56 posts categorized "Nicholas"

October 24, 2009

T-Minus One Day and Counting

With all we had to do to get ready for the shower, today just blew by.  We had numerous errands to run prior to meeting up with Janet, and I had neglected to remember that DC/MD/VA traffic is not always kind, especially when it seems every road is under construction.  Oh, wait, it seems that way because it IS that way.  If it wasn't the beltway, then it was every other road I decided to take, thinking one might be a short-cut.  As if!

KelseyVampWe ended up getting everything accomplished that we possibly could, and that included a delightful dinner with Janet and Jack.  We headed to Carlyle Grand (and, yes, most definitely called ahead!), and enjoyed lobster pot-stickers with the seared rare tuna salad.  It has been a favorite of mine for years, and the rest of the dinner menu barely gets a glance.  Cait was thrilled to see that they had added a tenderloin to the kids menu, and eagerly gobbled that up.  It was a late night, but we were so glad to take a break and just catch up.  It didn't hurt that we were able to do so in yet another local hot-spot introduced to us by Janet.

 Back home, well, they had a busy day?  I am not sure Pete slept much (Nicholas thoughtfully woke him at 5:30 a.m., and did NOT go back to sleep as usual), but he managed to get quite a bit done around the house, and chauffeur Kelsey around.  Not only did she have choir practice, but that was almost immediately followed by the Girl Scout Halloween Bingo.  Dressing up was (of course) on the agenda, and Kelsey had a chance to try out her costume before Halloween, just in case anything would need 'tweaking'.  I think it was a long day on both coasts, but interesting (in a good way) to have a bit of role-reversal for a change.  In fact, perhaps wouldn't be a bad idea to have a bit more of it once in a while...

October 19, 2009

When we were overseas,

IMG_3123 IMG_3127I must admit there was at least one thing we missed:  pumpkin patches. We could acquire fantastically shaped gourds in Caracas and genuine pumpkins in Iceland, but no pumpkin patches in either locale.We have decided, since we hope to go overseas again soon, to get our fill while we can.

One might think that would get repetitive, but not all pumpkin patches are created equal. They generally all have a wide variety of pumpkins, but some have hay rides, others have corn pits and mazes (of maize), and yet others just offer a few games, a lot of pumpkins, and the occasional jumping house/slide for kids.

IMG_3166 IMG_3186 Last year, Kelsey had a field trip to a very popular patch in Livermore, by the name of Joan's.  We never made it out as a family, and this year I decided it might not be a bad patch to try just with Nicholas.  We loaded up the picnic basket, found our sun hats (because it was 90 something in OCTOBER), and headed out with a friend and her daughter.

Joan's is a patch smack in the middle of a working farm.  We crept up the mile-long rocky road, and arrived just as the oodles of field trips were packing it up for the day.  We walked through several small patches, visited the "Old West" town (complete with a general store packed with modern-day candy), posed for pictures, climbed on haystacks, and ran through little tunnels.  Well, Nicholas managed to do all of that once he woke up.  Poor little guy fell fast asleep as we were driving in, and spent the first 45 minutes sound asleep in his Ergo (what would I do without it?).

IMG_3187 IMG_3191 Fast forward to today, and it's time for our second annual visit to G & M Farms, also in Livermore. They are famous for their corn maizes.  A new maize is designed each year, and one could easily get lost for hours, if not for the postcard-sized maps, clues (Trivia questions on tricky corners), and, now, text clues!  Yes, you can get a text while in the maize to help you along.  It was amusing, but we did just fine with the maps.

This year's map was dedicated to a local farmer who passed away last year.  It made for an incredibly interesting maze, and in some respects, very easy to follow.  We probably spent a good hour in there, and had even more fun than last year.  We kept Nicholas in the Ergo, but he enjoyed it all the same. Only once did he try to break the rules by grabbing at the corn; thankfully, it was a tough stalk.

IMG_3194 IMG_3197 We finished up at the play area, which includes the cow train, corn pit (and, thanks to the 'absorbent' diaper, have quite a collection of kernels at home), self-powered go carts, and 2 mini-mazes for the kids.  The larger maze is an indoor maze that even adult blessed in the height department can get through fairly easily.  One might not think it, but the hay can be quite insulating.  The farm was incredibly crowded yesterday, but one step inside the tunnels of the maze, and nothing but deafening silence.  It was only occasionally disturbed by Nicholas running through the tunnels at break-neck speed.

We had to cut the day slightly short to get Cait to CCD, but it was a great family activity.  There was something for everyone, and free, with the exception of a few rides.  I had been thinking prior to arriving that once may have been enough, but forgot how much more Nicholas could do this year.  After a hectic morning of soccer for Pete and church for the rest of us (first children's mass of the year), it was a welcome break on a gorgeous fall day.

October 14, 2009

You can take the boy out of Iceland,

IMG_3112 IMG_3113 but you can't take Iceland out of the boy.  Now we realize he is not *technically* Icelandic, but he enjoyed a taste of Icelandic babyhood prior to departing Reykjavik.  We took many a long walk in all types of weather.  Like other babies, he slept in his stroller outside, cozy and warm, but with all of the good, fresh air.  We have continued the tradition here, and he still has days where he dozes outside.  The natural white noise of barking dogs and the wind whistling in the trees helps him sleep soundly.

Many things, however, have changed.  Local reactions to weather do not, in any way, parallel those we saw in Reykjavik.  One of the first things we learned about living in Iceland, was that life goes on, weather or not.  Coming out of northern Virginia, we weren't quite prepared for the variety of offerings the meteorological gods threw our way, but we eventually woke up, saw the light, and adjusted.

HPa630n-770 After first arriving, and beginning school, Cait used to freeze on the playground. She *only* had a warm jacket, ski pants, and gloves.   Then I realized that LL Bean just didn't cut it there.  I headed to the nearest 66 North, and invested in two "super-suits" for both Caitlin and Kelsey.  Cait went from hanging out by the wall, and wringing her hands, to running around with the rest of the kids, no matter what the sky sent down.

Kelsey also played outside in anything, and everything and loved it.  The kids jumped on the trampoline in snow, with nothing other than long sleeves on.  The school rules included mandatory outside time.  If you wanted a bunch of kids with pent-up energy, keep them inside after lunch, and watch things go haywire.

IMG_3118 Then we moved to California, brought oodles of winter and wet weather gear, and landed in the middle of a drought.  Water restrictions galore, tawny hills everywhere, and no umbrellas in sight.  We were told "fall - spring is the rainy season," and finally the rains came on November 1.  We were thrilled to see the skies finally open on that gloomy Saturday morning.  It continued to rain frequently, and we were loving it...until the kids went back to school.

I noticed the oddity the first time it was drizzling at drop-off.  I thought I was in the wrong place, as there were no lines of children, just one or two teachers hurrying the kids inside.  Turns out if so much as a raindrop falls, they are rushed inside as though it is hailing (in any respect).  And when it was still raining at lunchtime?

They had indoor recess, and watched tv. I was confused, and angry.  Watched tv?  Why on earth weren't they outside, playing in the rain?  Well, that's not the way it's done here.  If I remember correctly, it probably was the same in Virginia, but the Icelandic way had become natural to me.

The rainy season has come early this year, and I am revisiting last year's debacle.  Do I fight the system?  Do I offer to personally outfit the entire school with proper rain gear, to include teachers and parents?  Do I suck it up and shut up?  I honestly don't know what to do.  I would love to regale the principal with tales of my immune-system strengthened children, or how kids really enjoy jumping in puddles and will not catch a cold simply because they are outside (remember the properly clothed part).

IMG_3119 No, they will get out their energy, and retreat to the indoors, happy for the warmth, but glad for the wild and free moments trying to catch raindrops on their tongues.  Sadly, I fear I am one of the few, and my opinion will be shunned for the more popular idea that sickness will be rampant, or the kids will be wet and miserable.

So, we will have our own outdoor times.  Auntie Shannon fully outfitted Nicholas in outdoor gear for his birthday, and he has finally grown into it.  He has a jacket, pants, and puddle-stomping boots (complete with ba-bas*).  Today was not the first storm (that one took us by surprise a few weeks back), but definitely the most vigorous we have had.  Nicholas played with planters, tried to catch water in a shovel, jumped in the puddles, and watched Kelsey dive under the water pouring off the roof test her umbrella's strength.  We finally ambled inside after a good 30 minutes, and were all tired and happy campers.  It's not Iceland, but it will do for now.

*Ba-ba: his current catch-all term for an animal. 

October 11, 2009

One of the least fun aspects

of moving (to me), would be the joy of having to find 'new' contacts.  Whether it be a doctor, chiropractor, or a luxury like the perfect hair stylist, it can take months (or as in my case in Iceland), years to find the perfect person.  I finally found a great stylist, but if Jogvan moved here, it would all be over for the new guy.

IMG_3095 IMG_3096 For whatever the reason, perhaps for the rise of pediatric or children's, well, everything, it seems much, much easier to find the perfect pediatrician, pediatric dentist or children's hairstylist.  The latter is particularly important for my children, as any of the Barbies (and their mutilated tresses) from my childhood could attest.  While learning how to properly cut hair would be a great skill to have, I have yet to get up the nerve to try.  Memories of perpetually unequal bangs probably will keep the desire at bay for quite some time.

IMG_3098 We lucked out by quickly finding a hair salon for the kids, aptly named Kids-N-Teens, run 100% by the owner, Daniella.  Much like Grenitas in Caracas, it is 100% for kids, complete with a play area and ribbon bar.   It's not Cartoon Cuts, and appointments are usually more than necessary. However, it is no pricier than Cartoon Cuts (or anything similar), and your child will leave looking and feeling like the beauty queen (or king) of her choice. 

Whether it's your child's first haircut (cue delivery of "1st cut certificate" with two locks of hair), or 18th, you feel as though she has known you, and your child, forever.  A closely-cropped cut for the boy, braids or tiny ponytails for girls, and your child is happily on their way.

Some might say it's a pain to wait for an appointment, or who on earth can't suffice with a haircut from the barber (or Mom)?  I look it as a talent-sharing situation.  Daniella is very gifted in the way of hair (and I am so very not).  Why not utilize the services of those who truly know what they are doing.  And, yes, I must admit, I also really like the way she cuts and styles Kelsey's hair without ever drawing any attention to her scar. It's the little details that matter, right?  

If you ever happen to live in this area, and have a child with shaggy locks or overgrown bangs, I highly recommend giving Daniella a call.  Check out the before and after pictures, and you will see how much one can get for a very small price. 

October 02, 2009

Here I go again, on my own...

While we are no strangers to separations, brief or otherwise, it has been a while since Pete traveled.  If you are a new reader, and don't know our history with DS, um, in a nutshell..  With this lifestyle,when posted domestically (being attached to a detail/field office), the spouse of a an agent can end up having a good amount of "alone" time.  This can be good, bad or somewhere in the middle. 

Maybe it had just been a while since I had an extremely active toddler while Pete traveled.  Maybe the issue was that I now had three vs. two, and the two older children are in separate schools, with 7 weekly activities between them (the irony is that comparatively speaking, they are massively under-scheduled for this area).  We don't send them to tutors or language school, and to be fair, I count CCD as part of their weekly activities.  However, they still add up, and two weeks ago, with Peter slated to go to UNGA for 12 days, I realized that we were going to be kept hopping on a daily basis. 

We started off slowly, on a Thursday. Nothing more than soccer practice in the afternoon, and I only needed to drive the carpool and drop the kids off.  Friday came and the only events were a play date for Kelsey, and the beginning of choir practice (at the church) for both girls.  Kelsey decided to join (has been chomping at the bit since last spring), and despite Cait's efforts to ban her, she is going each week and really enjoying herself.  We figured we would have an "easy" dinner, and opted for our favorite pasta place.  For whatever reason, maybe the heat (was over 100 F most days Pete was gone), but everyone was a bit cranky, Nicholas included.  

I ended up making the executive decision that we would avoid eating out again until Pete came back, but it would require a bit of planning and restraint on my part.  It just seems so much easier to say, "Let's go out for pizza!", and be done with it. 

Though I promised Kelsey we could sleep in on Saturday, this fell flat when I realized the soccer game was at 9 a.m.  Nothing like not catching up on sleep when you really need it!  We made it to the game (they won), and hurried home to change and back out to the Farmer's Market.  The Saturday morning routine of the Farmers' Market has become so ingrained that the girls are upset if we even consider not going.  We simply can't pass up stand after stand of fruit and veggies, from the boxes of freshly-shelled English peas to the bunches of basil.  It also doesn't hurt that the Green Lantern Catering Company normally shows up to whip up a veggie fritatta and grilled artichokes that are simply out of this world, but do not break the wallet. The owner is not only a part-time caterer, but also the executive chef at Standford's in Walnut Creek. 

Thankfully, dinner was at a friend's house.  As a part of our monthly international dinner, we dined on samosas, lamb biryani, and cauliflower.  It was mildly spicy, and deeply satisfying.  We headed home, and  Nicholas fell asleep on the way.  Sunday was a sleep-in day.  Seems great until you try to get moving and realize nothing is going as planned...primarily because there wasn't  a plan.  It hit me that if I didn't quickly come up with a something, my week was going to be a disorganized disaster.  Four days in, and I was completely frustrated already.

IMG_1211 I quickly planned out meals from Sunday to Friday, and it saved me.  No last-minute "What do I make" or "let's just go out!".  We ate in every night, and it was so methodical, the girls didn't think twice. Yummy leftovers made great lunches the next day, and we rolled from school to activities, volunteer and otherwise, smoothly.  Still exhausting, and I was up late with laundry, cleaning, and the like, but far easier than expected.

Friday night arrived, and Kelsey was busy with a play-date, choir practice, and movie night at her school.  Cait had her 6th grade social, choir practice, and then volunteered at movie night.  Nicholas and I took the time to relax, and have quality time in between the various pick-ups and drop-offs.

    IMG_1212
Saturday rolled around once again, and with a later soccer game, we had time for the Farmers' Market early in the morning.  There was face-painting, aioli mustaches (grilled artichokes were back!), visiting with the kitties needing foster homes (and both girls desperately want us to become one), and the 4-H with a bevy of bunnies and chickens.  We made it to soccer just in time, and Kelsey shocked us all by volunteering to play goalie.  I was able to quickly upload  a photo via Facebook, and "Coach Pete" was able to see despite the 3,000 mile/3 hour difference.

IMG_1215 Jamba Juice followed, and we had just enough time to head home, swelter for a bit, and depart for a spaghetti dinner at the home of one of Cait's Chorus leaders.  She is a member of a local quartet, and in the midst of a fund-raiser for a trip to a much anticipated international competition.  Not only did we enjoy great music, and a yummy dinner, but Kelsey won not one, but two baskets in the raffle (back to back, even more amusingly).  

Despite the organization, and the overall ease of the week, we were still swamped, and it hit me hard on Sunday.  While a friend watched Nicholas on Friday so I could get a much-needed massage, it is still very hard being "on" 24 hours a day.  I realized we all needed a break, and kept our activities to a walk to the movies, a light home-made pesto dish for dinner, and Cait attending the first of her CCD classes.

IMG_1213 Monday and Tuesday passed quickly, and before we knew it, Peter was pulling up in the shuttle Tuesday afternoon.  He was gone 15 minutes later, as Kelsey had soccer, but he was home all the same.  Though here it is a few days later, and I keep thinking he will leave any minute.  It seems as though I almost fell back into my Virginia self, forgetting that he normally doesn't travel (that much), and that he won't be gone again for a while. So, he is back, we are together, and quite enjoying family time. It's a crazy life sometimes, but I think anything less would simply not be for us.  And, now, perhaps, a nap.


May 30, 2008

Young Diplomat, Nicholas Q. Dinoia

We had a special visitor to the Embassy today and, yes, Peter was quite busy with this visit.  I think you can probably guess who it was, but if not, the photo below gives a little more insight. 

Nicky Quinn was dressed to the nines in a new outfit for the occasion and was on his best behavior.  He even rated a special mention by name from the Ambassador as the youngest member of the Embassy community.  We were all quite honored and he showed his appreciation by with his usual calm demeanor, as displayed below.   DSC_0087