Monday, March 9, 2015

February 2015

The social swirl
—Super Bowl Sunday: We kicked the month off in style with a mini Super Bowl party at our house — just us and the Carneys. The kids played and ran around and watched stuff on the living room TV (the book cases etc. were finished JUST that week!! So we could move the couches back in there), while we grownups drank beer and ate amazingly bad-for-us food and watched the game on the movie screen. It was the most fun SB Sunday we’ve had in years!
—Vilma’s Valentine party: Another little impromptu party at Vilma’s, with us and Alana’s family invited after school on the Friday before. The kids are all at a really good place, where they’re actually playing instead of just fighting over dumb stuff, so all seven of them had a good time while we moms drank coffee and talked.
—Valensauce: We talked Mike & Heather into hosting Sauce on Valentine’s Day, and while Sauce is never not fun, this one was one of those where we never quite got it together; the kids did not go to bed (and woke up at the stroke of 6:00 a.m.), our drummer became incapacitated way, way early; and there were various other momentum-killers that kept putting us off our rhythm. Time for a do-over — without the kids, next time. 
Days with Lukas
—Preschool search 2015: This month, we made several preschool visits, trying to find the right one. I narrowed it down to three, and took him with me on tours. The first one was great and wonderful … and had an 18-month waiting list. The second was kind of meh — it was OK, but not markedly different from AppleSeed, which Annika is ever more vehement against. The third, Discovery Years, seemed like a good fit — clean and bright, with warm & kind teachers, and a huge outdoor play area with a big, clean sand pit, lots of natural shade, and stuff to climb on. After R. toured both alone, we agreed that was the winner for now; it’s not very “academic,” but for his first little while in preschool, it was a good choice. He’ll start MWF, 9-3, on March 2.
—Potty training: We finally, FINALLY got some traction with getting this kid trained. He is willing — and loves to earn his Oreos as a reward for #2 — but he will almost never think to go on his own. He’ll stay dry all day if you remind him he needs to go. Someday we’re just gonna have to put him in underpants and deal with the consequences, but for now, this is real progress.
—Lukas and the muddy puddle: After some rain over a weekend, we went to pick up Annika on Monday, and there was a giant puddle of water on the blacktop. Annika, Vilma, Vaatu, Niamh and Lawson all skirted the puddle, but Lukas ran right to the center of it, splashing in with both feet. He got himself soaked to the waist, and the other kids got splashed if they went within 15 feet of him — I tried to stop him on approach, but he was too fast, and after that first splashdown, there was really no point, so I let him play, the little maniac. He loved it!
Annika's Superstar Week
Annika’s name was drawn from the jar at long last, so one week this month was her very own Superstar Week at school. She had to make a poster over the weekend (All About Me), on which she listed and illustrated the arctic fox as her favorite animal,  “gymnastics” as her favorite thing to do, “ice skater” as what she wants to be when she grows up, and “home” as her favorite place to be (awww!). She did 100% of her own work for the other things: the estimation jar (121 sequins in a baby food jar), the sneaky sharing clues (the superstar brings a sharing item each day, with three clues — she wanted to stump the class every time, and almost did — one kid guessed correctly one day, which made her cry after school), etc. The cutest thing was that she (well, I) brought Lukas in for her sharing one day; the clues were that he “could be noisy,” was “smaller than me” and was “from California.” LOL! He was shy at first, when we came in — all those kids, sitting cross legged on the carpet! — but soon warmed up and even did some singing for their entertainment pleasure. On Friday, to help her with the comedown from being Superstar, I took the two of them to an ice cream store in Willow Glen; it was rainy, which, since we were the only ones in the place, was apparently the perfect time to spend an afternoon eating ice cream. 
Our friends Anne & Kevin — Grace & Sean’s parents — invited us to share a vacation house in Tahoe with them over the girls’ winter break (Presidents’ Day week, aka in California, “ski week”). So we dug out our old ski stuff, borrowed and bought gear for the kids, and drove to what Lukas kept calling “Ta-HOE.” There was a truly unnerving lack of snow — 60-degree days, continuing drought, and nothing but a dusting way high on the tips of the tallest mountains, and only a few resorts had even any manmade snow. But we did find some of that manmade stuff, and the first full day, the kids got to do some inner-tube sledding, which was a thrill for them. We signed Annika & Lukas up for these half-hour one-on-one ski lessons (ski rentals included — it was a great deal for an intro lesson!), and they both did GREAT. We were really surprised how well they both took to it — Annika didn’t even get mad and stomp off and cry when she (inevitably) fell! Next time, we’ll get them a half-day lesson (assuming there’s any snow, ugh). The next day, we went up to Northstar and rode the “gondolon” (Lukas’s phrasing) up the mountain, where they had a snow play area — we threw snowballs, the kids made snow angels and a snow fort — it was fun! Then after lunch, Annika and I and Kevin and Grace went ice skating at Northstar’s “village” while Anne & Sean watched and R. and Lukas went back to the snow play area. Once again, Annika really got it — no buckets, no quitting when she fell, just a lot of hard work and smiles. We were out there for two hours without complaint from her! We none of us got any sleep (Lukas on a pallet in the room with R. and I, Annika and Grace sharing a double bed in the same room with Sean, who can be a fractious waker), but it was a really good time with friends, and we’re looking forward to trying it again. 

Quotable Kids
—Lukas, when I find “Uptown Funk” on Sirius: “That’s our JAM!!!”
—Girl Scout cookies, per Lukas: “thinamints”
—Annika, re: the song “Turning Japanese”: “I imagine the guy singing this looks like Vilma’s dad. With sunglasses up on his head.”
—Lukas, asking me to send a pic of him with a toy to Uncle Jake: “I want to show Uncle Jake my stretchy awien!” [alien]
—Lukas, telling the same story over and over like a drunk at a dive bar: “When I was a wittle boy, I swipped on a weave and fell down." [slipped on a leaf]

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

January 2015

Things and whatnot
—My birthday:
My 41st was a great opportunity to not cook, to get a delicious chocolate mousse cake, and to get presents after dinner with the fam. Not a milestone birthday, but a good one nonetheless.
—Kyle reappears: After some 10+ years without seeing each other, we got a visit from Kyle, R.’s friend from all the way back in 3rd grade. He met the kids, showed us all pictures of his own, and went out to dinner with R. and I in downtown San Ho. It was really, really good to see him and catch up on each other’s lives, and we hope it’s not nearly that long will we get together again.
—Ian and Kusum visit: Months ago, Kusum had the great idea to put something on the calendar for the middle of January for us all to hang out, so we did, and it actually worked! Their family came down from Marin, we enjoyed some beautiful midwinter weather (out in the play structure, and walking in the park), and had a fantastic dinner (Kusum’s pav bhaji + some adult beverages and my homemade cookies). Excellent day all around. 
Home and school
—100 Days Smarter:
Annika’s school makes a big deal out of “100 Day,” aka the 100th day of classes. For her 100-Day project, she chose to make an Elsa (from Frozen) on a poster board and draw one hundred snowflakes with glitter glue. It was 100% her idea, and so original! I helped with the execution (bought felt and tulle for the dress at Michael’s, suggested marking the locations of the 100 snowflakes with pencil first, etc.), but she was the GC, foreman and journeyman worker of the entire project. Awesome!
—“Guys working”: Lukas, still fascinated by the crews of “guys working” (STILL) in our house, spent some time one morning hiding around the corner of the living room and popping out with a roar to scare the cabinet installers. They loved it, and played along till we left. He talked about scaring the “guys working” all day long.
—Another lost tooth: Annika lost her 8th (we think?) tooth this month — one of the front left ones that was getting crowded out by her new permanent teeth. The Tooth Fairy did her thing, and she got to share about it at school, so she was happy.

Quotable Kids
—Annika, dismissively, re: flower allergies:
”I’ve been smelling flowers [and not being allergic to them] for 53 years."
—Lukas, the backseat DJ: “Mommy, put dat 'Wed it go' song on the radio when we get back in the car again, OK?"
—Lukas, note-perfectly bossy at dinnertime, to Annika: “Honey, eat your tweat."
—Lukas, asking sweetly in a whisper for a treat he knows he won’t get: “Mommy, I want to tell you something into your ear.”

Friday, January 23, 2015

December 2014

Holiday spice potpourri
So after three years of basically no rain at all, we got a genuine storm system this month. I had no rain gear at all, and none of us had shoes fit for the weather, so we all got actual rain boots (and I got a jacket). The kids were SO EXCITED to stomp around in their boots; Lukas forded an absolutely enormous puddle that almost came up over the tops of his! One cold and rainy Friday afternoon, I busted out the retro Santa Claus mugs and we all had hot chocolate in the warm and cozy house — perfect.
—Lukas is obsessed with ghosts: Pretty much every kiddie show they watch has at least one ghost-centric episode, and for some reason, Lukas wants to watch those episodes over and over. He pretends to be a ghost, puts stuff on his head and says “ooooooooooohhhh! I’m a GHOST!”, etc. What’s extra funny is, Annika is as scared of ghosts as Lukas is enamored of them, so he has to do all this when she’s not around. 
—Lukas loves games: The kid has figured out board games, and pulls several down any chance he gets. His favorites are Sequence and Candyland, but once he gets going, he will play every game in the dang closet if you’ll let him. 
Christmasy Goodness
—Family holiday party at Brianna’s:
The whole family was invited to a big holiday party at the home of one of Annika’s classmates, and we all had a great time — there was a magician for the kids, beer for the grownups, etc. It was basically just around the corner from us, too — bonus!
—School field trip: I went on the school bus with Annika’s class to Campbell (the same theater where her dance recitals are) to see a play — something with elves and cobblers and whatever. The kids loved it; I, ahh … tolerated it. Heh.
—Getting and decorating the tree: In early December, we went looking for a tree. The first lot we visited, where we’d gone last year, was a bust, so we drove around and sort of stumbled upon another, where we struck gold within about 30 seconds — Annika spotted a winner right away! Brought it home, stood it up, got it decorated … and that part was hilarious, because Annika is now old enough to do it right, but Lukas mainly got underfoot and/or hung stuff all in one 8-inch radius on the front lower branches — classic! 
—Advent calendars: I can’t believe I remembered to do this BEFORE December started, but I did pick up a couple of those inexpensive cardboard Advent calendars for the kids at CostPlus back in November. The kids, of course, treated each day’s advent calendar opening with the reverence and enthusiasm of Christmas Day itself — I had to let them get at their little chocolate squares immediately after breakfast or I’d get trampled trying to hold ‘em off.
—“Christmas Eve Gift!”: This year, the annual Hilton Christmas tradition of “getting” your family first went thusly: It was a tie between R. and I, the kids both got me, and R. got both kids; I got Aunt L., and Uncle J. got me (via text).
—The big day: On Christmas Eve, we hung the stockings and put out a plate of cookies for Santa, and the kids got to bed relatively quickly for fear of Santa seeing them still awake and just driving on past our house. R. and I mixed some White Russians, wrapped the remaining hundred thousand presents with help from the grandparents, then watched A Christmas Story (again). The next morning, the kids woke up not too horribly early and started shrieking when they peered down the stairs and saw that Santa had been by after all. We let them open a few presents, got the turkey into the oven, and then opened the rest — and of course the kids were out of their minds with joy. Kinetic sand, PAW Patrol stuff, a thousand Hot Wheels (and miles of track), Anna and Elsa costumes, a telescope — there’s barely a thing left on any shelf in America after our kids got it all, ha! We managed a damn good Christmas dinner, too — bless us, every one!
—Hot Wheels and cookies with the cousins: A couple days after Christmas, we got the whole gang together at our place for cookies (like 9 different kinds, made by Aunt A.) and hanging out. The kids played with Hot Wheels and all the other new presents, and a good time was had by all. 
Annika the Observant
We’ve had our hairs done at the salon in Los Gatos and are getting back in the car. She watches a pair of teenage girls walk by, sipping from their Starbucks cups. She asks, “Are those high school teenager girls?” I say yes, and ask how she knew that. “Those are the kind of shoes that all high school age of girls wear — those brown boots with the fur on top. Gio’s sister always wears those.” She means Uggs, and Gio’s sister — Gio is a classmate from last year, whose 17-year-old sister picked him up from school every day and did indeed wear the teen girl fashions of the moment. Kid doesn’t miss a trick, does she? 
The Quotable Lukas
—“my kachow car”
The little toy Owen Wilson/main character car (it’s called Lightning McQueen) that he has, from the movie Cars, which he hasn’t seen but is on the brushing app in a little animation that has him zooming onto the screen, revving the engine, and saying “Ka-chow!”
—“Is it Cwismas today?” His question of December, and into January.
—“Did Santa Cwaus come and giff me pwesents wast night?” ditto
—“Make the wights come on!” His order to me and/or Annika each morning, to turn on the Christmas tree lights.
—“Grandpa, you're my best fwend!” Declaration to the Old Man while they were playing trains one afternoon.
—“Hey, that's Uncle Jake!” Pointing to a picture of an out-of-uniform Derek Jeter on the cover of his new book, a Christmas present to Grandpa from us.
—“My got! To wook at space!" In pleased wonder on seeing Annika's new telescope.
—“It's eighteen four, can I have my tweet now?” In response to me putting time limits on how often they can dig into their Christmas treat stash (I’d said “no more treats till 10:30 a.m.” or something like that).
Bad terribleness
My mother, the kids’ Mamalah, died unexpectedly on December 21. I don’t have the heart to write about it again, but for posterity and by way of explanation, here is what I wrote to our friends the day it happened. 

My mom's COPD, which is incurable except by lung transplant, was chronic but manageable, and during our weeklong Thanksgiving visit, she seemed better than we've seen in awhile. In early December, as I told you, she was in the hospital for it, but never really felt better, and nevertheless was released after a few days. This week, she took a sudden turn for the worse, and my other relatives and her friends -- against mom's specific wishes -- notified us kids and called us to get here asap. I arrived at 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning, had the day (during which she was non responsive and laboring for breath), stayed with her through a very long night, and was with her when she passed this morning at 7:30 a.m. We'll have the funeral tomorrow. My poor sister was en route home from Japan but arrived here this afternoon; everyone else was already here. We are well supported by a veritable army of relatives and friends. Annika and Lukas, thank Shatner, are safe at home in California with daddy and the grandparents. I’ll be home midday on Tuesday the 23rd, so I can still have Christmas with the family.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

November 2014

Lukas is THREE!
—This was the first year he was able to understand that he was a year older — he went around telling everyone “I’m three!” with his carefully splayed-out thumb, index and middle fingers extended. So cute! With the little guy not in preschool, there wasn’t a class party to have, so we threw him a birthday bash at home … as much as we could, without access to the kitchen or even electricity that day (due to construction ongoing — see below). I had planned to make him his special cake with no egg or milk, but instead bought him his choice of the vegan cupcakes at Whole Foods (with a 4-pack of regular ones for the rest of us added in). We had a family dinner, and then presents presents presents: Tons of cars, things Spider-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a stuffed Chase (from PAW Patrol — this one is the police pup), many kinds of balls, and a Dinosaur/Car? transformer type thingy. He was so excited to rip open each one, and thrilled with the contents — very three, very Lukas, all awesome. :-)
—Three-year checkup: We went the day before his actual birthday. Stellar marks all around, in spite of his crying and thrashing in fear at going to the very nice doctor’s office (I wasn’t able to convince him there would be no shots). He’s still in the low 40’s for his weight percentile, but suddenly is in the 72nd for height — which makes sense, considering how none of his pants from last year are long enough anymore! I took him to Garret Station for a nutritious lunch of french fries and ketchup to celebrate.

Renovation rodeo
—This month, we finally got started on the living-room reno project we’ve been planning since we moved in.
The fireplace people said they were coming November 4, so we had to move quickly: Get every stick of furniture and every piece of crap from the shelves moved elsewhere, donated, stashed, or thrown away.  Our GC, Dennis Chivers, came with a couple of helpers to demolish the shelving, saw off those awful spindles, and open up the wall. The stone/fireplace guys came the next day to build the new fireplace and put in the gas insert. The electricians came to upgrade the panel, put in lighting, re-do and add outlets, etc. We got a utility sink in the garage, where they tore out those stupid hockey lockers. So basically: There wasn’t a day this month that wasn’t filled with “guys” (which of course fascinated both the kids — Lukas would excitedly yell “Are dere guys here today???” in the morning, and Annika would inspect their work and tell them approvingly, “Good job!”). The former movie room now holds all of our couches and coffee tables and the rug and TV, which makes it look like people live here (as opposed to it being a squat for boxcar hobos). We eat at the dining table, which is covered with a vinyl cloth, and sit in the good chairs, which are swathed in bath towels I bought months ago for just this purpose. I had to move out of the kitchen as well, because of the most marvelous thing of all the reno happening: tearing out that bank of fluorescents (and their hummmm) and getting real lighting! It’s amazing and I love it so much … but for awhile there, I was feeding everyone nothing but takeout (that gets less fun by about the fourth or fifth day). Now we’re just waiting for the built-ins to get built, and the floor to be installed … and meanwhile, the fireplace is a wonder and a beauty and is going to be awesome to hang the Christmas stockings from. 
Lukas starts swim lessons!
Now that he’s three and I’m no longer required by AVAC to be in the pool with him, I signed Lukas up for swim lessons; he goes Thursday morning at 10:00, right after my workout (9-9:45). His first session, with Mr. Zach, went great — he got right into the pool, played well with the other kids (twin girls, about 3.5 years old), and even put his face in the water! He’s very excited to be doing such a big-kid thing, and wants to learn to swim “All by myself!” 
Annika’s world
She can ride a two-wheeler with no training wheels!  On Nov. 9, we were all home and it was a lovely day, so I suggested we go to the school, which has a newly-redone, smooth, huge blacktop, to let Lukas scooter around like a maniac and have Annika work on her riding skills. I had a feeling she was ready to do it — she saw her pal Alana riding training-wheel-free, she’d gotten super-confident on the scooter (and gained those balancing skills), and was plenty strong enough to power a bike, so it was worth a try. And so we did: a few laps with the training wheels; a few laps with no training wheels and no pedals, just scooching along on foot power; and finally, the real deal! At first, R. or I ran alongside her, holding on to the handlebars and steadying her, but she quickly got the feel for it and took off on her own! Wheeeeeeee! She spent the rest of the time figuring out braking, and the takeoff, plus working on her steering, but the girl has it DOWN. We all went out to lunch at the diner afterward to celebrate — pancakes for lunch! That’s my girl.
—First Parent/Teacher Conference with Mrs. Casey: Of course it went smashingly! Mrs. Casey had tons of stuff to show us (work, testing, etc.), provided lots more information than Mr. Ford did, told us she absolutely loves having Annika in class, etc. We also found out she’s reading at grade level 4.6 (as in, halfway through fourth grade), and discussed what to get her to read; at a certain point, the reading level is correct, but the content is too old. What a problem to have! Heh.
—Learning cartwheels: Apparently the kids are doing cartwheels on the playground, so Annika’s been working her butt off to try and do them. At first, they were more like side-wheels, but with her full attention and effort (because she does not do things any other way), they’re getting good! 
Yo Gabba Gabba Live!
So … we got tickets months ago and went to the matinee the day before we were leaving for Texas, and this time, R. and I officially liked it better than they did. Heh. Lukas liked the songs, and got excited to see the gang (“Dat’s PWEX!!”), but wasn’t really psyched for it overall, and Annika was entiiiiiirely over it, concerned only with what snax Dad would buy her and when she could gather more of the streamers and confetti being shot from the stage. Ahh, well … it was a good run. 
We decided to go to Mamalah’s for Thanksgiving week this year, so we flew out the Saturday before — just in time to hit a rainstorm in DFW. Uncle J. picked us up, then took us to his house for a brief rest & to see Aunt J., then loaned us his 4Runner for the week (a huge help to us!). We hit Cabela’s on the way to Decatur to get a couple of aero-beds — Lukas still needs confinement, and Annika’s in a scaredy phase where she doesn’t want to sleep alone or in the full dark, especially in strange places, so we knew we’d have to all sleep in the guest bedroom together (despite the presence of two excellent daybeds in the living room). The first night, we were so exhausted, R. and I went to bed at 8:15 p.m. (aka 6:15 p.m. California time), as soon as we finished our feast from Casa Torres, and slept straight through. The next day was the S. Family annual Thanksgiving — they have theirs the Sunday before, so all the multitudinous children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are able to come together without conflicting engagements elsewhere). We piled in J.’s car and drove the quarter-mile across the S. property to their house, where there was food, folks, and fun — R. and I spent time with J&J, my cousins, Uncle R. & Aunt E., and Mamalah; R. had about a two-hour conversation with Uncle B.; and the kids were in free-range heaven: Lukas bombing around on a scooter in the garage while a Ping-Pong tournament raged, Annika hiking the property with 11-year-old cousin Ana (encountering horses, wild turkeys, cute dogs, and such). It was a mellow, fun week — early to bed most days, enjoying the local cuisine (Casa Torres! Sweetie Pie’s! Gogo Gumbo with J&J & Mamalah!), taking long walks on the farm around the house (and chucking rocks into the stock pond), playing with Mamalah’s dog (Henry), fighting over this one rolly chair, making an epic trip to Wal-Mart to get supplies for the big day, etc. We did go far afield once: to the Perot Museum, in Dallas — there were dinosaurs and all kinds of kid-friendly exhibits — it was a really cool place. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, R. and I cooked the traditional favorites while Mamalah and Annika crafted a groovy turkey centerpiece and Lukas bombed around getting in the way (as is his wont). Heh. Everything came out great, and we timed it so well that we were still able to get a walk in the gold afternoon light before sundown. Friday, we had a few hours’ visit from my old friend Amanda F. (now C.) and her husband Drew and 6-year-old daughter Audrey — we had such a good time together, and the girls played spies the whole time (now each requests to see the other one, “My new friend A.”). Saturday morning we were off again, very sorry to leave Mamalah (Lukas asked “Can Mamalah come wiff us?” Awwww!), but ready to sleep in our own beds once more. 

The Quotable Lukas
= croutons
—“I am starting route on: Spider Man.” This he said when we were in the car, trying to figure out our route somewhere with the iPhone’s map app. Hilarity! 

21 Things My Kid Said About Me

Ask your kids these questions and see what answers they come up with. It's a very enlightening experience.

ANNIKA (about Mommy), DECEMBER 2014

1. What is something I always say to you? I love you!

2. What makes you (Annika) happy? When it’s near Christmastime!

3. What makes you (Annika) sad? Nothing!

4. How do I make you laugh? Doing your dances. 

5. What do you think I was like as a child? Creative.

6. How old am I? 40

7. How tall am I? average

8. What is my favorite thing to do? Read! Of course. 

9. What do I do when you're not around? Go to the store.

10. If I become famous, what will it be for? Drawing!

11. What am I really good at? Reading. 

12. What am I not really good at? Getting only one thing at the supermarket — you always get into a big shop and you get like a thousand things.

13. What is my job? Taking care of us. 

14. What is my favorite food? Sour pickles.

15. What makes you proud of me? Helping me spell things. 

16. If I were a cartoon character, who would I be? A magical alcorn!

17. What do you and I do together? Go shopping, go to school (I mean you take me to school).

18. How are we the same? We’re both creative. 

19. How are you and I different? I have blonde hair and you have brown hair. 

20. How do you know that I love you? Cause you say it all the time!

21. Where is my favorite place to go? Hawaii!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

October 2014

Annika is SEVEN!
—The big day
: As is now the custom, I decorated her place at the dining table with streamers (blue this year) and put a little present there for breakfast. She woke up early and was super-excited to get cranking on the birthday fun. At school, she declined to be recognized during “Movin’ and Groovin,” her most hated school activity (led for all the first graders by Mrs. W, about whom: more below), and otherwise had a fantastic day being the special birthday kid. At home, she and I got right to the important task of baking her cake, which this year was a round two-layer cake with a gigantic number “7” on it in blue sanding sugar. We all ate her favorite meal for dinner: spaghetti with butter & cheese. Afterward, she opened presents, which included: tickets to Disney on Ice (for her and for me, two Saturdays later), Goldie Blox, Lego Friends, iTunes cards (for apps), walkie-talkies, a magic kit, and a Kidizoom watch (which takes videos and has games on it).
—The party: Earlier in the year we’d thought of having her party at home, but because we thought we might have construction going on (turned out, it started a little later, in November), we looked for a new fun place to have her party: Color Me Mine, which has a new location in the mall near us. She kept the guest list to 14, which made a full table of kids (including Lukas), and everyone loved the unique idea of it. Going with her requested “undersea” theme, I ordered her  a special cake from a local bakery with a mermaid and a cute hammerhead shark on it, and made a banner for the wall at Color Me Mine. Hilariously and awfully, we showed up late to our own party — three of her guests were already there, probably wondering if they were at the wrong place … but it worked out fine, and with help from the other parents (and especially my friend Anne), we got it all done and a good time was had by all!
— 7 year checkup: She’s almost 49 inches tall (she’s really shot up this year), and her eyesight is as sharp as ever. She was able to get the inhalable flu vaccine, so no shots, and was very good at helping Lukas get past his shrieking, gibbering fear of same so he could get his inhalable flu vaccine at the same time. Yay for big sisters! 
Lukas Life
—Lukas knows his left and right:
I’m not sure how he picked this up, but he has — and he can even choose correctly on a person who is facing him (i.e. reverse it). Wow!
—He’s into superheroes and Buzz Lightyear: The little guy has figured out, through cultural osmosis, all the superheroes from Spider-Man to Iron Man, plus all the ones in the Pixar universe (mostly for movies/TV he’s never seen). He’s forever talking about “punching out bad guys” and trying to fix in his mind who is a bad guy and who is a good guy.
—Monster in the morning: Lukas putters around by himself in his crib for awhile in the morning, but when somebody goes into his room to fetch him out, he crouches down behind the crib bars and then pops up, going “Raaaaahhhhrr!” You’re supposed to pretend to be scared of the “monster” (or dragon, or dinosaur, etc.), and then, relieved, say “Oh, whew, it’s just Lukas! I was so scared!” or whatever.
—The thing with him and opening the front door: He’ll get to the front door first and block it, telling me “You can’t do it, but [whatever he’s holding or wearing, e.g. stretchy alien, the car on his shirt, a handful of stickers, Buzz Lightyear] can!” You’re supposed to unlock it, then let him (or it) press the handle down and shove the door open. 
Family field trip
We don’t get out a lot as a family, but when prompted, it’s often epic: Our friend Ian has a new children’s book out, and invited us to his launch party at a bookstore in Marin. We accepted, and made the 1.5 hour drive up there. We all had a great time (at the reading and at the running-around-the-store afterwards); Ian and Kusum’s son, Theo, had a school friend there, who got an eyeful of Annika and said to him, “How do you know HER?” hah! They invited us to their house afterward for some celebratory champagne, which we had while the kids ran around some more. Then we headed home, stopping in to our old stomping grounds, Celia’s Mexican Restaurant in Daly City, for some takeout (we even got to visit briefly with our old friend Miriam, who was often our waitress in those long hangouts of a Saturday or Sunday afternoon). When we finally got to our house, Uncle P. and Cousin Sonic were there to greet us, as they were on the run from Cousin A.’s slumber party back at their house. So it was a long day and a late night, but epic fun!
School stuff
—The 9/11 book incident:
Annika somewhat elliptically revealed to me one night that about a month ago, a substitute teacher in her class, having read them a book about Philippe Petit (the guy who walked on a wire between the two WTC buildings in 1974), had told them all about 9/11 (including such choice details as 3,000 people dying, people falling or jumping from the buildings, the pilots crashing into the building on purpose — which I had to amend to the bad guys threw the pilots out and they crashed the planes on purpose, etc.). SO. R. and I were beyond furious. He went to the principal the very next morning, and managed not to yell at the guy (who was, to his credit, properly appalled), and the whole thing grew into a string of emails between us, the principal, her teacher, and the sub — who defended herself on grounds of 1) she’s been teaching for 46 years and is beloved there, and 2) she didn’t say that stuff, which of course was bullshit. We didn't want Annika to be in any class taught by this woman, and actually kept Annika out of school one day when we knew she was going to be the substitute. Finally, there was a meeting with all five of us, at which we were eventually satisfied that they acknowledged that the whole situation was messed up and told us how they’d plan not to have something like this again. Annika dislikes the sub on general principles (she says she treats the first-graders like babies, the highest possible offense!), but as far as we know, is unaware of all the kerfuffle — so we got that going for us.
—Red Ribbon Week: My god, what a nightmare for my kid who only wears blue and does not own sports-related clothing … this was a theme week about “making healthy choices,” and there was some sort of special attire “suggested” every day. I spent HOURS and DOLLARS on trying to get her kitted out correctly, only to have her scream and cry and berate me — for the yellow-striped shirt on “black and yellow” day that had GRAAAAAAAAAYYYY IN IT (she ended up wearing the black velvet dress that was the base of her Halloween costume); for the SF Giants shirt on “sports/team attire” day — the literal only SF Giants shirt in Target — that was TOO BIG AND YOU ALWAYS GET ME CLOTHES THAT ARE TOO BIG (she wore the velvet dress again, with a uniform skirt over the bottom half); for the “wear all red” day (she hasn’t a stitch of red, which is clearly my own personal evil and intentional fault) …. Next time, I’m letting her outfit herself, or not, and I’m not getting anywhere near it.
—Dandy Day: This was a triumph all around! Her school has one big fundraiser, a walk-a-thon and silent auction called Dandy Day — that covers most of their “extras,” such as science lab, music, art, computers, etc. She solicited donations from the family (and I put it on Facebook), and wow, did she earn that money! She walked 37 laps — which I’m told is nearly 11 miles, the latter half with a huge blister on her left instep (by the end, she was just gutting through it, really in pain, but refusing to stop), and ended up earning $420 (thanks, Uncle J., for the $5 per lap pledge!). She bragged to everyone about how much money she earned for the school, and was thrilled to get a special “Paws” medal for raising more than $300; her class even got the first grade’s “Golden Shoe” award for most money raised. She’s already talking about next year, and how much more she’s going to walk. Look out!
App Crazy
So Annika noticed at the dentist that there’s a free app you can download from Oral-B toothbrushes, where you scan your Licensed Character Oral-B toothbrush on your iPad and it plays a timer for 2 minutes, gradually revealing a picture from a Licensed Disney or Pixar Property, after which you get a virtual sticker to add to a virtual album. Simple, yeah? IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN BOTH KIDS’ LIVES. I’m only kidding by a very, very little bit here. The fights, the elbowing, the screaming if one of them pushes the start button on the other’s profile — it is NUTS. It does get them to brush for a full two minutes, morning and night, but … we’re starting to wonder if it’s worth the ag. 
Halloween, the most wonderful day of a kid’s year!
—The costumes:
Annika went through fewer ideas than you’d think; if Halloween were in May, she might’ve gone as Frozen’s Queen Elsa, but by late summer she was pretty well fixed on being a black cat — specifically black, such is her orthodoxy in matters Halloween. But she wanted to wear a dress, so I searched the internet for a garment of the correct length and coloration, finally hitting the jackpot with a black stretchy-velvet skater dress from American Apparel; bought a size too big, it was the proper length for milady, and she was thrilled with it. She had a tail from some cheap kit she’d gotten me to buy her at Michael’s a month ago, but the glittery kitty mask from that kit wasn’t any good — it was flat, with no nose indention, and some of the sequins were missing. So I found a plain black mask with the nose thing, and got black and silver glitter, plus some whiskers and a hot glue gun to affix them to the mask. We mod-podged the glitter on, I hot-glued the whiskers — mask sorted. Then, the matter of claws: I bought a pair of black gloves and a pair of black jazz shoes (this at Prima Dancewear, heh), and drew claws on both with a silver paint pen. She loved the whole ensemble, and she was definitely the cutest, most ladylike black cat in Halloweendom. Lukas, in his first year of real Halloween eligibility, was all over the place in his costume plans — Spider-Man, doggy, Iron Man, Dora (and friends), Spider-Man dragon — but then got specific and definite: red dinosaur. He stuck with that for two weeks, so I finally went ahead and searched — and darned if there wasn’t a red dinosaur costume on sale at Pottery Barn Kids! Amazing. Ordered it, it fit, he loved it — win! He was quite happy to wear the headpiece (some kids won’t wear stuff on their heads), and the glove-claws that came with it — he was committed to doing this all the way. Cutest little red dinosaur in the Anthropocene Era!
—The costume parade at school: It hadn’t rained in three years, but the forecasts were 100% for rain on Halloween, so there was some doubt the school costume parade would be held outside. The weather cooperated, though, and had the added benefit of moving things along a little faster than last year. There were, predictably, tons of Elsas and Annas, but a lot of fun stuff too (my favorite, besides Annika, was a third-grader with a stuffed tiger — Calvin and Hobbes!). Lukas was super excited, yelling and pointing as he spotted several "Iwon Man"s, Captain America, "box guy” (a kid with some sort of box around him — I think Minecraft-related), “blue guy” (a kid in an all-blue one-piece unitard that covered everything, including his/her head — not sure what that was supposed to be), etc. Tons of fun, and just so friggin cute all around.
—Halloween night: We decided to stay local this year, and scored an invitation to Annika’s friend Niamh’s house for dinner and group trick-or-treating. Rain had fallen in the afternoon and was still threatening, but there was no more than a mist in the air by the time we finished dinner, and trick-or-treating was ON. We parents walked their neighborhood, which is one of big, holiday-decorated houses, with to-go cups of adult beverages, while the kids ran house to house. Lawson and Lukas held hands pretty much the entire time (gaaaaaaaahhh so cute!!! him running, holding hands, with that dinosaur tail wagging behind him!). When the kids declared themselves done, we adjourned to Niamh’s house, where the adults stood around the kitchen with wine and the kids ate a ton of their candy haul and ran around like maniacs till about 9:00. The next day, we broke our usual rules and let Annika & Lukas eat candy more or less all day long — Halloween is but once a year!

The Quotable Lukas
—“This wowipop tastes like swazzberry!”
(His approving commentary on a grape sucker he was eating.)
—“Woo-wee" (aka Woody, from Toy Story)

Monday, November 3, 2014

September 2014

Social butterflies
—Lawson the BFF: Thanks to my new fitness blogging gig, Lukas and I are at AVAC several mornings a week, which means we see a lot more of Annika’s friend Niamh’s younger brother Lawson (because that’s where their mom works out too). Lawson is nearly a year older than Lukas, but the two of them get along like a house afire — every time I see them, they’re bombing around like maniacs, jumping off of stuff, flying “Iwon Man” around, etc. Lukas loves to go to the “new, new gym” to see “Wawson,” which is just the cutest thing ever! 
—Epic weekend: Other people have jam-packed weekends all the time, but we always prefer not to … but sometimes, a jam-packed weekend happens anyway. One this month started on Friday afternoon with a playdate with Cayli (her pal from last year, who is now her best friend in Mrs. Casey’s class), transitioning into an evening with the cousins (while Aunt A. & Uncle P. were on a date night), in which most of the time was dedicated to poetry and songs about farts. The next day, we took a family trip to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk; we got there earlier than last time, and had the place practically to ourselves for awhile — the kids just rode rides nonstop, and Annika even went on the kiddie roller coaster with me (which she found terrifying but said she wanted to do again next time). Then on Sunday, we went to the Almaden Art and Wine Festival, walking over to the park with the jogging stroller nice and early. Annika & Lukas both went nuts in the bouncy houses — ever braver about the bigger, taller slides and such — and Lukas spent about an hour at the Little Gym area (with gymnastics equipment, springboards, wedges, balance beams, etc.). I’ll be getting him into a Little Gym class as soon as he’s old enough to do it without my participation (after his birthday). Afterward, we went home, had lunch, and spent the rest of the day in the pool — a relaxing end to a nonstop weekend.
—Jason’s party: Annika’s friend Jason Lee invited her to his birthday party, which was at a wall-climbing facility in downtown San Jose. I thought she might like climbing, and she was pretty keen to try it, but when her turn came, she got about three feet up the wall, and declared herself done. She didn’t like the “height,” and I think it was also a little harder than she thought it would be to find the toeholds; even though she was in harness with an experienced belayer, she didn’t feel stable. Some of the kids were the same, but some just scampered to the ceiling (e.g. Vilma — it was nuts!). Annika tried again, this time getting about 18 inches up the wall before calling it for good. I was proud of her for trying it that second time, even though it terrified her, and for knowing when she had reached her limit — that takes guts, too! She spent the rest of the time running around the place with her buddies, so it ended up being a fun time anyway.
—Fall break week: At the end of the month, school was out for a week. We had no plans to go anywhere, so we did a mix of fun, local things: A group playdate at Alana's (us, Vilma’s fam, and Alana’s), to which Annika brought a set of SpyPhones, customized for each kid; a family trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which both kids LOVED (and which ended in them getting souvenirs: a shark truck for Lukas and a giant plush hammerhead shark — soon named Emily — for Annika; her little buddy Brianna's birthday party, a Friday-evening drop-off affair which Lukas pretty much crashed for the first 15 minutes (the little brother is a pal of his from school pick-up; they both like Yo Gabba Gabba!, Spider-Man, and cars of all kinds). 
School and extracurriculars
—Mad Science: Annika wanted to do this after-school thing called Mad Science, especially because the current 8-week class is NASA-branded and space themed. They’re learning about planets, stars, space travel, rockets, space stations, the whole bit, and Annika loves it! That’s my little explorer/engineer!
—Piano: Another after-school class, in which an outfit called Joyful Melodies brings a bunch of keyboards and teaches a group piano lesson. She wanted to do it, so we signed her up — and then found out both Vilma and Niamh are in it, too! This is great all around — I’m not sure how much piano she’s learning (most of her stories tend to involve the antics of a 4th-grader named Victor), but she loves it, and it’s on Tuesdays so I don’t have that weird early-release thing to contend with (she walks over to the classroom it’s in with Vilma, making her pick-up time the usual 3:00), plus Lukas gets to play with “Wawson" and Vaatu while we wait for class to end.
—One rainy day: The three-year drought continues, but one glorious day, it rained — and the kids both ran around acting like my friend April Marks (from Daly City) did during that first snow our freshman year at Columbia — yelling, laughing, shrieking, singing little made-up songs … all the kids at Annika’s school were doing the same, busting out their umbrellas and their rain boots (LOL) for the slightly-more-than-a-drizzle rain.
—Volunteering in her class: I signed up to volunteer in Annika’s class, and since there were so many people who wanted to do it, I am assigned to every other Monday morning. I put Lukas in KidsPark, this drop-in daycare place near the mall (recommended by several friends who’d used it), then went to school with her. Volunteering in Mr. Ford’s class was like trying to keep the train from going off the tracks over the ravine, but Mrs. Casey is another thing altogether — she has a list (printed!) of what do to, and whom to call to the back to work on what, and little examples set out … it was organized and efficient and amazing, an altogether pleasant and productive experience. I love to be in there and get to observe the way the class is run, and what they’re learning — and Annika is WORLDS better about letting me go when I need to go; I think this is the biggest difference. She likes to be there, so she’s not so upset when I’m not there. It is awesome, to know how much better she feels.
—Summer’s end: Though the days are still blazing, blistering hot, the nights are getting cool, and it’s taking longer and becoming more expensive to heat the pool. So the weekend of the 26th & 27th was the last pool weekend of the year. We swam and swam, then pulled all the pool toys out, rolled up the rugs, and bid the season a fond farewell.
—What’s Annika Reading: Right now, she is obsessed with these Thea Stilton books; titles like “The Secret of the Snow” are about this group of … mice, I think? that go on implausible adventures. The text is sprinkled with font and color changes for emphasis, and frankly they seem kind of … insubstantial, but she likes them and so does Vilma, so they’re staying.
Medical Matters
—Allergist visit: Since it’s been nearly two years since Lukas got his allergy diagnosis, I took him in to see if anything had changed; we’ve been feeding him bread that has milk in it (they said baked milk could help him get over it), and although I’ve kept him from straight-up eating egg or milk products, I’ve been MUCH less careful about casual contact, and he hasn’t had any real reactions in a long time — maybe a welt or two, several minutes after contact, which would fade on its own without the help of Benadryl. So I was expecting to find that he was less allergic now. But … the welts from the skin test were actually bigger this time. Booo! The doc said it might be because his immune system is stronger and fights harder, so I’m gonna believe that for now, and keep increasing his exposure just a little at a time, since he really does seem to be losing his sensitivity.
—Dentist: We went to the kids’ dentist again, and both kids are cavity-free, yay! He did say that we would probably look into orthodonture for Annika in about a year; nothing crazy is happening, but he said that there is some crowding, and that if we do it in two phases, we can actually help shape her mouth as she grows, and the results would be better and more permanent. 
TV Time & Other Entertainments
Peppa Pig:
Step aside, Dora, pups, et. al. — Peppa Pig is here! Also here: her little brother George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig, plus a cast of characters including Susie Sheep, Zoe Zebra, Rebecca Rabbit, Ellie Elephant, Pedro Pony, etc. It is this hilarious British animated show for kids, featuring short little vignettes about things like jumping in muddy puddles, going on a picnic with the family, having International Day at school, etc. It really is cute, and what’s even cuter is the Britishisms (or just pronunciations) that both of the kids (especially Lukas) have picked up — hearing him say “Yes, please!” or “I just love playing caahhs!” or either of them saying “Ready, steady, go!” with British accents is just hysterical. The Pig family giggle a lot together — contagious!
—America’s Got Talent (aka to Lukas, Merican Tawent) and The Voice: Daddy and the kids love to watch these shows together! I could take or leave them, especially The Voice, but the three of them could watch all day long.
—Another homemade tech toy: Annika, annoyed that her cousins have those little handheld game consoles and she doesn’t (“IT’S NOT FAIR!”), just made her own out of cardboard, with a taped-together hinge and an attached “stylist” (stylus) for verisimilitude. She “plays” it sometimes, shushing us as if it’s real and she's going to miss a sound effect.
—Sailing the cardboard seas, riding on a mythical beast: Inspired by a Dora and Friends episode, Annika (with Daddy’s and my help) spent a couple of weekends building a pirate ship out of cardboard — it’s huge, it has a mast and a sail (which she colored), there are portholes and an anchor … amazing. The two kids spend at least part of nearly every afternoon fighting over who gets to be in it, so — successful build. She also made her own stick unicorn out of a wrapping-paper roll and some carefully shaped and taped paper with an embroidery thread mane. 

The Quotable Lukas
—“ac-tu-awwy …"
Him about to correct you or explain something
—“ka-zert" = dessert
—“I was bewy nice to dat one kid,” he tells me, of his experience at the “new, new gym” (AVAC).
—“speed bumper” = his term for speed bump