on the rope swing.  Oh, and by "we," I do mean all of us, me included.  Sadly, there is no picture as Peter thought it would be funny to push me several times and then leaving me dangling there...and not even preserve the Kodak moment!  Men!

So, here is Kelsey, who is a far more elegant swinger.

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Last, but not least, we played in the castle and drove tractors on the playground.  We had fun, fun, fun, til Great Country Farms closed for the day and I know all of us are already looking forward to next year's trip with the Crew!

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Night, all!

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September 23, 2011

{these moments}

{these moments} - A Friday ritual. Four photos - no words - capturing moments from the week. Simple, special, extraordinary moments. Moments I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment(s)' in the comments for all to find and see.


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Idea courtesy of Soulemama.  

 

Lest I forget, two more images as reminders of special events this weekend...

Happy Birthday, Mom


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and Happy 7th Anniversary, Salty Dogs!


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September 18, 2011

It's nothing earth-shattering

but the kids finally had haircuts today.  Two out of three had the "I'm growing out my bangs/bad haircut look" for ages and we finally decided to attempt to find a decent salon again.

We have tried repeatedly to go to a local chain and each time it is close to disastrous.  The stylists spend most of their time trying to sell me shampoo I don't want, need or use and then proceed to hack away at the kids' hair.  The last time we went, Nicholas ended up with so many layers, I couldn't tell what the woman was trying to do.  

He was also not very happy about the hair cut idea (has never been crazy about it) and I don't blame him. Scissors and what-not flying around your head for 30 minutes is not everyone's idea of fun.  We finally decided we would try a friend of a friend's barbershop in Annapolis.  Pete would go first, Nicholas would watch and all would be well.

Unfortunately, the barbershop closes at 3 p.m. on Saturdays and by the time we arrived (my insomnia causes me to oversleep on the weekends), it was nearly 2:45 p.m. I cursed my inability to get out of bed in a timely manner and then we both remembered a children's hair salon we had seen in a nearby shopping center.  The prices were reasonable, it was open and it was across the street from my new favorite indie coffeehouse in Annapolis, Caffe Pronto.  Yes, it was all an excuse to get a mocha and my favorite coffee...sue me!

We stepped into the salon, Pigtails & Crewcuts, which was bright, airy and happily decorated.  They had the fun kiddie seats (airplane, fire engine and police car), a child size seats for those who would rather a regular chair and two regular size salon chairs.  I feared a long wait as it was a rather gloomy day out, but to my surprise, we were called within minutes.

IMG_0988Kelsey went first and after getting her settled, Nicholas's name was called.  Now, the test:  would he have any interest in getting his hair cut or would he be miserable the whole time?  I do NOT like bribing children since it generally doesn't work, but he had requested a lollipop (if they had them) prior to going in the salon.  We figured that was a fair compromise (considering I treat myself to an Indian buffet lunch after I get my hair done...) and we walked over to try out a car seat.

IMG_0989 He wouldn't have any of it and wanted absolutely nothing to do with the cars.  So, we offered the next best thing:  Dad's lap.  Sure enough, he climbed up, had no problem with the colorful drape and happily sat in Peter's lap for the entire cut (to include use of the clippers).  She chatted while she cut, cut, cut a bit more and worked the kinks out of the layering nastiness.  Nicholas was as calm and cool as a cucumber.  No unhappiness, no tears, just a quiet Little Guy sitting in dad's lap.  It probably also helped that there was a movie on (which was really for Kelsey, seated next to him), but it really doesn't matter.  He was happy and not traumatized by the experience and, even better, he got a really great cut.

He hopped down the minute the cut was over, gobbled up his lollipop and happily played at the train table until it was time to go.  Kelsey ended up with a smart bang/all over trim which will work a bit better than the bangs that were constantly in her eyes.  And the salon?  They have found new loyal customers.  The stylists were great, extremely patient (but quick) and the cost was the same or less than that local chain. No pressure to buy anything and we all left happy and well-groomed (well, 2 out of 5 of us).  Given that we are frequently in the area to see the Salty Dogs  (insert sweet quote:  Nicholas stated today, "Baby Nate is my best friend!"), it's an easy visit to work in.  We were to go sailing with them today, but the weather did not cooperate.  However, we had just as much fun hanging out at the Salty Dog homestead. 

Now the real point of this post? Pictures of the kids with their new 'dos.  And is it me or does the Little Guy really not seem so Little anymore?

 

August 29, 2011

In the aftermath

of a natural disaster, it is important to send out those most qualified to assess the situation. Nicholas packed up his toolbox yesterday morning and promptly headed out with Peter to suss out the damage. After nearly a mile of walking they came across a large tree blocking the road.  It also downed a power line, which then hung precariously across one driveway (whose homeowners won't be going anywhere until at least tonight.).

No worries, Peter checked first to ensure Nicholas was safe to continue with his 'struction work. Nick then shared his tools with another little guy who came along at the same time with the same interest in mind.  As much as a downed tree can be a bummer, it provided nearly a day's worth of conversation for us.

Seeking Damage

Fallen Tree
Removal Operations
Our damage at home?  In an ironic twist (if you saw the FB photo I linked to the other day about earthquake damage) a tipped over chair in the backyard.  My tomato plant also took a bit of a beating, but it has been secured and all is well now.  We are very grateful to have so little clean-up to worry about and that our 'crew' is so top-notch.

 

 

March 25, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. One photos- no words - capturing a moment from the week. One simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment(s)' in the comments for all to find and see.

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(We were lucky enough to steal the Salty Pup for a few hours today, as Captain Salty Dog is still on the mend due to illness two weeks ago.  Get well soon Captain and thanks for letting us borrow the wee one!)   Idea courtesy of Soulemama.

 

 

March 04, 2011

One likes to assume

that one knows her children.  She knows what they like to eat, what they like to wear, whether they are morning kids or night owls.  She knows when they are being honest and understands where they are coming from when they stretch the truth a tad.  More importantly, she would like to think she knows her kids inside and out, so much so that she can predict the exact outcome of a distressing situation on her children.

You know, such as when one parent is deployed overseas for a year and the other is diagnosed with two types of what could be a nasty cancer.  Even the best parent in the world (not making implications), might be so overwhelmed with decisions, options and stress that she somehow doesn't notice exactly how her child is affected.  

It suddenly occurred to me today that perhaps I had done that.  Perhaps I had made a huge mistake or at least been a tad negligent in areas regarding the mental/emotional effects of this whole scenario on the kids.  They have not seen therapists, did not want to participate in support groups or related family potlucks and we had no desire to push them or go ourselves.

We haven't been ignoring the situation, but we have always been a bit more...laid-back with the kids.  We chat openly about anything (yes, anything) when they need to, but we don't push topics that might make them uncomfortable.  They know they can ask us about anything and while we do have talks, we don't go overboard.  I was actually thrilled when Caitlin found out about my diagnosis by accident.

Not only didn't I have to sit her down (or worse, both of us), I think she took the news far more in stride than if we had a face-to-face.  She digested everything in her own time and while she might have a been a tad bit perturbed, I think this was far easier on all of us.

We really didn't say much at all to Kelsey other than a basic explanation that I needed surgery.  I wasn't "sick" sick, I was just not as healthy as I could be and hopefully the surgery would correct that. When I finally got around to saying something to Nick about needing to see the doctor, his response was, "Are you going to the hostibal?  Are you going to have a surgery?  I can fix you!"  He then proceeded to find a toy saw and, well, let's just say he had an amazingly accurate idea of what was going to happen.  He wasn't frightened or upset, just very matter-of-fact.

I realized today when I received an email from a friend that it had been ages since we discussed 'it'. Things have been so much more normal lately, that there really hasn't been much to say.  In fact, the most discussion was probably a look I shot at Cait last week while driving when an ad related to my previous condition came on the radio.  She looked at me, changed the channel at lightening speed and we went back to our prior topic of conversation.

The email was concerning a sleep away* camp.  Though we are supposed to be planning Kelsey's birthday party (desperately need ideas for every aspect), I am also already looking forward to the summer.  We are hoping for lots of sailing, swimming and just plain fun, but camps are also in the picture.  Kelsey has requested both animal and nature camp, whereas Cait will be thrilled with one week of camp at the animal shelter in Alexandria.   We hadn't really thought of much more, so I was quite interested to read about the camp in the note.

It is  a camp for kids whose parents have dealt with my issue in any manner of speaking. Whether they have cancer, had it, are in remission...all are eligible.  I originally thought it was just on the west coast, but turns out there are many locations throughout the country and they run through the end of the summer.  It appears to be a great opportunity and I wondered if perhaps my kids needed this more than I thought? The deadline for registration was not far off and I quickly shot off a note to Pete and to someone else who might be considered a confidant for Cait, if no one else.

After a bit of discussion, we decided in all likelihood we would not go for the camp.  If nothing else, considering that I have not been through as much as I could have been (no chemo/no radiation**/good diagnosis), it seemed like perhaps it was best to save those spots for other kids who have really been through much more.  However, even after conferring quite a bit between the three of us, I realized I should still give Cait, if not both girls, the option of attending.

I mentioned it to her this afternoon and she asked for more information.  I explained the details I had gleaned from the website and while she said it sounded like a great camp, she just didn't think she needed it.  After all, she was really fine.  I wondered aloud if that was truly the case and she just looked at me and asked me what I meant.

I indicated that I just wanted to be 1000% sure that I was not ignoring her needs or pretending that she was fine when she was really quite worried.  Cait just looked at me, half-laughed and shook her head.

"Mom, I'm fine.  Really, I'm fine.  Yes, I was bit concerned in the beginning, but I knew you'd pull through!"

Oh.  And with that, it will be shelter camp for Cait, shelter & animal camp for Kelsey and lots of sailing, swimming and beach time for the rest of us.  However, I will, as long we are in the area, keep the other camp in the back of my mind, whether for us or someone else.  I know all too well that stressors can pop up any time, and it never hurts to have something in place.  Meanwhile...I'm still grinning about the pulling through bit.  Classic Cait...she always has just the right words for the situation!

 

*If you know anyone who might benefit, please pass along as the registration for the DC area camp is April 1.  Many thanks to Christy for sending me the link!

**Sigh, someday we will figure this one out...still on the table, still no decision.

 

February 26, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.


 

Nickplane 

 

Better late than never.  Hope your weekend was out of this world!  Idea courtesy of Soulemama.

 

 

February 23, 2011

Three for Three

IMG_1109 IMG_1121 This past Sunday, the Little Guy turned three.  I had planned (in my head) the uber-party of the year for many months. I even had (gasp) a hand-crafted, hand-stamped invitation idea.  I simply needed to find a template, print out tons of head shots of the LG and let loose with the crafting craziness.

DSC_4503 Then October 8th hit and my life took a nose-dive.  Quite honestly, it's not (or wasn't) the cancer, but the doctors, the hospital, the bills, and the stress of figuring out stuff we were never supposed to have to worry about.  I am an unusual breed in that I was not so much freaked by the diagnosis (well, at first, but it faded) but how they were going to treat it.  As all of you kind, gentle readers well know, this took a bit of a toll on me.

IMG_1126 As the days passed, when not wrapped up in my fear of treatments, surgical and otherwise, I occasionally glanced at my kids and realized that I was potentially screwing up their lives in more ways than one.  Not only had I becoming slightly emotional and crazed on a regular basis, but they needed to keep going...and I was simply not keeping up.

IMG_1128 I suppose I did a passable job at Christmas.  We didn't go overboard and the kids enjoyed each and every gift more than we hoped.  I breathed a sigh of relief when the holidays were over, only to begin stressing mid-January.  I remembered that I had intended on a huge fire truck/man/house themed birthday party for Nicholas.  We would coincide the party with Peter's second R & R, we would invite all of his classmates and local friends and there would be cake, ice cream, fun but useful party favors and, of course, this would all take place at a local fire station.

DSC_4536 DSC_4522 I could see the glee in his eyes months away.  Nothing screams Nicholas like a firetruck wailing down the street.  Nearly every day he plays "Fire Chief" with Peter. (Yes, they play school and fire men together...and, yes, it is as sweet as it sounds.)  Construction vehicles still have their place, but it was to be a fire station birthday, no question.  However, I just wasn't up for it.

DSC_4538 Somehow, a certain crafty person glommed onto this fairly quickly.  She recognized my stress level peaking and knew that I wanted for Nicholas to have a fun day that didn't require me to go nuts. She also had long been aware that Nicholas had but one wish for his party:  he desperately wanted Baby Nate, the Salty Pup, to be in attendance.  How else to better assure this presence than to have the party at his home?

DSC_4544 Dr./Auntie Salty Dog made mention a few weeks ago that perhaps the festivities could take place at her house.  She could "throw up" (HA!) a few decorations, provide a bit of food, a cake and perhaps even a few partygoers.  Another extremely crafty friend has a daughter a few months younger than Nicholas and they have always gotten along swimmingly, so she was first on the list after Nate.  I verified that she was 100% sure this would not be an issue and decided that sometimes taking offered help takes just as much courage as denying it.  I let go of the reins, willingly handed them over and Sunday was the party of Nicholas's dreams.

  Th_IMG_1173 Whether he was riding in Baby Nate's fire truck (how cool IS that?), visiting the fire station in his full regalia, enjoying yummy barbecue and fire house chili, playing with 'put out the fire with marshmallows', devouring yummy chocolate cake or simply running around in circles with his Fire Chief hat on, it was a 3 Alarm birthday to be sure.  He did not miss the 18 plus friends from school, he had a tour of a local fire station (crayons and coloring book included!), no worries about decorating, directions, too many kids, too few...everything was just right.  Three kids for the big three...perfect in all respects.

If you are absolutely digging the hand-crafted decorations, you can learn more about the Dr./Auntie Salty Dog's crafting at the Crafty Dog.  Now off to try and figure out what to do for a certain soon-to-be 9 year old....

 

July 21, 2010

We *heart* nature

IMG_4937  so much so that we finally decided it was time for a camp.  Despite the fact that there are oodles of day camps in the area, I couldn't justify spending the money for a regular camp.  If I found a specialty camp, that would be one thing, but we have the neighborhood pool across the street and so much to do in the area.  Then I noticed that the nearby Nature Center was having a week-long half-day camp for those ages 6-10.  

I hemmed and hawed and finally came to the conclusion that it might not be a bad idea.  Only Kelsey could attend, but perhaps she would meet future class (or school) mates and if nothing else, have a bit of a break from the siblings for a bit.  This would then (theoretically) give me less of a complex about unpacking during the day...or at least fewer kids to worry about while unpacking.

IMG_4939  We had not been to the Nature Center in ages and I forgot what a gorgeous, treed area it is.  Since our last visit, they have added a "Nature Playce" with a short trail for kids.  Kids (and parents) can grab a guide that lists nearly all of the wildlife and their habitats.  There is a special garden designed just for the purpose of attracting butterflies and there was no shortage of them while we visited.  

IMG_4941  Kelsey and I journeyed there Monday afternoon to learn more about the camp and find out if spots were still open.  They were, but Kelsey spent the entire time lamenting "camp" and  being a bit grouchy about the whole thing.  Kelsey kept muttering under her breath, "I don't want to go, I don't want to go!"

To her credit, the director who gave us a tour remained unfazed.  I think she assumed Kelsey would complain, I would drop my encouragement and that would be that. Kelsey asked when we left if she "had" to go.  I offered she could try it for a morning, after all, it had to be more exciting than watching me unpack. Lo and behold, the idea grew on Kelsey and while I was doing dishes that night, she ran into the kitchen, gave me a big hug, and said, "I think I am going to like Nature Camp!" 

Off she went Tuesday morning.  She was a little nervous, but between taking a hike, meeting two "damaged" (rescued) owls, and learning more about butterflies, she had a fantastic time.  She ran up to us when Nicholas and I came to get her and extolled the many virtues of the camp.  I began to feel a bit guilty last night as Nicholas started to beg to go to nature camp.  Not really a possibility for the under-three, still trying to get out of diapers set.  Then I received an email...

IMG_0155 IMG_0162   It was a reminder of a playgroup meet-up.  I dismissed it at first, thinking that I should stay home and unpack (even though I likely wouldn't get that much accomplished).  I then realized it was not only going to be held at a nature center, but there would be kids Nicholas's age, and it would be another opportunity not only to get him out of the house and rediscover local outdoorsy spots in this area.

Score a point for Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington!  The Nature Center isn't huge, but has a cozy play area with puzzles, a little clubhouse section, toys, and books.  The front room has several aquariums with snakes and frogs, and a fish pond is off to the side.  If one happens in at the right time, there may even be an opportunity to feed the fish.

IMG_0159  The best part?  Long Branch not only has a paved trail around a viewing pond, but a path down to Long Branch Stream.  It is a very easy walk down to the stream, though it will feel like a bit of a hike on a humid day like today.  Little Guy was appropriately attired in his crocs and spent the next 20 minutes running around in the flat bed of the stream, climbing up boulders (in his mind), wading through the deliciously cool water, and throwing rocks.  He was not along in this fun, as all of his new playgroup buddies wanted part of that action.  Had we not had to pick up Kelsey, I am fairly sure we could have happily spent the afternoon there.

IMG_0160  Not only did we have much outdoorsy fun, but I ended up several friends that I haven't seen in quite some time (well, one a few weeks and another 7 years...). It also gave me the opportunity to meet other parents at the playgroup that I had heretofore only chatted with online.  Had I stayed at home, I am sure I would have unpacked a box or two...but would have missed out on friends (for both of us), the nature center and stream, and that reaffirming feeling of accomplishment for having done something that makes the soul so very happy.  With next Tuesday looming in the distance like a grumpy black rain cloud, I am so glad I made the effort to get out.

Notes regarding Long Branch:  it is about 400 feet back from the street, down a long, windy road.  It is a "two lane" road, but really only room for one car at a time (with a few small pull-off areas).  Parking can also get tight and you may want to back in (good advice, D.!) if possible.  If it's a warm day and you visit the stream, don't forget your hats (we did *sigh*), sunscreen and water shoes.  An Ergo or carrier might be a good idea if you have a sleepy toddler, but strollers can easily make the trek to the stream.  

July 19, 2010

One bonus

IMG_4927  to the move back to Virginia is the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, see them on a regular basis and give back as they have given to us throughout the years.  As you may have seen on our blog or on theirs, the Salty Dogs are known for giving our kids breaks from us during the summer.

IMG_4930  During the past few years, they have taken them camping, boating (power and sailing), had beach days and, of course, crafty time.  This kind of generosity has allowed Peter and I time to take small trips, given us time to close on a house, unpack or just relax and enjoy each other's company.  Now that Baby Nate has arrived, we are finally able to reverse the trend a bit.  Needless to say, the mother hens, Caitlin and Kelsey, are thrilled to help us.

IMG_4929  We had our first official opportunity (as a family) on Saturday night.  Shannon and Mark were having dinner with friends in the city, and given our proximity to DC, easy enough to let their Little Guy stay with us for a bit.  To say the kids loved it would be an understatement. 

IMG_4935  We read books, played with toys, took walks, rocked in the chair, and spent requisite time with Uncle Pete toiling away on coding for his current hobby.  Other than when Uncle Pete foolishly decided it might be bedtime and tried to rock Nate to sleep, LG Talbott was pretty darn happy.  When he was a little overtired and having trouble falling napping (not exactly the normal routine), I put him in the Ergo and we walked until he was snoozing soundly.  I got exercise and he had a little nap-time...a win-win scenario for all involved!

Above are a few photos from the evening.  No worries, Cait was only pretending to be asleep and definitely had a grip on Nate.  And, yes, Nicholas loves to eat cucumbers like their are apples.  Please ignore the boxes in the background and the general lack of organization.  Apparently we still have a wee bit of unpacking to do...

July 10, 2010

Eric Carle & The Titanic

or vicey-versa.  We have been spending the past week in Massachusetts with Peter's family, and realized there were quite a few places that we have not had the chance to visit prior to now. 

We had intended on visiting the newly discovered (by us) Eric Carle Museum of Art on Thursday, but the schedule didn't quite allow.  We instead decided upon a trip to The Titanic Museum in nearby Indian Orchard.  The website contained an overwhelming amount of information, and since our girls have always had a fascination with the Titanic disaster (and Nicholas loves boats), we felt it would satisfy our museum needs for the day.  Then there is the family tale that my great-grandmother was set to travel on the Titanic...until she found out she was pregnant with my grandfather.  She ended up opting to wait as she felt it wasn't the best time to travel.  She could have been a survivor, but in hindsight, I am quite glad she did not take the risk.

We thought it was interesting that there weren't too many photos of the museum on-line, but assumed it was the natural avoidance of photography near precious artifacts.  However, one might expect a photo of the museum itself.  Unless, of course, it is fronted by Harry's jewelry shop.

IMG_4910 IMG_4911 We whizzed past the museum the first time, having completely missed the information that indicated one needed to enter through Harry's Jewelry Shop.  This seemed a little odd, but we decided to go with it.  We parked on Main Street, zipped across the street and entered my maternal grandmother's living room.

No, not really, Harry's had nothing on Rose.  However, it was the most eclectic combination of wrapping paper (circa 1983), cards, and Catholic memorabilia galore I have seen since 2000.  It was all supervised by a woman clad in a vest covered in patches that would be the envy of Girl Scouts far and wide.  We sidled up to the cash register, and requested 4 tickets for the Titanic Museum.  The response?

"Ooh, yes!  Let me go turn on the lights!"

I love energy savings as much as the next person, and couldn't help but wonder whether that was a  bad sign.  I love it when my assumptions turn out to be silly and unfounded!

The museum was not huge, but jam-packed full of information.  Naturally, not many true artifacts (we are easily impressed, though), but enough to instill a sense of wonder and awe.  By far the most fascinating items were letters and diary entries from those who had traveled on the Titanic.  The museum also covered other impressive ships of the era, so one need not be a Titanic fan to enjoy a trip to the society.

When we first stepped through the doorway, I noticed a few interesting photos.  They were framed pictures of a couple who were clearly modern day, yet dressed in the finery one might find in 1912.  I looked to the left and saw photos of Leonardo DiCaprio and Frances Farmer on the deck of the Titanic movie set...with the couple immediately to the right.  The curator noticed our curiosity and quickly noted that the well-attired couple in the photo happened to be her brother and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Kamuda.  She then pointed out other photos, and a chandelier (used in the movie) hanging in the corner.  Apparently her family's interest in the Titanic, especially her brother's information and artifact gathering over the years, had garnered the couple roles as first class passengers in the film.  

It was a bit tight for Nicholas, so we probably did not spend more than 45 minutes.  We were all suitably impressed, though, despite our initial worry that we had completely missed the boat on this one.  Oh, and the Eric Carle Museum?  No worries, we hit that one today.

It was a bit longer of a drive, and given that we had several other errands and family visits, we had less time to explore than we desired.  The girls were having a day out with Nonni, Peter's mother, so that coupled with a shorter amount of time equals to very good reasons to go back in the future.

IMG_4916 IMG_4912 The museum is located in the southern part of Amherst, a college town located in western Massachusetts.  It is around the corner from a country market, and, frankly, not much else.  There appears to be no limitation on space, so the hallways are wide (allowing for tall murals), the galleries are numerous and large, and there is plenty of room for the library, art center, story area, and, of course, the giant caterpillar.  In case you are wondering, yes, it did almost scare the pants off Nicholas.  I think he is used to the caterpillar being safely ensconced between the pages of a book, not larger than life in the middle of a museum hallway.

IMG_4913 IMG_4915 We viewed exhibits on the work of Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, and Lizbeth Zwerger.  Is there anything more amazing than seeing the original work up close and personal?  Viewing Eric Carle's tissue paper collage of the alphabet in person may even (in my humble opinion) trump my viewing of the Mona Lisa. 

No pictures from the gallery, and sadly, we had to miss story hour.  We were able to visit the art room, and Nicholas made his own tissue paper collage entitle (hold back your surprise and shock): Trucks.  We had a bit of an issue when he felt a toy truck (they had a play area in the art room...how incredibly thoughtful is that?) was his to keep.  Thankfully we were able to work through it without disappointment on Nicholas's part...and I was reminded once again how just a little bit more patience on my part can keep things on a much more even keel.  So not worth it to ruin a fun day by not remembering that a 2 year old sees the world so differently.  We would have loved to stay a bit longer, but we had one more exciting trip for the day in a town a few miles away.

IMG_4919 IMG_4920Yes, this was a trip to visit Uncle John at his 'office'.  Peter's brother is an EMT and we are hoping to see him one day work for the local fire department.  In the meantime, he is employed by a local ambulance service.  He was kind enough to let us stop by and check out the "ananances" that he frequently rides in for patient transports.  Nicholas enjoyed the visit, but was appropriately stunned by the lights, sirens and equipment that Uncle John utilizes on a daily basis.

And tomorrow?  We begin our journey home (to include an overnight with friends).  Then back to unpacking, getting settled and distracting ourselves (for the moment) from thinking about the end of July.

July 08, 2010

It's not all about the

IMG_4843   IMG_4846  beach.  Sure, we go to Chincoteague, well, Assateague (to be exact) to frolic in the waves, sink into the sand with a good book and build super-deluxe beach castles.  However, we also go to discover (and re-discover) the swath of land between the Assateague Channel and the ocean.  

It teems with wildlife of every sort.  Assateague and Chincoteague may be famous for the wild ponies that live in the marshy woods, but that is hardly the only draw. Birders flock to the island to catch a glimpses of herons, egrets, and piping plovers (among others) and will no doubt see more gulls (laughing and sea) than may be desired.  Those who have more of an interest in earthbound marsh creatures can find a plethora of crabs, shells (and the animals that dwell within), and fish.  

On Wednesday (1 July, I am a bit behind...) we opted for a less structured non-beach day.  While in Chincoteague last summer, we finally stopped by a little creek that had garnered our interest over time.  We had noticed cars by the side of the Beach Access Road, just yards from the beach. We were never entirely sure what folks were doing, but were too busy at the visitor centers, the pony center and the beach.  Many folks tend to crab near the bridge, so we assumed perhaps this was a different venture.  In fact, we were quite correct in our original assumption.

The girls wanted to try and crab, not so much to catch an edible treat (no place to steam) but just to try and get a bit closer to the little guys (or gals) in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, we had neither a proper net nor any bait to tempt those that tend to live just a bit too far from shore to be caught even with a long net.  This year we were a tiny bit more prepared.

We had stopped at Woody's for lunch, and Kelsey was not quite as hungry as her normal self.  She opted to save her sandwich as a treat for the crabs.  Not a chicken neck, but hopefully would do the trick (mind you, as if we knew how the meat would get out to the crabs...).  We also picked up a two long-handled nets and then headed to the creek. 

IMG_4865  We pulled over on the gravelly shoulder, gathered our meager crabbing supplies and headed down to the creek that eventually flowed into the ocean.  We were lucky to find another family, experienced at crabbing (to say the least), well- involved in a search for the elusive creatures.  They had string, bait, nets, and coolers, and were clearly in not only for the long haul, but possibly also for dinner.  We observed them carefully as they loaded up their hooks with glistening, raw chicken necks, tied their strings to sticks rooted in the mud and gently tossed them as far as possible into the water.  Our kids were (not surprisingly) suddenly incredibly jealous of their careful system...how could they possibly find even one tiny crab by tossing cold pulled pork into the water?

IMG_4847  The answer presented itself quickly as I scanned the shore that bumped into the the rapidly rising path to the road:  trash.  Sadly, previous visitors felt no issue with dumping everything from obvious recyclables to leftover crabbing tools.  I started a pile of garbage to be removed when we left and and looked at Peter as I picked up a clump of string.  He looked at my hand, inspected the contents and instantly understood my idea.  He then ran to the car to find an old bungee cord for disassembling.  Five minutes later we had a line (pulled from the trash), a hook (old bungee clip) and bait (yep, the pork).  Not thinking it would work and realizing Nicholas seemed to want to explore more, we crossed the street to another more solitary part of the marsh.  

IMG_4850  IMG_4862 Selfishly, I had also been tempted by a great egret (hope I pegged that one correctly, Jack & Janet!) that had landed on the lower part of the bridge.  He remained for a few photos and only flew away when I inched just a bit too close for his comfort.  I thought with my newfound stealth skills, perhaps Little Guy and I could catch a photo or two of other elusive island dwellers for the memory book.

We tiptoed across the mud, and I caught a quick glance of a tiny animal slipping into a perfectly circular hole in the mud.  It was a fiddler crab, a first for Nicholas.   Even bettter?  When two popped out at the same time to dance around on the sand in unison, pausing only when we caused slight tremors with our footsteps.

IMG_4872  We continued along, moving further away from the road and in a southerly direction towards the water.  We thought perhaps we might catch sight of a pony, but instead found a plethora of fiddler crab homes.  We caught sight of two more, but sadly I still have but a weak point and shoot that couldn't capture them quickly enough.  

IMG_4874  Realizing that quite a bit of time had passed since our departure, we crept quietly up to the road and back down the path to the creek.  To our astonishment, each of the girls had managed to tempt in a Maryland blue crab. Kelsey's disappeared before Peter could wrangle it with the net, but had successfully pulled in Cait's.  Cait realized, as you will see in the video (now here, see below!), that she really had no plan beyond the attempt.

She had carefully put him in a bucket with marsh mud and plenty of water.  The crab buried himself and after several more unsuccessful attempts on Kelsey's part, we were out of bait.  We tumped the crab out onto the ground, snapped a few photos of Cait's catch and watched the little blue creature skittered into the creek.  

Finished for the day, we, too, scurried home to our hotel with three tired and sandy, but very triumphant explorers.


July 07, 2010

New Kid on the Blog

There's a new badge on the blog, and though you may not be aware, it is something near and dear to my heart.  The badge links to a site created by two caring mamas who wanted to take a few days to spread the word about a simple activity that often becomes rife with complications: feeding one's child in public.

How on earth could that be difficult? When the method of feeding is the most natural, possibly the easiest, the cleanest, safest, most nutritional, but also (at times) the most ridiculed and misunderstood.  Yes, the simple act of breastfeeding in public can cause undue stress on the nursing mother for no other reason that others who happen to be near the mother may not approve of said activity.

May. Not. Approve.  Yes, someone (likely not related to mother or child) may find it repugnant, and make their disdain known through looks or comments that indicate said nursing mother is somehow deliberately trying to make the entire planet uncomfortable.  Given that I have been the recipient of both looks and comments, I couldn't help but think I needed to do a bit more to support this effort.

I am not going to go on and on about the statistics or try to convince anyone that they should or shouldn't nurse their child.  I am not going to ridicule anyone who doesn't, as in the end, it is a choice.  Do I feel strongly that children should be nursed? Yes. So much so that I still feel guilt that I *only* nursed Cait full-time for three months (and part-time until she was 5 months).  I was far more successful with Kelsey (and know that  "extended" nursing assisted her in her incredibly fast recovery from cranio-facial reconstruction at 14 months), and Nicholas still nurses in the morning and night.

I had no idea I would end up feeling so strongly or passionately about a topic.  Despite my viewpoint, I don't discuss it much, primarily because I feel motherhood is hard enough and I prefer to lead by example (and before you chuckle, I know it's not always the perfect example).  If you ask, I am happy to offer what worked for me, and after Nicholas, I finally feel as though I have a decent grasp on the topic of nursing a baby and/or toddler (having memorized the Kellymom website certainly helped).

Why the badge?  If he only desires to nurse in the morning or at night, and might even wean soon, why do I worry about the right to nurse in public?  Sadly, though not necessarily a worry for me, it is still an issue for other moms. Despite that almost every state protects the right to breastfeed in public and federal law also has protections in place, it still feels as though many have the assumption that it is not legal (or, more importantly, right) in public. It seems not a week goes by that there isn't a story of a misguided employee, from a lifeguard to a waiter to a clothing store staffer, who threatens the mother's right to feed her baby in the best way she knows how.  Why does this happen?

It seems that there is the idea that woman who nurse in public want to show off or display themselves somehow.  The reality, at least for myself, and for those I have seen nursing in public, is that one can find far more lascivious displays on the beach or in a Victoria's Secret catalog.  I can't say that I nurse in public (at the moment), because it simply isn't when Nicholas currently desires/needs to nurse.  However, I fully support the rights of others to do so, and given one such experience in my past, felt a little promotion for such a natural part of life is well overdue.

The incident?  I was the one criticized by a clothing store staffer.  I was humiliated and belittled because I sat in the only chair I could find in a shop to nurse my (then) 5 month old baby (Kelsey).  I was told that I was making others feel uncomfortable because I fed my child in the healthiest and most natural way I knew (and, not that it matters, extremely discreetly).  Would the same person have blinked had I whipped out a bottle? I feel very sure the answer would be "no."  

The badge will not be up for long, as it is part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public and it will end on July 9. However, my support for those wishing to nurse in public will never waiver, and I would hope (regardless of how you choose/are able to feed your child), neither will yours.

July 03, 2010

Click, click

Din_2010_176_T  I generally despise family photos.  I worry about slouching, not sucking in my stomach, the kids not smiling enough, and Peter doing that fake "I hate to smile" thing. I realized late last year as I was trying to decide whether or not to do 'official' two year shots for Nicholas, that we had not taken any real family photos in ages (other than quick snaps by a strangers in front of Hoover Dam with a so-so outcome).

Ages turned out to be almost two years.  We  had a semi-professional photographer take shots of us on the beach one morning in Chincoteague in June of 2008, and despite the fact that we did the 'white t-shirt look alike' business, many of them were quite good.  One shot of the girls was particularly darling, and it reminded me recently that since the kids are growing like weeds, well, no time like the present.

I toyed with having the photos taken in San Ramon by an absolutely wonderful photographer.  She has a gorgeous garden for a backdrop, and my only problem was not being decisive enough.  I probably should have gone to her last winter, but I was in a funk about losing more baby weight and I let that distract me.  

Then I saw these photos online, and knew I might have a chance of getting absolutely the family photos I craved.  Not with Jessica, but with a divinely talented photographer who frequently visits the Annapolis area, close by the home of the Salty Dog Crew.  I made mention of this to Shannon (Dr. Salty Dog) who happened to be in touch with Jana.  Jana wrote to me, and it turned out that she would be in town the week that we arrived. We couldn't hope for better timing and grabbed the opportunity.

In some respects, it couldn't have been crazier.  Not only was I throwing baby-fat, belly-sucking caution to the wind, but we were barely rested from our crazy cross-country charade.  My hair could end up being a frizz fest, the girls might argue the entire time, Pete might not smile (actually a trait that works well in his job, just not great for fun family photos), and Nicholas could have a complete and utter "I need a nap" meltdown.  So, we made sure to book early in the morning, I coffeed myself up (in order to deal with any arguing), Peter practiced smiling whilst muttering under his breath at morning traffic, and the hair magically worked out.

Now we have photos that made me laugh, cry and want to book another sitting.  Jana works wonders with nothing more than two cameras and a knowledge of perfect backdrops in downtown Annapolis.  It probably didn't hurt that our assistant also knew the kids (thanks, Jenn P.!), and even a bit of knowledge of the personalities being photographed is amazingly helpful.   Jenn and Jana both knew that Nicholas would be awestruck if the fire truck that whizzed by us towards the end of the shoot could stop for a minute. Jenn had a chat with the driver, and moments later, fire truck stalker Nicholas and his family had the perfect shot in front of "Firetruck, firetruck!".

There were so many incredible shots that it will be very hard to decide on a family photo book.  We will have not one, but two, as you can well imagine.  One for home, and one for Peter's home away from home.  I can't say his departure for a year didn't play into our decision to invest in gorgeous photographs. In fact, it increased our desire to capture more precious family moments on film.  Many thanks to Jana Bannan, and her assistant for the day, Jenn, for a morning and photographs that are burned into our minds and hearts forever.  

* Please note that the above photo was taken by Jana Bannan.  The same holds true for all linked photos in this entry.

July 01, 2010

Chincoteague Revisited

IMG_4796 IMG_4797   IMG_4807  We may be the most boring folks on the planet.  We go to the same beach every year, eat at the same nearby restaurants, and sometimes even stay in the same hotel.  Call us crazy, but with our lifestyle, it's nice to know there is a routine of sorts to be found somewhere.  We have also fallen in love with this sleepy little town and its nearby beach.  

We love that there is nothing on the beach, but sand and shells.  There are no man-made structures other than a naturalist shack and showers. Should one tire of the ocean view, there is the marsh just on the other side of the parking lot. There are numerous walking paths, creeks where bare-footed, sandy-bottomed swimsuited kids crab to their hearts content, and of course, the ponies.  

Every summer since 2006, we have come to Chincoteague and Assateague Island for at least 4 days.  We romp in the surf, chow on seafood and bbq (since 2008, when Woody's first opened), indulge in ice cream, and a few crazy games of mini-golf.  We have watched the new bridge come to life, and await the introduction of the connector.  Once that is complete, there will be two bridges leading into town (well, one split into two).  We only have to hope that doesn't change the nature of the town too much.  Though a coffee bar open past 5 p.m. would certainly not be an unwelcome addition...

IMG_4825  Thus far, this visit has been much the same.  We are downtown on the water, so much more is within walking distance.  Of course, the trolley is always an option, and one year we will actually be able to bring our bikes with us.  There has been one small change, but that is within our little family:  Nicholas. 

IMG_4799He liked the beach last year, and enjoyed being in the water.  This year?  He is an amazing ball of energy, and I am still surprised he left the sandy paradise somewhat willingly. He spent a good portion of the day digging in the sand and burying toy cars, but with much more determination and independence than last year.  The rest of the time, he was in the water and loving every minute of it. He spent much time running around in the waves, and loved it when they knocked him over. There was no sputtering or crying, he just stood back up and ran towards the next wave.  I have a feeling it will be very hard to leave on our last day, and can already hear him begging to come back next year. 

June 28, 2010

Dear Baby Nate,

IMG_4789  In a mere six months, you have wriggled, giggled and cooed your way into our hearts.  Just the knowledge of your impeding arrival set our hearts aflutter last spring.  Knowing your parents as we do, we could not wait to meet you, knowing that you as the combination of two such amazing people would be nothing short of absolutely wonderful.

We were not at all surprised to meet you and fall immediately in love!  The girls adore you and cherish their time feeding, holding and playing with you.  Your name is the first word out of Nicholas's mouth each morning, and he can't wait until you can truly play "firetrucks and peacey cars". We have been nothing less than amazed by you.

IMG_4794  Yesterday "Uncle" Pete and I received the ultimate honor of witnessing your baptism as your Godparents. We are so proud and excited to be a part of your life in such an integral way.  And while we may not always be close by physically, we will always be there for you in whatever way we can.  

We love you, Little Guy Talbott!

"Auntie" Jen, "Uncle" Pete, Caitlin, Kelsey, Nicholas, and, yes, Bailey, the toddler-proof cat

IMG_4787  P.S. You may not remember, but I was especially proud that Caitlin was able to sing during the ceremony, and a solo at that.  Though I have a feeling she will share her gift of song again with you in the near future....  

June 14, 2010

I'm gonna drive 500 miles...

no, actually more like 3,357 miles since we left San Ramon last Sunday.  Our tour of the southwestern and southern states came to an end when we pulled into the Salty Dogs driveway, shook off the Pirate Booty crumbs and 3 out of 5 of us met "Baby Nate!" for the first time.

Picture 001 Picture 002 While the girls spent a good portion of the time querying if we were there yet, Nicholas spent his time asking about Baby Nate.  He was so excited to meet him, having only seen him on the computer up until now.  Nate was sitting on Shannon's lap on the front porch when we arrived, and Nicholas was more than a bit shy.  After relaxing a bit (and playing in toy heaven, the Salty Dogs' den), he gave Nate several hugs and kisses...albeit some a bit too dramatic, but his intentions were good.

Picture 003 Picture 004 We had enjoyed tasty grilled treats, the girls splashed around in the pool long enough to wear themselves out a bit and we celebrated the big 29 (plus 9) for Pete.  Not ideal to spend your birthday driving 400 miles across three states, but he survived and was rewarded with a Cold Stone Oreo cake, thoughtfully procured by Shannon ahead of time.  We only slightly gorged ourselves on cake, relaxed, did some laundry, and enjoyed quality time with our dear friends (and hosts). 

Now I should be asleep as we do have to get up in the morning and head back out.  A much shorter trip, though, just over one river, as we head to Annandale so that Peter and the kids may see our new home in person for the very first time.  Oh, and figure out what to do for the Salty Dogs, as we simply wouldn't have had such an easy home purchase without all of their assistance:  hosting me/all of us, helping with inspection, taking extraordinarily professional photos and videos of the house, and helping with the walk-through.  We owe you one!

June 13, 2010

48 hours later...

I would love to say that we are completely relaxed and refreshed, but having just finished another 11 hours in the car (including stops), I think that would be a stretch.  The driving has begun to wear on us all and I think we can all agree that we are glad tomorrow is our last day.  As interesting as it has been, I was correct in my assessment that next time we need to build in more stopping time.

Other than the Grand Canyon and Memphis, we have had to quickly pass by or ignore completely so many places of interest. We had a brief swing through Nashville today, and even that was apparently pushing it. Rather than dwell on what we didn't see, however, I should point out that we did have quality family time in Memphis.  The girls had a two night sleepover with the grandparents and cousin Lydia (for one night), Nicholas had fun playing with Walker and Emmitt (both of the preschool set) and also had a good chunk of time helping Guy (Grandpa) run errands.  

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We also attempted to take a few family photos.  Dibby (Granny Gretchen) wanted to get a few shots of the kids in matching t-shirts.  She thought the yard at the family church might be the ideal location, but there were more distractions than she realized...sticks, dirt and mulch, oh my!  We finally managed to wrangle all of the kids onto the steps, but then came the issue of lining them up.

Cousin Emmitt (in black) wasn't quite so keen on the idea, but I still managed one shot with all of the them.  More of an action shot, but captured the moment very well.

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A few photos later, I got one with most of them looking at the camera, another spectacular feat, since the Little Guy wanted to look everywhere but at me.

IMG_4738
 

After the photos, it was time to head back to the house for a family gathering and an indulgence of sorts: an evening of Corky's BBQ and Ribs. The ribs were incredibly tasty as always (yes, finger licking good) and the accompaniments of slaw and beans rounded out the meal.  Not many pictures, as one can't very well eat ribs, lick fingers and take photos all at the same time.

IMG_4743 

Since Peter's birthday is Sunday, and Guy (Grandpa) will miss Father's Day at home, we had a small celebration. Cait spent the afternoon baking a cake for Peter and  later frosted and decorated the cake with Lydia and Kelsey's help.  The cake was delish and the perfect dessert for the evening.

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After the gift opening and devouring of the cake, the kids romped outside and attempted to catch (and, yes, then let go) fireflies.  Up until now, this was a once a year activity, given that there were no fireflies in Iceland (to our knowledge).  If they were in our neck of the woods in the East Bay, they were not apparent to us.  

Our time in Memphis was over well too soon, and before we knew it, we were hefting the bags back in the car for today's trek.  We also loaded up the surprise gifts from Auntie Shannon.  They arrived in Memphis well in time for our departure and the hand-sewn bags contained several treats for each and kept them occupied for most, if not all of today's journey.  

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Shannon also clearly knows the rest stops in Tennessee quite well:  there may not be play ares, but there is plenty of mulch.  Mulch + a bulldozer = bliss for Nicholas.  Thank you, Salty Dogs, and see you tomorrow!

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June 11, 2010

Dancing Across the U.S.A.

IMG_2092  We have danced, sang, done yoga, watched Vacation twice, made everything from sunglasses to false nails out of Wikki Stix, and eaten massive amounts of bananas (inexplicably called mee-aws by Little Guy) and pretzels while traversing two-thirds of the country.  Now we are settled into decent hotel digs in Memphis for the next (drum roll) 36 hours!  Woot!  Almost worth unpacking for that length of time.

Due to massive internet disasters in Oklahoma City (high speed internet access, my *ahem*...), I not only screwed up our hotel reservations for tonight, but had no opportunity to write about our Grand experiences on Tuesday.  The Grand Canyon was, well, incredible.  I won't go on and on and on...just on and on, as I feel it is one of those places where one really has to go, explore and form their own opinion.

IMG_4716 IMG_4719 IMG_4723 IMG_4727

    

I will say that I had two disappointments: 

  • It was extremely crowded and I did not prepare myself for that.  I should have assumed that everyone and their brother (and his sister, tottering around in her high heels) would be there.  I should have guessed that few pictures could be taken without 5 other families ending up in the picture.  I should have realized that I should not be surprised by the family that has a picnic at the rim of the canyon that consists solely of food from McDonald's.  Somehow it just seemed sacrilegious* in a national park.

  • We didn't realize that it would be under construction.  Not the canyon (well, guess it is always changing a bit), but the upper rim areas.  Some observation points were closed off entirely, and Nicholas had to be carried away from the boullywassays (bulldozers).  Note to both of us: next time ensure Ergo is on top of luggage, not buried beneath.  While Nicholas enjoyed the walk, it really wasn't super-friendly for a running toddler.  The paths were fine, but what toddler enjoys the paths? Attempting to climb down the rocks on the rim, that's much more fun!

IMG_4715   IMG_4720  Other than the above?  It was everything one would imagine and more.  I am betting the other 276 miles that make up the rim are as fabulous as the mile we trekked.  Just looking down at the valley made us all want to plan week long camping trips.  Well, Little Guy did not vocalize this per se, but when he finally took a really good look at the canyon and shouted, "Oh, my GOSH!", we took it to mean he was suitably stunned and would consider visiting again.

The only difficult part was getting back in the car and gearing up to drive 8 plus hours to Albuquerque.  We ended up having lunch off the beaten path in Cameron, and this (and the time change) added more exhaustion than we originally planned.  The flip side?  Somehow, along the way, the kids became far more patient and while I can't say they enjoyed sitting in the car for hours on end, really impressed us with their abilities to occupy themselves.

We did have a tiny issue at the Grand Canyon.  I think Kelsey had her fill with the drive, and was less than excited at first.  I did my bad mother bit (which I regret, but please, after 3 days in the car...).  We ended our disagreement with a hug and we both managed to shake free of the stuck-in-the-car-for-days-on-end stress.  The kids still had their moments (who wouldn't) but still managed to amaze me.  By today, any remaining crankiness was all but gone, and now we have two days to recharge.  More importantly, Saturday begins the home stretch of the drive.

It's not over, I know, and more challenges may remain over the weekend.  However, all things considered, I would not hesitate to do the trip again, but I would build in more time.  While we have loved seeing the country, too much of it has flown by the window.  We have watched it pass, our noses pressed to the glass, knowing there is so much more to stop and explore along the way, but just not enough time to do it all.  Well, not now, but who knows what the future holds?

*Call me a food snob, after two years of living in locavore heaven in California, I will gladly lend you my Michael Pollan collector's set.  I wasn't going to comment when I noticed and at first brushed it off as snobbery on my part. After California,  I think any meal eaten when communing with nature should be a slow-cooked, carefully prepared selection of regional delights (or a PB&J, fine, just not fast food).  However, I kept my mouth shut.  Then Pete muttered under his breath, "Who on earth has a picnic of McDonald's in the Grand Canyon?!"  Case closed!

June 08, 2010

Remember that balmy night?

It's just a tad bit warmer during the day.  When we finally loaded up (Pete let me oversleep again) and headed on our way at 11:45 in the a.m., it was a not so breezy or balmy 99.  Actually, I should add that I spent a good hour just getting the packages mailed, as the Barstow post office is the place to be on a Monday morning (so not entirely my sleeping past 9 a.m.).  Who knew?

It was supposed to be 106 F today, so I suppose we were cut a break.  I also have to add that this was a dry heat, which makes a huge difference.  Very different from those summers in Memphis with 100% humidity and 100 F!  Not that DC is much better, but with several pools available to us, and beaches not too far away, it's a bit easier to tolerate.

IMG_2077  IMG_4699 Barstow was only thIMG_4697e beginning of the heat wave, as we traveled a bit further south and then east, the heat stayed with us.  Granted, we were driving through miles and miles and miles of desert, but still amazing how the sun can just beat down, even later in the afternoon.  We stopped for lunch in Needles, CA, and it easily must have been, well, very, very hot.  So hot, in fact, that we are guessing this prevented the opening of the Latte' Cafe (note that I am merely copying the accent abuse in the sign). 

IMG_4702  IMG_4707IMG_4704We instead ended up at Jedro's Wagon  Wheel restaurant, the highest rated eatery on Yelp for Needles.  The iced tea wasn't bad, and while not gourmet, the food sufficed to fill our bellies and get us back on the road.  We made a brief stop in Seligman, AZ, home of the Road Kill cafe which earned a photo op, but not an actual stop to taste the 'kill.  The kids enjoyed hanging out in the jail next door, and then we crumpled ourselves back into the car and drove, drove, and drove to arrive in Tusayan at the ever so timely dinner hour. 

IMG_2083 Dinner at the hotel was longer than necessary, but did involve a banjo player and Indian dancers, so we forgave them the slow service.  They had a family dancing circle, which Nicholas loved, but I only managed a few iPhone shots and a very dark and grainy video not even You Tube worthy.  We followed up dinner with a trip to the pool to make up for the long hours in the car.

Now despite my worries that they might spend the entire time complaining about the trip, it really hasn't been quite that bad. I have been doling out one gift per day (wiki sticks, Brain Quest, books) and that has helped with the boredom. In Nicholas's case, I am not sure he needs much entertainment, as his entire day is spent looking for and discussing trucks and trains.  Thankfully, many of both in Southern CA and Arizona.  And, despite the heat, the desert is an amazing area to drive through.  The kids are getting a lot of interest out of the scenery and the trip itself spurs so many questions about geography and travel.  It's a long haul, and a lot of work, but I think it will definitely stand out as a unique and (mostly) fun family event.   And tomorrow?

The Grand Canyon, baby!  Stay tuned...

June 07, 2010

We have arrived...

IMG_2072  safe and sound, and are ensconced in our lovely "Inn & Suites" hotel of choice in Barstow, CA.  No, it doesn't appear to be much of a hot-spot, unless one is interested in the outlets (not so much), but a good stopping point for us, especially considering we got a bit of a late start.

IMG_2074  The emptying of the hotel room and loading of the car took a wee bit longer than we had expected.  I had several errands to run which made it hard to fill the car, and the loading itself nearly required an engineer.  Remember how Kelsey left for Camporee after the movers left, the  kids had school until Friday, and Cait had her final performance yesterday?  All of that translated into many more backpacks, outfits, sleeping bags and extra stuff that we had to squeeze in.  I didn't think about mailing any of the big items until it was too late to get boxes and make it to the post office in time (way too big for the APC, sadly).  

IMG_4692   IMG_4690  Other than the delayed start and a bit of a squeeze into the car, the ride was, well, uneventful. We hopped on 680, waved good-bye to San Ramon and patted ourselves on the back for making it thus far.  The ride was smooth and I actually got a bit of work done (so grateful for the iPhone) while the kids watched a DVD or two (I caved...it's a looong drive), and we made great time all things considered.  The best part?  It's so warm here, even at night!  I had become so used to the cool (to frigid) Northern California nights, that I forgot that summer nights can be balmy...absolutely heavenly (for me, Peter is sweltering already).  

IMG_4689  We did manage one pit stop at Target in order to get boxes to ship some of the unnecessary items home (Salty Dogs, box alert!).  We hope to get an earlier start tomorrow (after hitting the post office in Barstow) in order to get to our hotel near the Grand Canyon before sunset.  We also need to try to get a good night's sleep for Tuesday's excursion, as we want to squeeze in as much time as we can at the Canyon before we get back on the road and head to New Mexico.  And, with that, it's time for some shut-eye...ciao!


Wondering what Kelsey is holding?  Ah, yes, those are her pet meal worms, Spiky (now a beetle) and Flexy.  Well, were meal worms. One has fully transformed into a beetle, and is almost black, whereas the other one is still in pupa stage.  She was allowed to take one home from school, and desperately wanted to bring them with us.  We nearly lost them today when Cait knocked their container over, but thankfully they didn't fall far.  The death of a meal worm is something I am just not sure I could handle at this point....

As an FYI, Nicholas is doing the "toes to nose" Yoga pose as part of the in-flight entertainment....

June 06, 2010

See...

I'm supposed to be packing...or asleep...and clearly neither is happening right now.  Instead, I am fretting and freaking about our upcoming trip.  What on earth was I thinking when I agreed to drive across the country?

I know, I know, it will be an awesome trip. The kids will have a great time, and I will see all of this stuff I have waited 29 (or so) years to see.  I can't help just feeling a teeny, tiny bit nervous about the journey itself...will Little Guy revolt after being stuck in his car seat for so many hours on end?  Will Caitlin hole up in the back seat and disappear under a pile* of books, not to be discovered until Flagstaff?  Will Kelsey make SOS messages out of Wiki-Sticks and decorate the windows with them so passers-by can see, but we cannot until the lights of a CHiPs notorcycle cop (Ponch? Jon?) flash ominously in the rear-view mirror?

These and many more questions will be answered over the next 8 days.  I hope to keep up with our adventures with many lousy, out-of-focus, frantic and touristy shots as well whatever prose I can manage to eke out after 8 -10 hours in the car each day.  Why on earth the daily driving minimum had to go from a perfectly reasonable 300 miles** to a rather high 440 miles per day is beyond me. Guessing whoever made that change never drove the whole tribe across the country, much less across town (for any reason!).  Well...here goes nothing!

*Mind you, this is after I shipped 12 plus books home today from her 'emergency' supply.  So much for our book lock-down last week.

**If you are PCS-ing (Permanent Change of Station) and opt to drive to your new post (if allowed), you must drive a minimum of 440 miles per day.  This was changed about two years ago, inexplicably, and I would love to see it reversed by 10 a.m. tomorrow!

June 02, 2010

Iron Horse Trail

I know what you are thinking...another park? Don't you leave soon? Please...it's only Wednesday.  We don't depart until Sunday, and I can guarantee you we still have plenty of time to explore.  What's that you say?  How can you do that while saying your good-byes, finishing out the school year, attending concerts, and the like?

IMG_4652 It's quite simple if the good-byes are centered around more adventures.  Today's was rather simple, and in an area which I haven't discussed much, but certainly deserves some attention:  the Iron Horse Trail.  As the name might imply, this used to be part of the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Instead of being abandoned and neglected, it was turned into a trail that is used by bikers, walkers, strollers, skaters, runners, and scooterers galore.

IMG_4654 Not long after I arrived in the East Bay, I joined a walking group that would meet several times a week.  At least one of those jaunts was to be a fast-paced walk (and possible jog) along the trail.  The trail markers guarantee an easy way to keep track of one's distance while it trips and traipses through downtown Danville and the backyards of those that live nearby, and kept us on track for our minimum 3 mile round-trip. 

I can only describe a few of the many facets of the trail, as I have not had the experience of doing more than bits and pieces in Danville and San Ramon.  Personally, I have favored the lengths in Danville, but only due to the massive amounts of shade that the trees in the area provide.  Other parts of the trail in San Ramon, especially those that back to our current* abode, tend to be treeless and blazing hot under the summer sun.  Still, it offers one a wide swath of walking space, and for some, possibly an easy commute to and from work or school.

IMG_4657 Since we have been doing more outings with the Nature Group and fewer with the walking group (both run by the same fantastic leader, Linda), we have not walked along the downtown Danville portion of the trail in some time.  Today as a final playdate of sorts, Linda, her son, Cy, and Nicholas and I walked, Skuuted and scootered down the trail from the entrance of the Peet's parking lot (for lack of a better name) to the train car that sits behind the Museum of the San Ramon Valley.

IMG_4659 The boys played on the 'train', peeked inside and pretended to drive the wagons out front.  We didn't have a chance to investigate the museum, as there were too many rocks, sticks and the like to examine around the entrance.  We also were not so much in a museum mood as we were in a 'digging and rolling in the dirt' kind of mood. 

It's not technically a park, but the trail has become a play area of sorts for Nicholas. He first met many of his current playgroup friends on the path, despite (at the time) still being such a wee one who spent most of his time in the peanut shell.  Later on, he graduated to the Ergo or the BOB, depending on his mood. I am sure if we were here even another few months, he could be found Skuuting and then biking along the trail. 

IMG_4671 I know we will have hiking trails and the like in Virginia, but we will be hard-pressed to find a similar trail so close to home.  However, I have to admit that I have been a bit jealous of those who merely need to look out the window to see the trail.   While we have enjoyed the location of our home, if we were to live in the area again, I can't say we wouldn't want to live closer to this amazing path.  

*Kelsey playing in our 'backyard' which backs up to part of the San Ramon section of the trail.

May 25, 2010

Signs

I think we might actually pack up this week and move.  Despite the fact that we are still going about our day to day activities, little signs pop up here and there.

IMG_4618  IMG_4609 The bath toys are hanging up and drying out, the various and sundry awards, memorabilia, decorations, and bits of gear from the field office have been boxed up and are in the living room awaiting a proper packing.  The extra garbage bag has been purchased on the off-chance we go over our one bag* per week limit.  The handyman (to paint the girls' rooms), plumber, and housekeepers have been scheduled.  Utilities are set to go on in the new house, and are being scheduled to be turned off (in the rental) as I type this post. 

IMG_4604 The girls' schools know they are departing, Nicholas said his last good-bye (or see you later) to Miss "Rindsey" (Lindsey, of Kindermusik) today, and tomorrow is his last lesson with Janice (Jenny's replacement at All Star). Kelsey said good-bye to "Guy" (Brian, her swim instructor) yesterday, and we have plied all of said teachers with cards including a favorite photo of teacher and child..

The biggest sign?  The piles of clothes that are being stacked in preparation for being packed into the suitcases.  We are moving to the hotel tomorrow night, as there is nothing I loathe more than being in the house the night before pack-out.  Given that the movers could say they are coming at 8 a.m. (and show up at 7 a.m.), the kids have to go to school, and we really don't want our toothbrushes or dirty linens packed...we decided to ante up for an extra night at the Residence Inn.  We are packing tonight, and everything we need for the final 10 days to include Cait's chorus costume, Kelsey's Camporee needs, and anything for the cross-country trek in the Truckster will go to the hotel tomorrow afternoon. 

While it may seem like all is moving smoothly, we do have occasional setbacks.  Kelsey had a bad night last night, as she is terribly excited about the move, but can't get over missing Field Day or the end of the year party.  The straw that broke the camel's back was my insistence that her framed artwork (for the Art & Music show on Thursday) not be on display at the show, as otherwise the movers couldn't pack it.  I finally bent on that notion, and we are just going to beg them to pack one more box Friday morning.  Given all she is giving up (extra time with friends, birthday parties already being discussed, Girl Scout camp...), I think it's a reasonable compromise.  

Now I need to quit my procrastinating and get back to organizing.  I tackled the catch-all formally known as the "cabinet beneath the wet bar" last night and made a great deal of progress.  Time for another coffee, and then I think I can easily tackle the craft desk that has been calling my name for days...

*We normally produce about one normal kitchen size bag of actual trash per week, a big improvement for us.  Between composting, recycling, and the new green waste bins, we realized we could easily down-size our garbage bin that is used for weekly collections.  Over time, we have gone from a 65 gallon cart (left behind from the previous renters) to a 20 gallon cart.  It technically can hold two bags, but 1.5 bags is generally our max.  Unfortunately, we always seem have a bit more throwing away to do at moving time, despite the Freecycling, Craigslisting and just giving away stuff  to anyone who will take it.  We were grateful to learn that the Waste Management company offers huge pre-paid bags that can be left out with next week's waste pick-up.  Not that we want to have more, but better to be safe than sorry, I suppose.

May 20, 2010

Redwoods Revisited

Here's the problem with this state:  there are just too darn many places to visit.  Two years is not enough time to do it all.  I am happy to say that along with many of the 'biggies' (Tahoe, Muir Woods & Yosemite), we have also visited many other parks and areas that might be lesser-known.  The second issue I have with there being so much to do in so little time?

One visit is never enough.

While some may feel one visit to a local attraction (say, Muir Woods) is enough, I often feel that I need at least two or three visits to really get a feel for the place and soak in all that it has to offer.  In fact, we may feel required to 'join' some of the organizations, as we feel we will be there quite frequently.  Suffice it to say, I could not say no to our second meet-up at the Redwoods today.  Even more exciting?  I technically got part of the way there without using the GPS (after I was GPS-ed, of course).

I thought it was odd that it had directed me take 680 vs. Crow Canyon to 580, but it is an easier drive in some respects.  I realized that I have been so many places lately, that I wasn't sure that landmarks I saw were actually from our recent visit to the Redwoods (remember, we carpooled and my friend drove) or from a visit to another Oakland site.  After the GPS told me twice that the park was in the middle of someone's front lawn, I pulled over, cleared my mind, really thought about it, quit fretting about being lost and late, and realized I knew where I was.  Once I hit the next main road, I turned left and there was a tiny sign indicating that the park was straight ahead.

IMG_4559 IMG_4561 IMG_4562

We missed most of our playtime with his buddy, Cy, due to our late arrival, but not with the rest of the group.  We had a long, leisurely walk through trees and enjoyed stopping at the water-go (again of the creek sort).  We reveled in the wildflowers, decided trucks were not meant for water-gos, and found more walking sticks* than Nicholas knew what to do with. After a good 20 minutes, we met up with the rest of the group at Trail's End. The boys ran around, the parents chatted, and we eventually headed back for some playground time. 

IMG_4567 IMG_4566 I've said it before and I'll say it again: this truly is the place to be on a warm day.  It was fairly breezy when we arrived, but the sun was blazing down by the time we left.  There easily had to be a 10-15 degree difference between the shadier woods, and the playground in the middle of the sunny field.  Despite the fact that we had to get going at some point, it was very hard to gather our lunch bags and hats and be on our way.  Each time we leave a park or museum, I wonder if it's the last time we will visit before we depart for good.  Then again, it's only a 20 minute drive and the movers don't come until next Thursday....

Note:  Like many places in Northern CA, you can be fanning yourself in the sun then freezing in the shade.  Don't forget your light jacket, snack, water, sunscreen and hats.  I don't think the walk from the parking lot is more than a mile round-trip, but if your toddler tires easily, an Ergo or stroller wouldn't hurt.

May 18, 2010

Sulphur Creek

I wasn't kidding. Movers and packers be darned, I WILL conquer the parks of Northern California.  I have a voluntarily compost-turning, dirt-piling, nature-loving little boy who adores playing in the rain and lives for his outdoor playgroup.

IMG_1935 IMG_1937 The fact that it was merely drizzling today was not enough to keep us away from the Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward.  The morning was supposed to be an outing, "Toddler Time" for our Nature Playgroup, but we could not attend due to Nicholas's swim lesson.   Linda, our intrepid group leader, knew we had swimming and would miss the main part of the meet-up. She was kind enough to offer that we could visit and picnic after the Toddler Time class.  She mentioned that there were many animals on hand to be seen, gardens, and (obviously) a water-go of the creek sort.

The girls accompanied us as today happened to be a teacher work day.  We could not sleep in too much this morning due to the lessons and the need to pack up for our lunch with Linda and Cy.  Despite the fact that they stayed up way too late watching Julie and Julia last night (true Foreign Service kids, right?), Cait managed to wake up on her own at 6:45 a.m. and Kelsey followed not long after.  We hurried through breakfast, sped off to swim lessons, and by 10 a.m. were headed to the Nature Center.

IMG_1938 IMG_1939 Having never been to Hayward nor the Nature Center, I had no idea what to expect.  It was hidden back on a residential street merely minutes from 580.  After turning in, we easily found parking (two spacious lots), and tromped down the stairs in our venture to locate our friends. 

The first treat was the footbridge over the creek.  Nothing fascinates Nicholas like a water-go, and I completely understand.  There is something so beautifully mesmerizing about the flowing of the water, and the green of the surrounding foliage is just brilliant.  It didn't take much of a reminder to get Nicholas headed down the bridge and through the animal rehabilitation area into the the Discovery Center.

IMG_1941 We missed the class, but no the opportunity to "touch and feel, not steal" the snake skins on display.  Nicholas was enthralled by the turtles paddling about in the aquarium, and enjoyed 'talking' with them until the class was  over.

IMG_1944 As with other nature centers in the area, the Discovery Center is generally closed on Mondays, with the exception of Toddler Time classes.  There was nothing more to investigate inside, so we returned to the great outdoors to meet the wildlife.  

I think the coyotes had to be our favorite.  I am not sure how many I have seen in the past, but I know viewing (and talking to) them today was a first for Nicholas.  A fox was the immediate neighbor, though he was having a bit of quiet time.  He was up in a perch, sound asleep with his tail wrapped tightly around his burnished fur.  Nicholas insisted he had a blanket, and we decided with the warmth of the fur, he did look as snug as a bug in a rug. 

A deer ran down from the hills, and proceeded to prance around the edge of the property.  I am sure we were startling him, and we just watched from a distance.  Lunch time came quickly, and as with all of the parks, there were no shortages of places to stop and nosh.  The rains became more apparent while we were eating, and we opted for a quick hike under the lush canopy of trees on the hillside that surrounded the center.  The deer had come back, and the boys just couldn't get enough of him.

IMG_1943 The climb gave us a better view, and we were within spitting distance at times.  The deer would stop for a moment or two, and the boys were just fascinated.  The girls certainly found his antics entertaining, but the boys are still so young and absorbing so much, so quickly.  Such a treat to see the looks on their faces and the excitement in their young voices.

It seemed like we had just arrived, but by this time it was nearly noon and the rain was getting harder.  This pleased Nicholas to no end, but the girls were getting antsy to return home.  I knew a nap could be in the offing soon, and we wrapped up our visit with a final look at the rooster, ducks and magpies.  Another look in the creek, and we were back in the car having enjoyed yet another taste of the outdoor beauty that is Northern California.

May 16, 2010

Sunol

IMG_4503 Wednesday afternoon arrived, and while looking at my calendar, I realized Friday was a giant blank.  I suppose this is generally good news, but given our shrinking window of time here, I don't advocate spending too much time on the homefront.  There is still so much too explore and I can't justify keeping Little Guy cooped up during the day while I sort through baubles and knick-knacks.  Yes, I am always looking for a reason to procrastinate the inevitable.

I wrote to my all-park and museum-knowing friend, Linda, to see if she might have any ideas and/or get the little guys together.  She mentioned several: Lake Anza, Sunol and the Chabot Science Center.  We ended up deciding on Sunol, perhaps knowing it was going to be a sunny, good for throwing rocks in the creek sort of day.

IMG_4490 IMG_4493 IMG_4494 IMG_4501

 It's a fairly quick drive to the area, though one does hit the windy roads going in and out of the park.  We parked in the general parking lot, and were surrounded by local school children on a field trip.  The sun was shining brightly, and we immediately headed down to the creek.

Linda noted that the water was rather low in the creek, which while maybe not ideal for nature, gave us a larger playground that morning.  Instead of having to stand on the sloping banks, we were able to sit on the higher parts of the creek bed while Nicholas and Cy ran around, threw rocks (we aren't at the skipping level yet) and enjoyed being shoeless and fancy-free.

  IMG_4495 IMG_4496 We even opted to have our picnic in the creek bed, and the boys ate and played for another hour.  Given Nicholas's eating habits (eat/play/eat/play), this worked out for the best.  It was truly a gorgeous day, and while hats and glasses were necessary while in the direct sunlight, it was not blazing hot. The tall, stately trees provided a splendid respite on an as needed basis.

Overall rating?  Have a curious, loves to throw rocks, and stomp in the creek type of toddler?  This is your place!  Just don't forget your picnic lunch, water, sun gear, change of clothes (for those water exploring types), and a towel.  Water shoes, too, if you might be exploring in the creek for extended periods.

May 12, 2010

OMCA!

Which stands for the Oakland Museum of California.  We had a rather impromptu visit on Sunday, after our best-laid plans to take a Mother's Day hike in Las Trampas were derailed by rain.

I know this doesn't usually stop us, but we have hiked muddy areas of Las Trampas before, and while Nicholas would adore it, it would be a lot more 'stopping to pull hiking boots out of ground every five minutes while gloppy mud tries to hold onto shoe and massive sucking sounds emanate from said ground' than hiking. For that reason, and that reason only, we decided to find a semi-indoor activity.

I recently heard of the Oakland Museum of California, though I constantly screwed up the name and kept calling it the California Museum of Oakland.  Really not much of a difference, and Peter had no idea what I was talking about, so really a moot point.  It's a museum (I know, shocking!) in Oakland about California (honestly!).  I read about the 2 year, $58 million renovation, and decided it was worth seeing that afternoon. 

Apparently the rest of California read the very same article and had the same reaction, as the line was out the door when we arrived.  We contemplated buying a membership, but since they only charge for ages 9 and above, we would have to go several times to make it worth it.  As soon as the kids found a place to play (waiting areas with rocks for piling get two thumbs up), the line started moving quickly.  I freaked out and thought perhaps OMCA was part of the reciprocity deal with the science centers and museums, but no such luck.  This turned out to be a good thing, since my Lindsay Wildlife Card (and free pass) were sitting safely in a drawer at home. 

We ended up only having an hour, and decided to start with the history hall.  We were stopped by a Welcome to California sign, and I took the first of many bad pictures.  I will blame it on the banning of flash photos and poor lighting.  I  completely understand why such rules are necessary, but it doesn't change the fact that the pictures* are terrible.  However, not a good enough reason for me to not torture my readers with several!

After we took the requisite photo with the sign, we hit the map of the world.  There had been an assortment of red dot stickers on the table and each person/family was supposed to put one on the map to indicate where they came from.  As usual, we went with Iceland (we did move from there....).  Sadly, all of the stickers appeared to have been used.  I was happy to find an extra dangling on the wall above the map (sorry if someone really came from northern Greenland) and plopped it down around Reykjavik.

The dad-like guy of the family standing next to us wondered where I found a sticker, and I mentioned it was just lolling about on the wall, so I put it to better use.  He then gave me my favorite quote of the day (maybe the weekend),

"You Icelanders certainly are resourceful!"

I explained the situation, and the father agreed with me that "where you hail from" could encompass many different areas for many people.  We helped him find another wayward sticker, and moved on to view the rest of the History section.

To say the area was jam-packed with information is an understatement.  I won't detail every little thing, as I think it is definitely worth seeing and don't want to spoil any surprises.  I will say that active toddlers may not find it as enchanting as older children.  

Nicholas enjoyed the museum (especially the airplane seats), but it is not a "please touch" children's museum by any stretch of the imagination.  While there were certain items that could be touched, most were "eyes only". He didn't have a hard time, but I would have completely understood if he had.  Realistically, this is probably more for the 5 and up set, though I would plan on interspersing outdoor breaks if we were there for a longer visit.

I thought we dawdled quite a bit, but even so managed to depart the history area within an hour.  We checked on the Science section (yes, it really is closed until 2012 due to renovations) and had a brief tour of the gardens before departing.

Overall review?  Best for older kids, and I would allot at least 2-3 hours.  We didn't get to view the art collection, and possible that could be more extensive than I imagine.  Once the science section reopens, I would think this would be at least half a day or maybe something you revisit.  If we had any plans to be here when the science hall opens again,  I would consider joining.  I think not only would we enjoy a few visits, but out of town folks might like to take a look, too.

*Don't worry, pictures will be coming soon.  Our internet is barely chugging along these days, so all I could do to eke out this post.  Oh, and *technically* I am supposed to be tidying the garage right now so that the movers doing the pre-pack out survey tomorrow don't freak and think we are trying to move the entire state.  I exaggerate, though, it really isn't that bad.  I have de-cluttered quite a bit over the years, so I am hoping we will be pleasantly surprised by their estimate.

May 10, 2010

Every time

IMG_4472 IMG_4473  we think we have seen everything there is to see, California pulls another rabbit out of her hat.  Friday's itinerary included a much, much too short trip to Santa Cruz.  We journeyed not for the boardwalk (that's next weekend), but to investigate the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and nearby Natural Bridges State Beach.

We headed off a bit later than we intended, but Nicholas was full of energy and needed to romp while I double-checked my list.  Having missed the part about the beach at first, I had to make a quick run back into the house for several beach towels.  We didn't need them, but only for lack of time.  Had we been there into the afternoon, I have no doubt one we would have needed both...as you can imagine, no shortage of water or sand!

IMG_4474I had heard that Santa Cruz was "about an hour".  IF there is no traffic and you are headed to the center of town, this is correct.  However, coming from our are of the East Bay, I would think one should allot at least 1.5 hours for the one way trip.  Not only did I not realize it was a bit longer of a journey, but didn't count on 8 miles of windy road.  At least this time a sign actually warned us!

Despite the longer journey, this area is not something to be missed.  I can't yet account for the boardwalk (that's next weekend), but even if you just stopped to look at the view from the back deck of the Marine Center....breath-taking.  Nicholas took one look and shouted, "Ocean, ocean, ocean..."  and that was it for miles and miles.  Nothing but dark blue to pitch black water swirling around with one smallish (50 footer?) boat trailing a whale along the coast.  We were too far away to see much, but caught the occasional spray from its blow-hole.

I should back-track to our arrival.  We got there a bit late, however, still in time to catch the outside tour with our group.  We missed the activities inside (seeing marine life up close and personal), however Nicholas very much enjoyed the outside tour.  We had a guide named Julie and we were her first tour group ever.  To her credit, she was extremely enthusiastic and carried her guide book like a bible. If you have ever had even one marine biology course, though, it may seem a bit geared towards those who have never seen a fish other than in an aquarium.

IMG_4476 She was very good with the kids, talked mostly to them and pointed out everything she could that might be of interest to us.  After viewing the whale from the deck, we were invited to a back research area.  No photos of the research subjects were allowed*, but I managed to catch a few of a desolate, sandy cove, Younger Lagoon,  that abutted the pier next to the dolphin pools.  According to the guide, photos were not allowed as two of the dolphins were given to them by the Navy and were under strict supervision. Sounds a little fishy to me (especially after I found a you tube video of said animals) but rules are rules, right?

We finished up the tour under the skeleton of a giant blue whale that had washed up on shore years earlier and was painstakingly preserved for display.  The kids were allowed the special treat of walking underneath the bones and realized just how big the whale had been.  The tour ended here, and the organizer of our group gave us a new meet-up point for our trip to the beach.

IMG_4481 We parked off-site to save a few dollars, but I might cough them up in the future.  I ended up having to take three bags and Nicholas up a long road to the picnic area, and then down a steep path to the beach.  Not terrible, but a bit tricky when you barely have one hand to hold with your active toddler. 

IMG_1861I didn't check the temperature, but it must have been in the high 70's and perfect weather for wading in tide pools or just building sand castles.  After ambling (running for Nicholas) down the path, we arrived at the beach.  We were in perfect view of the bridges, and needed only go halfway to the water to find a 'water-go' which may have been Moore Creek flowing down through the meadows (or my geography is completely off and just a large tide pool).  Either way, he was thrilled and soon pants-less after getting his pant legs completely soaked (despite me rolling them up).  After being admonished  by another beach comber for not carrying extra clothes on my person (what, I didn't have enough stuff?), he survived putting the damp pants back on once we finished up our brief beach tour. 

IMG_1859 IMG_1866 If we had more time, we could easily go back and spend a full day here.  We would revisit the Marine Center, have another picnic lunch, and spend the afternoon playing in the sand and water.  The town itself looked worthy of exploration, but we ran out of time on Friday.  Here's hoping we have a bit of time after the boardwalk and beach on Saturday, though that is more of an official field trip. Now, the only question:  what else can we squeeze in during our remaining 27 days in the East Bay?

May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

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May your day be filled with lovingly drawn pictures, swirling hearts, and flowers.  May it be happy despite the bickering sisters and spilled syrup (the comforter did need a washing...).  May it be joyous because the Little Guy wanted to (and did!) use the "pah-yay" (potty for those not in the know).

 IMG_1882And if it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, take a look at the video on my friend, Kolbi's site.  Cait watched it with me, and her take?

"Oh, that is SO Kelsey and me!"

*Sigh* Happy Mom's Day!

May 04, 2010

Tilden Park

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What a gem.  Tucked away in the hills of Berkeley, this park that houses a farm, a nature area, an environmental education center, and acres of gorgeous wilderness will encompass you.  It will be difficult, at best, to remember that a bustling metropolis is but a few miles away.

I have heard about Tilden Park many times over the past two years.  "You've been, haven't you?!" is a common refrain.  I would shamefacedly admit that I hadn't, but offer up "It's on our list!".  I am glad to announce that the list has become shorter by yet one more item.

 
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Dad and I thought this local park trip would be ideal for today.  We went to Nicholas's swim lesson, picked up lunch, and headed to Berkeley. Once we turned off the main road in Orinda, we started climbing higher and higher by way of a rather windy road.  Nicholas was completely unfazed by this, perhaps as he was completely and inexplicably upset by the fact that we could not yet pick up Kelsey from school.  Nothing comforted him until we saw a rather large water-go (a lake, in this case).  This fascinated him right out of his misery, and was back to his bouncy, happy self by the time we reached the park area.  By the "park" area, I actually mean the picnic and playground area that is located near the entrance to the Nature Area and Little Farm.

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It actually took quite a bit of driving to get there.  I was sure everything was closer than it appeared on the map, and the reality was quite different.  We drove around so many curves in the road, that I was convinced we had missed a sign somewhere.  Just as we were going to turn around, we finally happened on park area, and breathed a sigh of relief.  We parked near picnic benches, and began decided lunch was first on the agenda.

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The picnic was extremely fast.  Barely a moment to set down our sandwich rolls, and pop open the tab on my seltzer.  Nicholas tore into his sandwich, gulped down his falafel, and practically galloped to the playground.  There was a large sand pit, and Nicholas was not disappointed as we had indeed remembered the sand toys, to include the orange bulldozer.  He played happily, shared his toys, and packed up willingly when we mentioned the farm.

 
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The Little Farm is part of the Nature Area (no, we didn't have a hope of fully exploring) and is set into a hillside surrounded by a bit of a forest.   Nicholas enjoyed greeting each set of animals (roosters, pigs, goats, cows and sheep), and fed them with dropped scraps of lettuce and celery from previous visitors. The heat of the sun pounding down on the farm was relieved by a short hike around the edge of the sheep pens in the shade of the cooling trees. Comparatively speaking, it was a short visit, but we left feeling content that our time was well-spent.

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I know it is not likely, but if we have the time, we would return in a heartbeat.  There are children's activities galore, a newly renovated hiking path that is not to be missed, and the sense that one is days, not miles from the hustle and bustle of city life. The parks in Northern California never cease to amaze us.

May 02, 2010

Lunch with Guy

Guy is Grandpa, at least for the moment in this house.  Grandpa arrived Thursday afternoon in order to attend Kelsey's First Communion, and Nicholas immediately dubbed him, "Guy."  Guy is quite the term of endearment, used for the person who drives his toy trucks, for Kelsey's swimming teacher (real name: Brian), for the garbage man (on a pedestal in Nicholas's eyes), and the person who steers the fire truck that seems to whizz past us almost daily.  It's quite the catchall term, and apparently much easier to say than Grandpa.

While much of our work for this special weekend was completed early on, I had a terrible time deciding on a gift.  Once I figured out something meaningful, but not overwhelming, I needed to find a store that might offer such an item.  I was really hoping to find an independently owned shop that might have a larger selection of unique jewelry or books that might not be highlighted in larger bookstores.  Nothing off the wall, but I love supporting local businesses, and an extra bonus if they are remotely free-trade and/or eco-friendly. 

I heard of a local store, Sagrada, in Oakland, and could tell from their web-site that they had a large religious/spiritual selection.   Having not been to Oakland too frequently (other than the zoo, science center and airport), I figured a trip to the store would give me a chance to explore a bit more.  We decided to go Friday morning, and headed west on a gorgeously clear and sunny day.  Ideally, we would have taken the Bart, but opted to drive as we had to be at school for pick-up by 2:30 p.m.

IMG_3318 IMG_3320 IMG_3323 The shop is located on Telegraph in the Temescal/Telegraph neighborhood.  Parking was a bit tricky, but we found a spot and walked half a block to the store.  It was everything I had hoped for and more...spiritual, but in many directions.  While they had a healthy section for the celebration of First Communions, it could be said there was something for everyone no matter what their belief.  I found the key gift for Kelsey and a few cards for other cousins also making their First Communion.  Dad and Nicholas also explored, finding a crayon table (key for the younger set) in their small, but well-stocked children's section, and a water-go (in this case, a fountain).

IMG_1820 IMG_1814 Dad made a few purchases, and we realized we had just enough time for a sit-down lunch.  Our only problem was deciding where to go. Everything along the block whet our appetites, and after a bit of discussion, we settled on Ethiopian at Asmara.  It was a simple, but charming restaurant.  We were promptly seated and took entirely too long to decide on a meal.  We ended up sharing a beef entree and vegetarian combo of red lentils, yellow lentils, mustard greens and veggies.  It was served with generous amounts of injera bread and salad. 

IMG_3328 IMG_3329 The lentils were smooth, but flavorful and the mustard greens were finely chopped and just a bit spicy.  I also opted for steamed milk with honey, the perfect accompaniment for my meal.  Nicholas asked for a fork at first, but once we explained that they weren't necessary, he dove in and alternated between eating with his fingers and utilizing the bread.  Dad also got into the spirit of things, and we before long the tray was nearly empty.

We couldn't stay for dessert, as the school day was almost over, and we still had rummage sale stuff drop-off (a whole car load!), choir practice (and extra practice for Cait), as well as our first cook-out of the year on the to do list.  I really wished we had more time to explore, though, as it was a neighborhood full of unique shops and eateries that I now regret not finding sooner.

April 23, 2010

Liar, Liar*!

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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.

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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)?

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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 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 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 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!

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 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 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. 

February 05, 2010

Drum Roll (Drum Roll!)

After two grueling (and rainy) weeks of sales the totals are in and we are thrilled.  The column total matches the row total and Kelsey D. managed to sell a whopping 146 boxes of Girl Scout cookies! 

IMG_3789 IMG_3786 She was still a bit nervous this year even after several days of selling.  However, the enthusiasm never flagged and she insisted on wearing the complete uniform every time (though now I really wish I had sprung for the beanie...).  Nicholas even got into the act and knocked on several doors ("Knock? KNOCK!"), when he wasn't jumping in the homeowner's mulch (tan bark is very, very big with him right now).

In case you are wondering, we (our little family) did not boost the sales by much.  No, I did not add 50 last minute boxes, only 12 and, trust me, that's on the low end.  She sold to those near and far, even some two continents away (which excited her beyond belief).  While I am glad to take a break (until booth sales begin),  it was very enjoyable, especially given how involved she became.  It was such a good exercise, from the charitable aspect to the extra work with math and money (just numbers, she won't actually handle the cash).

As a reminder, they are due to arrive the last weekend of February.  If there is any hope we will see you by mid-March, we will give them to you upon your arrival.  If not, they will be shipped as soon as possible.  Kelsey and I both thank you very much, and hope you enjoy!

January 29, 2010

100% Brownie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 26, 2010

Reciprocity

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

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

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

IMG_3720 IMG_3722IMG_3721  IMG_3723

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

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

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

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

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

 
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November 24, 2009

I'm supposed to be

sleeping. SSSHHH (with your finger diagonally across your mouth as Nicholas would do)!  However, felt I ought to add a few photos, even though I haven't finished yesterday's post on Legoland. 

IMG_3416   IMG_1307  We are in Anaheim, having pulled in this afternoon around 1 p.m.  I spent the hour long drive up from San Diego staring at the ocean as it traipsed along to our left for a good half hour or so.  Then landscape changed from water to hills to palm trees lining the streets of Anaheim.  

We had originally thought we might squeeze in one more activity while in San Diego, but I think the early in the day, less-stress drive was a much better idea.  This also gave Nicholas time to help with "me-me" (doing the dishes), prior to checking out of the hotel in Carlsbad.  If you didn't know before, you can now tell that he has older sisters who enjoy a good joke at his expense once in a while.  I really can't wait to see the payback one day.

The other picture is Nicholas working on his Yoga.  Even toddlers these days understand the importance of being limber, and more importantly, moving around whilst confined to a car seat to avoid those nasty blood clots.  Believe it or not, I mean that in utmost sincerity.  Not that I think he is at risk, though it is a possibility, but I have known too many people who have had it become an issue.  Though to be fair, while we do encourage stretching on long car rides, this was also his sisters bugging him to do different stretches.  They think it's hysterical that he likes yoga, and try to make him show off his two positions frequently.  At least he'll be flexible and relaxed, more than I can say for me.

We got to Anaheim in record time, checked in early (a plethora of open rooms) had lunch and spent the day getting snacks for tomorrow, trying to swim (hot tub broken=short swim time on cold evening), and visiting Downtown Disney.  I won't quote Pete, but suffice it to say we were a bit disappointed.  Lots of stores with overpriced stuff that we don't need or want, but attract kids like flies.  Amazing how they do it!  We escaped 'only' spending money on dinner, but frankly, next time, we will probably go elsewhere. The name now escapes me, but it was supposed to be genuine N'awlins cuisine. Hmmph, not really, but I didn't have my hopes up, either.  Now, off to bed or I might miss the 5 wake-up calls  and two alarms we have set for tomorrow.  Think it'll do the trick?

Brick by Brick

When I was 6 or 7, I received a giant box of Legos as a gift.  I want to say it was a Christmas gift, but my memory fails me in remembering exactly when I received it.  It was a large, white, flat box, maybe 2' by 3' and 2-3 inches high.  The box had a plastic window, but was still very sturdy, and revealed a plethora of Lego building bricks when flipped open.  It was short enough to fit under my bed, after I had finished playing, but the bricks inside kept me building and re-building for hours.

IMG_3390  I remember that this set included not only roofing pieces, but windows that had removable shutters. Compared to today's toys that do everything for a child, it is hard to believe that was a delightful surprise.  I remember being so excited  that I could build a 'real' house, and wish I had held onto it for our kids.

They have their own sets, but there is something special about sharing your toys with your children, even if they are stored in a battered and bedraggled old box. Given that they are from Lego, the shiny bricks would probably look as though I had purchased them yesterday, and the kids wouldn't know the difference, but...

IMG_3377Despite my love of the toy, I was clueless about the existence of a play land constructed around the simple toy.  I don't remember thinking about it until we were in Iceland, and then began musing that we should get there while the kids were young.  We tried to plan many a trip to either Denmark or England, and neither one ever worked out.  It certainly didn't help that the Legoland in London closed for the winter (the nerve!) or that we never actually made it out of the airport in Denmark.  


 IMG_3362When we learned of our move to San Francisco in 2008, we figured we would just add the trip to the list. Not only was it not that far away (just 8 short hours), but given that Peter has immediate family working for the company, it seemed inane to pass up the opportunity.  And having been there, I can only say that I wish we had gone sooner, and I hope we will revisit soon.  We did not do it all, or even come close, but we all  had such a great time.  And, any place that offers waiting areas for rides with building stations gets an A+ in my book!

Legoland is not Disneyland and does not open at the crack of dawn, nor does it close at midnight.  The hours are (in our opinion) European-style and quite reasonable...unless you are trying to complete the park in one day.  We arrived at 10:30 a.m. and walked out not long before the park closed. Despite our best efforts to see a bit of everything, I don't think we really 'did' more than half of the park, if that.

    Perhaps our mistake (if you can call it that) was starting in Mini-Land.  Oh, after we stopped (well, paused) to see Santa and Thomas.  Part of Nicholas's new-found interest in trains includes Thomas, and he could not pass up a chance to see/touch/try to climb all over him (despite giant signs shouting, "DO NOT CLIMB").  We cut him a break this time seeing as how he hasn't quite started with the SRA lessons, and thankfully the Lego police were nowhere to be found.

Miniland = Fantastic.  Simply no words to describe the little land that they continue to build upon.  From the cable cars to the Golden Gate to Vegas, Washington and New York City.  It is absolutely amazing, and one could probably spend half a day just engrossed in the small world of colorful, plastic bricks.  Nicholas loved it (in case you can't tell) and we were thankful that the small metal garden fence held him back (just barely).

IMG_3393  We headed into the Imagination Center after finishing Miniland.  Peter and I were dizzy just watching Caitlin and Kelsey on the Bionicle Blaster (think Tea Cups from Disneyland, but made out of Legos), and this was one those moments that all of the sibling bickering became worth it.  Even though Caitlin was shooting looks at me from the ride (guessing Kelsey looked in her direction), they still had each other, and none of those "Who will I ride with?" worries.

  We followed along the trail and visited the Land of Adventure.  Cargo Ace was a hit with Nicholas, while the girls preferred the jarring drops of the Beetle Bounce.  Nicholas and I lasted about five minutes in Pharoah's Revenge as the 500 balls per minute flying at my face lost its allure pretty quickly.  He thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but Peter distracted him with a better option: food. 

IMG_3403IMG_3406The park food was decent, and I would even consider my salad to have been tasty.  Gordon Ramsay, I am not, but far better than the park fare I remember as a kid.  The kids each found something they liked, and Nicholas made short work of his fish fillets, which were supposedly hand-crafted from Icelandic cod. I am sure it probably was Icelandic, but when you know exactly what fresh Icelandic fish tastes like, mmm, not quite the same.

By the time we finished lunch, it was nearly 2 p.m., and the shadows were getting longer.  As it is now pitch-black by 5 p.m., we knew we had to be quick or miss out on a lot.  We tarried for a bit in Castle Hill, pausing to let the girls ride the Royal Joust (Caitlin regretted as it was "too young" for her mature self), and play for a few minutes on the Hideaways. Funtown followed and was a hit with the  the Factory Tour and a Fire Dada (truck) built out of life-size Legos!  

IMG_3408We raced to the Sky Cruiser that is routed over Funtown, and endured our first true wait of the day:  30 minutes for a 5 minute (at best) ride.  We powered our brightly, multicolored cars on a track while Peter attempted videos from below.  Both girls enjoyed the ride, but it was over way too quickly.  We ended the day with a tour of Explore Village for Nicholas, while the girls and I headed to the Coastasaurus on Dino Island.  We couldn't pass up the store, but didn't acquire much other than the Christmas Village (which I am under order to begin as soon as we return home), and a Bob the Builder set for Nicholas.  

 The end?  It was the end of our day at Legoland, and probably sounds a bit too idyllic for us.  Honestly, it really was a good day.  We started it off right with (large cup of coffee for me) and just went from there.  Yes, there was a weak moment, but not until the end of the day at the cash register when I heard the words "I want" and "but she's getting" about key chains and candy just one time too many and briefly snapped.  All in all, not bad for a 7 hour day at a theme park.

Now how did we get that happy, happy, joy, joy day (minus the key chain business?)?  Here a few tips, should you decide to go:

  • Do not be afraid to go in the winter (it's San Diego, you won't freeze), as you will be fairly sure to eliminate the kids desire to swim in the water areas (this means less stuff to lug around, and no wet bums in the car, a bonus!) and an emptier park (not empty, just not as full).
  • Bring the carrier AND the stroller if you have a toddler.  I love schlepping Nicholas in the Ergo, but he sometimes prefers to nap in the Bob, and, if nothing else, there was a place to stash the backpacks and such while we were on rides.  
  • Lower your expectations!  Seriously, I just wanted to get through the day (at first).  I was excited, but tempered it as sometimes too much excitement leads to crankypantsness.  Don't expect to get it all finished, and be happy with what you accomplish.  This is especially true if you have a wide age range in your group.
  • Expect to spend money. It's a theme park, folks.  I wouldn't recommend going overboard in the stores (you can get most of it anywhere), but don't beat yourself up if you go a tad over budget.
  • Be the first ones out!  Preferred parking rocks, and gets you out quickly at the end of the day. 
  • Save money on the tickets, to assuage guilt on other purchases.  Kids under 3 are free, and free tickets for older kids seem widely available.  Look and ye will likely find. 
  • You really aren't supposed to bring in food (unless you have food issues...do rules count?), but water bottles and snacks will go unnoticed, so take what you need within reason.
Last, but most definitely not least, send a big thank you to the person who sent you the free passes.  Auntie Lisa, we so appreciate the tickets and had an awesome time.  You saved us a bundle, and we all had a blast.  Gracias, takk fyrir, and as Nicholas would say in his tiny little voice "Thank you"!

November 21, 2009

You know that scene in Parenthood

when Steve Martin gently asks his daughter, "Do you feel like you want to throw up?" and she replies, "Okay!" and her head spins around, covering the room in vomit?  Put Peter in place of Steve, and Kelsey for (um, little girl who also starred in Curly Sue & whose name completely escapes me) his daughter, and move the action to our foyer.  To think we thought yesterday that Kelsey was on the mend...

She had a bit of a cold earlier in the week, and stayed home from school on Wednesday.  I tried to also keep her home yesterday, but she was perky as could be, and adamant about attending school.  She likes it (an alien concept for me).  She slept in a bit, went to school, and all was fine.  Well, until this morning when I felt someone hovering over me and woke up to her mumbling that her stomach hurt in a rather nondescript way (this could mean anything from a small amount of gas to being ready to pass out from pain).  We went downstairs, Peter harangued her a bit about her outfit, and without further ado, she let him (well, the foyer) have it.

Nothing like spending your 'sleeping in' time (Pete was off today, and told me to sleep in ....HA!) cleaning a cold, hard ceramic tile on your hands and knees.  Though I recall being that sick as a kid, and there isn't much else that causes that unique type of discomfort.  Remembering how many times my mom probably cleaned up worse (and in the middle of the night),  promptly grounded me and kept that gag reflex at bay.  I tucked her into the couch and was relieved to see that she was too sick to go to school, but not too sick to watch TV.  Now I know you are thinking, but what about that trip we are supposed to take oh, tomorrow?

We still plan on leaving in the late morning, however, the Basket Brigade plans are on hold/being modified.  In all likelihood, Cait and Peter will deliver the goods, but we will not be wrangling.  Kelsey is still feverish, and while a few hours resting in the car is fine, I don't want her getting sicker (or anyone else ill) at the Brigade.  So, we will make up for our absence by increasing our donation.  I wish it weren't the case, but better that than we make an emergency exit , and delay our departure time even more.

Where are we going?  It has probably completely slipped my mind to mention much about the trip, because I have done such a poor job of planning, and I would really like to ignore that fact.  We are SO last minute on this vacation, but did manage to get a few good deals, including a heavily discounted Disney entrance and free Legoland tickets (thank you, thank you, Auntie Lisa!!).  We are making a quick tour of Southern California, to include San Diego (Legoland! The zoo!), Anaheim (Disneyland!), and the general Los Angeles area (Hollywood! A boardwalk/beach! An amazing Thanksgiving dinner!).  We also hope to catch up with a friend or two while on the way back home, and perhaps even stop at a winery (I know, perhaps my rear end...).

DPA675F-538 With all that's going on, I still managed to remember that Little Guy is 21 months old today.  Probably soon we will just mention the years (I have said that before, haven't I?), but given how much more of a Little Guy he has become, I feel I should write something (God knows, the journal isn't getting much of a workout these days).  I can never remember to write down all of his words, but here is a smattering (hopefully some new):  da-da (truck), choo-choo, please, thank you (which he says without prompting), hello (sounds like HEH-whoa?), Lemmeesee, What's that, who's that, ahfoo (airplane), bad cat, phone (phone), and the list goes on.

He has a newly discovered love of trucks and trains, and runs them up and down the couch, the stairs, the shoe rack, the car seat, and if he can't find the one he wants, he will make one.  He has made trains (and highways) out of boxes and puzzle cubes.  He pushes them into shape and around the room with the appropriate choo-choo noise.  Who needs a train table when you have an extremely active imagination?  Though I can't say we aren't toying with the notion, as I have a feeling it would get a lot of use.

IMG_3358 He seems to have outgrown the tiny bit of "terrible twos" he had a few weeks ago which involved a brief pacifier stealing and hitting phase.  We certainly understood the pacifier part (he would never take one, didn't know what it was, and had a sudden intense interest), but had to briefly avoid the gym daycare til we were sure the hitting bit had passed.  We nipped it in the bud quickly, and thankfully, smooth sailing for the time being (I won't say never again...).  There was also a touch of biting, but thankfully (?), he saved that one for me, and me alone. 

Today was a bit nutty and exciting*, and didn't remember to get a snapshot until he was asleep.  So, here we have LG conked out when he was almost 21 hours old, and now as he is 21 months old.  A wee bit of a difference, wouldn't you say?

*Cait was pulled aside after choir (at the church) tonight, and asked to do the lead in the church Christmas play.

November 03, 2009

I thought I had it under control...

Peter left yesterday morning for a week's worth of training in the DC area, and I was bound and determined to have everything flow smoothly this week.  Not that his presence is necessary to have that happen, but there is that certain ebb and flow when you realize you are not the only responsible party within 3,000 miles who can care for your house, crazy cat, or usually adorable children.

IMG_1281 Since the last trip went relatively smoothly, I thought I would simply copy the same game plan, and just tweak things here and there.  Rather than go nuts and start off with a crazy schedule, we would have the relaxing Sunday up front.  Part of it would be a family meeting to determine the week's meals (and who would help cook them), and the rest would simply involve getting our of our jammies, and more importantly, out of the house.

No problem!  The day flew by as we spent time doing odds and ends around the house, and then headed to Osage Park in Danville.  The girls would uncovered dinosaur bones in the play area, while Nicholas and I did walking/running intervals on the circular trail.  Fabulous!  We even had plenty of time to spare to go home, change, and then get to the teen mass.

In theory, it would have been fine, except that not only did I forget snacks for Nicholas (Annie's cheddar bunnies are a lifesaver), but the mass was extra long due to a special homily and introduction of the those preparing for confirmation.  No, Nicholas was not happy. 

He had not taken nap that day, and he squealed and squirmed, and I was ready to call it quits before the collection was taken.  We ended up staying as I had promised the kids we would head to the family dinner afterward (translation: no cooking or cleaning for me), and Nicholas briefly made amends with everyone when he clapped wildly and shouted, "Yea!!" when the teen band finished singing. 

Thankfully, the rest of the evening was fairly uneventful, and even bedtime was fine.  The only hitch was a slightly later bedtime due to the late mass and dinner...and with Kelsey, early or late to bed....late to rise. 

She is NOT a morning person.  Combine that with someone else who is not a morning person trying to wake previously aforementioned non-morning person, and you have a lethal combination. I try to be patient (translation: drink at least one cup of coffee prior to waking her up), but I am usually trying to get two people going, and stop a third from destroying their rooms (to prevent the litanies of "he's touching my stuff!!!") while doing so.  Not nearly as easy as it sounds.

She dawdled and she dallied, and I finally lost it.  The embarrassing part?  I really lost it when she couldn't find her glasses.  I had about given up when I found them on the kitchen counter, the pink frames blending nicely with the granite in the counter top.  Who put them there?  Me.  Sigh.

For whatever reason, she got over it.  We dropped Cait and co. off at the middle school, and made it to Kelsey's school in time to drop her off in the front.  I headed back home for a second cup of coffee, and by 9:30 a.m., I was had it - again.  Between the shower drain not working, and the master bath being flooded by the toilet that was clogged by one piece of paper (or perhaps something Nicholas thought to throw down),the morning was in the toilet.  The best part? The property manager decided not to call Pete back (despite the fact he told him it was urgent), as he thought "we were all on vacation on the East Coast."  If we were, would we really be asking for a repairman to show up the next day?

IMG_1275 We made it to swim lessons early, and miraculously had not forgotten anything.  Nicholas swam his little heart out, and I quickly dressed him and we headed home.  He remembered that I had two "pleases" (pieces of candy) in my purse that he had been carting around all morning.  He loved clutching them in his sweaty little hands, and I didn't care, as he seemed to show no interest in eating them.  Until now.  I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw this face just as we were about to turn into our neighborhood. 

He was so happy, and so proud, though, that I just couldn't get mad.  He had somehow managed only to smear on his face and hands, and there didn't seem to be a drop of chocolate anywhere else.  Despite my best efforts, I had to laugh.  Now don't think that I didn't still sit down with my glass of Zinfandel, and cranberry cheese with the Raincoast Crisps last night, desperately trying to find my DVR-ed episode of House (another non-House night, what is going on??).  No, the bathroom clean up alone earned me that chunk of heaven.  Still, nothing like a Little Guy happily covered in smeary cocoa, and bursting with pride as he licks the wrapper to remind you that not all is lost, in fact, perhaps something good (and yummy) was just found.

November 01, 2009

Halloween 2009

IMG_3288 IMG_3291 or because I know the grandparents are chomping at the bit for these photos.  Well, wait, we assume the grandparents are waiting with baited breath, because the Little Guy was just stinkin' cute tonight. 

I know I shouldn't say that, but he just didn't cease to amaze me.  He is all over this Halloween thing!  From dressing up to running (not walking) up the steps of each house (both the stroller and Ergo were out of the question), to saying thank you and bye-bye to almost every treat giver.  He gave an occasional stab at "Trick or treat," but that was a bit more difficult.

IMG_3299 IMG_3308 The girls had a great time, and Kelsey and her one friend loved listening to Nicholas.  I realize I need to enjoy it while it lasts, so "Isn't he cute?!" in girlie squeals was music to my ears.   Of course, the fact that he was he thought it was trick or trade (he would take a piece of candy and then offer the person one of his own) was simply adorable. 

Other than the high-pitched voices, it was fairly tame trick or treating this year, as we went with other folks and didn't try to overdo it. We also opted to leave Caitlin to her own devices (sort of).  She went trick or treating with a neighborhood friend, and came home two hours later with a nightmarish blister on her foot (translation: lots o' loot).  The only issue?  We figured out she threw away candy that she decided she didn't like.

I know we are trying to eat better, and woe to the non-organic produce that touches my lips (most of the time), but really, Halloween is once a year.  NO ONE throws away a Milk Dud in this house (that could be mine), and I know Peter will have words with her about that Snickers bar.  Seriously, I have never seen a child do that before.  Whatever, she's happy, we are happy (and on a sugar high), and all's well that ends well, right?

Last, but certainly not least, if you think you recognize a certain little monkey, you are correct.  The costume Nicholas is wearing was made over (GULP) 11 years ago for his (very) big sister, Caitlin.  You can't see it in the photo, but there is a large stuffed tail, and I have to say, it made an excellent leash tonight, as this little guy is just too fast.  Even after we arrived at home to have a small dessert party, he continued to run circles around all of us. If we could harness his energy, PG&E would be paying us...

Here's hoping everyone had a happy, fun, and safe Halloween!