Thursday, October 16, 2014

July 2014

The Glorious Fourth
We got home from Hawaii late on July 1, so we spent most of the next couple of days recovering from vacation jet lag and swimming in the pool, but by the Fourth, we were ready to re-enter the world. First, we went to the Montevideo neighborhood parade (as is now our tradition); we met up with R.’s co-worker Daniel and his family (with shandies for the grown-ups and juice for the kids), and a good time was had by all. Then we came home, grilled & swam, and eventually got ready for the city-sponsored fireworks in Almaden Lake Park. We walked over with the stroller about 15 minutes before the start time; it was crowded, but we found a great vantage point right near the entry (which also made for a better exit). The fireworks were awesome — just the right length of a show for the kids, super-loud (due to proximity and geography), and the perfect capper to a great day. 
Summerdays
—We went swimming nearly every day.
It was a very hot, dry July, and I more or less stopped bathing the kids — we’d rinse off Annika’s hair, but that’s about it. Swimming pool counts as bath! (Especially in this drought. Very responsible of us.) —Vasona Park: I took the kids on a couple of local field trips, and Vasona Park was a highlight. They have really cool playground equipment (e.g. a WWII bomber — just the structure, no guts), a restored old carousel (Lukas was terrified the first time he rode it, but then wanted to go again and again), and a little train that made about a 10-minute loop around the park (which both kids LOVED).
—Mini golf: Ray took the morning off of work one weekday and we all went to play mini golf at GolfLand. It was kind of hilarious — the kids were better at it than I’d imagined! But it got hot toward the end, and we were glad we’d come early.
—Visiting Precious Preschool: With the idea that Lukas should start some kind of preschool in the fall, I took both kids to visit one that is a)very close to Annika’s school, and b)comes highly recommended by several of our friends. It was just about perfect, but there’s one big problem: They won’t take kids who aren’t fully potty-trained — which leaves our Lukas out. [sigh] Annika is vehement that we not send Lukas to Appleseed, so we’re kind of at an impasse for now. Still, good to know there’s a good local option.
—Dance Camp and Camp Galieo: Annika went to two weeks of local day camp this summer, which happened to be back-to-back the last two weeks of July/first of August. The first was at her dance school: Dance Around the World, with a different style of dance each day (plus crafts and such), and a performance at the end (it was great! so cute!). Camp Galileo was at her school, and this year she chose the Road Trip theme — it was all about Route 66; they built cardboard cars, made roadside diner signs, etc. She really loved it, and is looking forward to doing it again next year.
—America’s Got Talent: Both the kids got really into watching the show with Daddy. Lots of fun in general (including the one where they heard the song “Baby’s Got Back” for the first time, because the opening line — “I like big butts and I cannot lie” = COMEDY GOLD — seriously, they both repeated that for weeks, collapsing into helpless laughter each and every time).
—The earning of badges: From sources unknown, Annika got very into the idea of earning badges for awhile. She had me print some out from the Daring Book for Girls, requested badges as souvenirs from every place we went, and made dozens of her own (for herself and for her friends). She said she wanted to joint the Girl Scouts — for the badges. I will wait and see how long this obsession lasts.
—Homemade helicopter: Springboarding from her obsession with Paw Patrol, Annika spent a couple of weeks designing, building, and improving a helicopter out of cardboard boxes and bits. This sucker had a back rest, multicolored dials and buttons, a working joystick, front and back rotors, a windshield, foot pedals, side panels that opened to reveal the engine — and she painted it blue, of course. Lukas was allowed to ride in it, sometimes, but not to wear the goggles she also made (which she wore while flying the helo, and while doing engine maintenance). Amazing. 
Playdates and Other Social Events
—Playdates:
We arranged a few get-togethers — one at Grace's, the blonde mafia (Alana & family, Vilma & family) here in the pool, etc.
—Mike and Angie visit: Our friend Good-Looking Mike (GLM) and his fiancé Angie, who is about 6 months pregnant, came down from the city with their large, gentle black doggie for a day of swimming and grilling. Our kids were on their best behavior — which is always nice for expectant parents to see. :-)
—Grandma & Grandpa arrive: Near the end of the month, the Dorks came for a visit; the kids were, as usual, out of their minds with excitement and filled with plans for the next couple of weeks. 
BabyGuy
Lukas tells us all the time how big a boy he is, but OMG he is fighting potty training like the very devil, and really wanted to keep the pacifier — although when we started the same method we’d used with Annika (cutting it just a little eensy bit more every day, and saying it couldn't be fixed), he gave it up after about two nights. So … there is hope for the potty? 

The Quotable Kids
—Lukas:
"Hey! I was just doin' somethin'!" (protesting his innocence as I found him trying to open a package of SweeTarts)
—Spider-Man everything: The little guy names everything SpiderMan (e.g. a SpiderMan school, his imaginary Spider-Man puppy, a Spider-Man train, etc.).
—“Hobercrack”: His interpretation of “hovercraft.” 
—“Gummy”: His interpretation of Gumby.
Annika: “Vikini”: Her interpretation of “bikini.” 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

June 2014

End o’ the School Year
—Another lost tooth:
Annika has now lost all of her front teeth, and is starting on the sides. The Tooth Fairy is having to work pretty hard these days!
—Mathea's birthday party: Annika’s friend Mathea had her 6th birthday party at the aquatic park in Morgan Hill while Mamalah was visiting, so R. took her and Mom and I stayed here with Lukas. Annika was fearless — jumping off of diving boards, splashing around in the water, etc. At a shift change, a lifeguard said she needed to do a swim test to be allowed to stay in the lap pool, so she just knocked out a 25-meter lap like it was nothing (she’s been doing that at swim lessons, having moved from the baby end of the pool), and earned a bracelet showing she was OK to be in that area. Go, little mermaid!
—Kindergarten park day: During the last week of school, all of the K and TK classes took a field trip to a local park, about a one-mile walk from campus. I went as chaperone, and it was every bit as chaotic as you would expect a five-hour stay at a sun-drenched, bathroomless playground for 150 5- and 6-year-olds would be. But she had a fantastic time, and slept like a rock that night, so it went much better than I anticipated. Even Lukas enjoyed himself, barreling around on equipment that was much too big for him — he seemed to really dig the chaos. Oi.
—The last day of school: I think this was a bigger deal for R. and I than for Annika … she was glad to be getting done with the school year, but it wasn’t a big momentous thing. After we picked her up, Lukas and I took her for ice cream, and then we came home and got into the pool — a good end to a good first year. 
Dance recital week
So the week after the end of school was more or less entirely given over to preparation for Annika’s dance recital — rehearsals, picture day, dress rehearsal, finale rehearsal (all of which involved separate trips to Campbell, at very specific times), and finally the recital itself.  We decided to go ahead and take Lukas — it was a gamble, because he’d behaved like a feral monkey at dress rehearsal (and I’d had to remove him to outdoors, where — luckily — we’d found a skate park nearby and he had stared in total fascination at the “big kids” skateboarding), but he did really, really well. Annika’s dance was ADORABLE, and she was clearly enjoying being up there on stage — all smiles, nailing all the moves, having a great time. She was also thrilled to be in the finale (her group had been too young last year), and for the next month would keep adding finales to just about everything. We got some great pics of the little dancer, who says she wants to take the summer off and then do “ONLY BALLET” next year (instead of the combo ballet/tap class she’s been in these two years). All righty then! The only drawback of this recital was its timing — it was on Father’s Day, and it meant that we had to sell our tickets to see the Yankees in Oakland (bought months ago, because of its being Derek Jeter’s last trip out here, before we knew which one of four recital programs her dance would be in … a one in four chance, and it was the jackpot). Ahh, well! :-)
Annika’s interests these days
—Blue is Annika's favorite color:
After years of PINK ONLY AND ONLY PINK, Annika has decided that blue is her favorite color. Now nothing but blue will do.
—Maximum Maxi Dresses: The Blue Rule goes double for the new style of dresses she prefers: the maxi dress. I bought her several, based on her Frozen love, all of which touch the floor or almost do. They’re ALL SHE WEARS. There is sadness upon the land if a destination or activity doesn’t fit the maxi dress. There is sadness when laundry must be done. Only maxi dress can stop the sadness.
—Engineering: Influenced by the omnipresent PAW Patrol, she decided she wanted a helicopter — so she built one from a cardboard box. It has multicolored buttons, seat cushion, etc. (all fashioned from paper, cardboard, and about six thousand yards of scotch tape). It is painted blue, has top and back rotors and front windshield, and is openable at the sides to reveal the engine. Note proper safety goggles, also handmade; they come in handy both while flying the helo and while attending to mechanical maintenance with power tools (including a Spider-Man pincer thingy and a "drill" from a Home Depot kids' set).
Lukas the hilarious
We’ve started getting pizza after dance class every other week or so, at this great new NY pizza joint. One evening while we were waiting for our order at the counter, Lukas wandered off and when I looked for him, he had climbed up into a booth with a family who were eating their dinner. I found him sitting there, smiling all around, acting like he was their third kid, just makin’ friends … they were charmed, and he thought he was hilaaaarious. Heh. 
Hawaii
The second half of the month was the most fabulous: We were in Hawaii! 
For the first couple of days, both kids were total bastards. The flight went OK, but as soon as we got there, they each became their worst selves — Annika whiny and prone to meltdowns, Lukas stubborn and difficult and both completely unfixable by any means we tried. They didn’t like all staying in one hotel room the first night (neither did we, but in the planning stages, it had seemed like the right call after the 7:00 a.m. flight, rather than driving on to Hilo that day), they hated the drive across the island to Hilo (we rather liked it — lunar landscape, little-seen vistas, fog and rain at the summit), they hated the house in Hilo (it was really weird and janky, but that’s Hilo, unless you want to pay $500/night for something super-luxe), the food was all wrong, there were no swimmable beaches, etc. etc. etc. to infinity. They were miserable, and they made us miserable as well.
There was a big slide — curvy and two stories high — at the hotel in Kona. It was a little scary, but Annika did it with R. — and then again and again by herself. That’s our brave girl!
Volcanoes National Park was great. We joined a short walking tour, saw some of the extinct calderas, watched smoke rise from a distant, active one, and enjoyed the visitors’ center. We're looking forward to longer hikes once the kids are older (and not being bastards).
Underwhelmed by the east/Hilo side of the island, we cut our visit there short by a day and drove back across to our home base in Kohala (the Fairways Mauna Lani). We stopped on the way for malasadas at a famous little restaurant (amaaaaaazing), and made a short detour to Waipi’o Point, this astonishing lookout high atop a cliff, where you could see the lines of where tsunamis had struck in the past. But we were all so thrilled and relieved to be “home” when we finally got there — we just ditched all our bags, put on swimsuits, and hit the beach club. I didn’t even ask R. if he wanted a beer from the restaurant — I just went up there and got us one. Vacation rebooted!
The bizarre magic of Paw Patrol: Safely back on familiar turf, R. finally got it out of Annika that one of the things making her miserable was that she didn’t have her customary 2 episodes of Paw Patrol to watch each evening. Well. At that point, we would have given them each a pony and a wad of candy bigger than a Volkswagen if it would have improved their (and thus, our) moods, so R. bought some episodes on the computer and set the kids up. It was like MAGIC. Magic. They weren’t perfect the rest of the time, or anything, but balance in life was restored and they more or less quit acting like demons from hell, so — win!
Annika was an ace snorkeler, this trip; she had her own mask and fins (and R. went ahead and bought a set for himself, given that he would need them for two weeks this time, and hopefully many times after), and she just took to the water like a born mermaid. The two of them would go out for 45 minutes to an hour, once or twice each beach day, swimming far out, going around the point at the edge of the cove, etc. It was amazing to watch. One outing, when R. was teaching her to free-dive in the channels between the coral, she even came face-to-face with a manta ray — a big one, which R. estimated had about a 7-foot wingspan. She surfaced immediately and kind of fled back to the beach, but half an hour later, she was back in the water. Wow! She also worked on boogie boarding, and a little bit of stand-up boogie boarding (“surfing”) with Daddy pulling her along with the rope. She’s got great balance and could stay up for pretty good distances. Maybe next time she’ll want a surfing lesson for real!
Lukas the robot/Giant Alex: Lukas went in the water a lot, and loved it, but didn’t have quite the stamina that Annika. Often, he would stomp around going “Fi! Fum! Giant Owex, here I come!” — which is his version of a Paw Patrol episode where one of the pups has a dream in which a little kid — Alex — turns into a giant and says “Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum! Look out, here I come!” If Annika’s fins were not in use, he would put them on, to enhance his stomping; occasionally, he would mix it up and be a robot (wobot) instead.
The luau: We went to a big luau at the Fairmont one night. The show was pretty good; the kids were really wowed by the fire dances, although Lukas was a little scared by some of it and needed to sit with Daddy for most of it. They both got big Polynesian temporary tattoos (part of the cultural education before the show started) and ate chunks of coconut hacked apart by a machete, island-style. Annika loved the music so much that she asked for (and received) the soundtrack. 
R. and I, as always, can’t wait to go back — so much of it was so awesome — but given the tetchiness of the kids even after we discovered what ailed them, plus Annika’s newly-developed fear of flying (she threw up during our landing in San Jose, poor kid), we’re going to have to work on them first before we attempt it again. Whew!

The Quotable Lukas
—“Gween Gwob-win”
aka The Green Goblin, one of Spider-Man’s many nemeses
—“NO! I WANT DADDY! DADDY DO IT!” … and variations on a theme (e.g. “NO! YOU go to wuhk! DADDY stay home wif Wukas!”). He’s in a major, major Daddy phase.
—“I burped my butt!” His rather original term for farting. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

May 2014

Family social life
—Aunt Amy’s 45th birthday party:
We hosted a movie night for Aunt Amy’s 45th birthday in early May. We moved the couches all into the movie room, and Annika and I decorated (a concession stand, a walk of stars, a marquee that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMY!), theatre light string, etc.). The feature was Ghostbusters, at least for the grownups; meanwhile, upstairs, the more recent Frozen was our babysitter (the kids watched it in our room, and it worked really well — although when it ended, I heard Lukas crying at the top of the stairs, because as he told me when I reached him, "You need to put on more Fwozens!”).
—A visit from the Villari family: Our college friend Alex (whom we hadn’t seen in years) and his wife Amy and their two young boys were vacationing in California from Brooklyn, so they swung by for a visit the day after Aunt Amy’s party. Annika was awesome — having one of her best Perfect Child days, heh — and Lukas was great too, even when calmly but stubbornly defending his toys from the slightly-younger AJ (the older of their kids; the other is a 5-month-old baby). It was so good to see them all!
—Mother’s Day: Annika made me four gifties, including a tea tray (with tea bags, cookies, and flowers, made with Daddy’s help), a lovely card, a picture frame she made in school that said #1 MOM, and a flower in a little pot. Later, we managed a successful restaurant outing, to the Fish Market for dinner; it was super-crowded and we had to kind of snag our own table in the bar area, but the kids held it together and we all actually got to eat, yay!
—Swim playdate with the Carneys: On Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we had the Carneys over for a swimming-and-grilling afternoon. Lots of fun, with the kids all getting along and having a blast, and us able to eat at the table outdoors since the days are getting longer now.
—Daddy’s birthday: Daddy got pretty much exactly what he wanted from the kids: They were good all day long, they made him cute cards (and Annika made a little birdhouse as well), and they sat up with us to a late dinner complete with two kinds of chocolatey cake (one vegan, one definitely not).
—Mamalah’s visit: As part of her Christmas present from us, Mamalah flew out from Texas for about a week near the very end of the school year. She napped when Lukas did, and hung out with the kids the rest of the time, displaying massive amounts of patience with crafts (e.g. a puppy made out of yarn … “simple!” said the kit …) and Paw Patrol (see below).
—Memorial Day weekend: We spent the holiday weekend almost entirely in the pool — it was a hot one — and ate almost nothing but grillage the whole time. Nice and easy all around! 
School days
—Art Show:
There’s a program at Annika’s school called Art Vistas, and for each unit, the kids make a different kind of art; at the end of the school year, they have a big art show featuring at least two items from each kid. We went after dance class on the big day, and saw Annika’s items: A fish portrait, and a handmade ceramic bowl. She was super proud of both, and it was cute to see how excited she got to see them, in among the many displays. 
Athletic and other accomplishments
—Pitching for the Yankees:
From all the baseball on the TV this time of year, Lukas has developed this hilarious pitching stance, including the stomping foot and the big windup, usually wrong-footed so that he has to hold on to furniture to stay upright while he’s doing it — which he does every time he’s about to throw, which is almost constantly. The kid has a hell of an arm. Also he’s finally learned to catch — not every time, but he gets it, and can more often than not make the play.
—Annika the hula hooper: They have hoops on the playground, though Annika had never quite got the hang of hula hooping. But one Friday this month, it all came together for her, and then she did it all weekend long (there was even a bruise on her hipbone from the constant thwapping of the hoop she has at home) — she added all kinds of moves with the thing, too! Impressive.
—The latch hook rug: I told Annika one night about the latch hook rug my brother made in 8th grade (an orc), and then she wanted to try it. I thought she’d probably dig it, so we went to a craft store and got her one. Now … as with a lot of these half-remembered crafts, I forgot how although it’s not exactly difficult, there’s kind of a knack to it, so we had a frustrating half hour or so until I revived my rusty skills well enough to help her do it, and then she just took off with it. She worked on it for nearly two hours the first day, making pretty dang good progress, then put it aside to work on later — and she keeps picking it up from time to time, hooking another line or two. It’ll look good when it’s done!  
A new sheriff in town
We are now blazing through all the shows on Nick Jr., and the current King of Shows is a computer-animated Canadian import called PAW Patrol — or, as Lukas calls it, PAW Control, which is apropos because I’m pretty sure it actually does involve mind control. They both frickin LOVE this thing — the deal is, there’s this kid, a teenager (?), named Ryder, and these six “pups” (always pups, never puppies, or dogs) who have special skills and equipment (e.g. there’s one who’s a police officer, and the one female pup flies a helicopter), and they “save the day” in and around “Adventure Bay.” It’s super, SUPER annoying for adults, but as I said, the kids love it, and it’s not offensive or anything — just nails-on-chalkboard irritating if you’re over age eight. I hear the theme song, lyrics included, in my nightmares. 

The Quotable Lukas
—“Ian [on Olivia] was bein a ghoster! He was scarin all of dem!"

—Countdown mashup: “One, two, paghetti, go!”
“pa-pan-o” (piano)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

April 2014

Frozenmania continues, intensifies
So now they’re going around calling themselves Prince Lukas and Queen Annika; she identifies more with Elsa than Anna, apparently, and has added Prince Lukas to the story, which he’s only too happy to agree with. She swans around the house in an outfit she made herself: the black “heels,” a light blue printed dress, a beautiful white hand-knitted afghan that one of Grandma’s friends sent us as a baby gift (she wears it around her waist, tied with a loop of nylon material from her potholder loom under her bustline, Empire-waist style, so that a long corner of it drags the ground), her lavender satin gloves (that she goaded me into buying at Target), her hair in a French braid and topped with a light blue satin headband. The braid, BTW, is ever-present; she won’t even go braid less at night, and now all her little school friends are doing it too. We heard “Let It Go” on the radio one day, and she listened, enthralled; when it was over, she asked me how it got on the radio, and when my explanation was unsatisfactory, she theorized that somebody “stole it and snuck it onto there.” They both sing the songs from the movie more or less constantly; she offered, kindly but seriously, to teach me the words after she heard me get them wrong once, as if this were a matter of Great Import. And in addition to her previously established "rain powers,” she now maintains that both she and Vilma have "wind powers.” 
The Wildflower Run
On Sunday, April 13 — the Wildflower Run! The kids’ 2K race was first; as soon as Annika and I both got checked in and got our bib numbers, we all headed over to the track. We’d practiced several times at the local high school, so she knew she could do the distance, she was used to running on a track, and she knew how they calculated laps (with a lap marker — they picked up another with each lap). She was excited but not nervous, and she KILLED IT! I had made a GO ANNIKA GO sign, which she saw as she finished her first lap (and her whole face just lit up!). She ran most of it (while Lukas, strapped in the stroller, was dying to run along with her and the other kids), and ended up placing 52nd out of 98 total; her time was 15:02, and she only missed 3rd place in her division by about 30 seconds! She got the medal that she'd been wanting since last April, and training for since Christmastime -- I can't imagine a face happier, prouder or more thrilled! (In the 5K shortly after, I was 11th in my new division — women 40-49 — which is down one from last year, but my time of 28:11 was two minutes better than last year. Woooo!!)
Easter
Lukas joined in the egg dyeing for the first time, and predictably, he mostly got the colors mixed together in unfortunate ways in the cups. But we all had fun doing it; Annika created two different “Frozen eggs,” with a paintbrush and the blue dye. Easter morning was, of course, the egg hunt, which both of the kids loved. Some four or five dozen eggs were hidden around the house — it was all we could do to keep everybody upstairs until they were dressed, they were so excited. We let them eat a couple of treats before breakfast, even! For the whole next week, they went to the baskets for treats and snacks. Lukas got extra sneaky — one morning, he sort of disappeared, and when I went downstairs looking for him, there he was, elbow-deep in Annika’s basket (his was put away out of reach, anticipating just this type of scenario), with a melting chocolate egg in one hand and multi-colored Skittle juice dribbling down his chin. 
A day at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
We didn’t really have much planned for Annika’s spring break, until she came up with a great idea: going to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk! (She knew about it from commercials on Nick Jr., of course.) So R. took a day off, we loaded up and headed down there — and we ended up having an awesome time! We stayed in the little-kid rides area, ate corn dogs and fries for lunch, and even got a few minutes on the beach. The weather couldn’t have been better (not too hot, not cold), and it wasn’t crowded until we were ready to leave anyway. Both kids LOVED riding the rides; Annika even went on the Ferris Wheel with me while R. took Lukas to get on the baby belugas ride all by himself. Altogether a great day, and since we bought the kids season passes, we look forward to doing it again. 
Annika’s activities
—Alana's Frozen-themed birthday party:
Annika’s friend Alana’s party was at her house, with mostly just the girls (and Jason Lee) from her class invited. They have a trampoline, which was great, and the grownups got mimosas (even greater).
—Bike riding with no training wheels: She is working so hard to learn to ride without training wheels! R. took her out a few times and said that she’s getting better (I think it’s because of how good she’s gotten at riding the scooter).
—The Multicultural Faire: Her school had a Multicultural Faire with booths for 27 of the countries represented among the student body. A number of groups did little performances (e.g. singing, karate, traditional dances); a group of kindergarteners had rehearsed at school for the previous couple of weeks to do a song and dance to represent Mexico, which of course Annika was thrilled to participate in. About 25 of them ended up in the show — SO cute!
—Another trick on the playground: She learned how to go down the spiral thingy on the play structure at school, which she’d been kind of afraid of. Yay courage!
Feats of Lukas!
—Scooterboy: The kid is physically adept — and he wanted to keep up with Annika on her scooter. So R. found the best three-wheeled one and ordered it, and we got him a helmet and he just took off. He can really make that thing go, although he’s not clear on how to steer it (by leaning; the T-bar is fixed, not the kind that turns) so he runs it off the sidewalk into the grass a lot — which doesn’t seem to bother him. He just steps off, rights his course, and keeps going.
—Pedaling the trike: He finally learned, sort of, how to power the tricycles we keep out on the back deck. He can’t steer it (this one does use handlebars to steer!), but again, he’s happy just to be on it, and doesn’t care if he’s heading toward the edge of the deck or the wall or whatever.
—Starting dance class: He loves music and loves to dance, so I signed him up for a Friday-morning class at Annika’s dance school (also, it’s the only activity of any kind that I can find in the South Bay that doesn’t require parent participation!). The first day was … not so good. He was super-shy, clinging to me and refusing to join the eight or so little girls in tutus for all the animal-walking, spinning and whatnot. But the next week was Annika’s spring break, so she came with us, and that seemed to be the push he needed — he got out there on the floor and really shook a tail feather. Seemed to really love it this time. Then we didn’t go for two weeks (studio spring break, then it conflicted with Annika’s Kindergarten musical at school), so … we’ll see how it goes the next time.
—Singing: He loves to sing, and lately, when it’s not the Frozen soundtrack, it’s Yo Gabba Gabba! or, even funnier, the Olivia end song, which he does with all the right rhythms and pauses and whatnot; there’s not much funnier than hearing that on the monitor in the morning when he’s just waking up. And speaking of his waking-up business:
—He calls for Annika first — not us — in the mornings. He knows who to hit up for books, and she can open his curtains and all that, plus her response time is so much quicker than ours. Heh. 

The Quotable Lukas
—"Mommy? Daddy? Where are my paaaaaannnnts?” (him quoting The Lego Movie, which he has not seen, but Annika has)
—packpack
—grampagrampa and gramma

—Oh toast! (Excitement for the toast popping up, every time)
—We’re here! [and] Are we there yet? (picked up from watching Olivia)
—Sure! (affable, reasonable agreement to whatever)
—Ducks onna pond! (Every time we go past Almaden Lake Park, in re: the ducks, geese, and/or seagulls often sitting on the water) (And the variant: Duck onna grass!, which he exclaimed upon seeing a large blackbird on the grass in front of Subway)
—I’m not mean, I'm just Lukas! (response to Annika saying “You’re mean!”)

March 2014

Frozenmania
The Disney/Pixar movie Frozen has now become a genuine obsession for a lot of little girls — including ours. We watched it again at a family movie night, and now all Annika wants to do is watch it again (and sing the songs, and talk about it, etc.). Lukas is right in there with her (e.g. standing next to her for nearly two hours while she lounged on the couch watching it on the iPad …), although he stops short of making his own gloves out of paper towels traced from his hands and taped together with Scotch tape along all the edges (an innovative solution she came up with to solve her “no gloves” predicament). The better to re-enact scenes, I ended up taking her to Payless to get a pair of “high heels” (black patent leather with rounded toes and a 1.5-inch heel), which Lukas (hilariously) clomps around in whenever they’re not occupied with her feet. And this obsession colors all aspects of life: We got some rain, which she’s pretty sure she and Vilma caused to happen because they have “rain powers” (which she demonstrated with an Olivia-style rain dance). 
Party time
— Annika was invited to her classmate Siena’s birthday party, which was at a nearby bowling alley (awesome!). It was fun, especially since they had the bumpers up and a whole bunch of lanes going at once, so nobody had to wait. Also there was beer for the grownups — yay!
— Niamh’s family had their annual St. Patrick’s Day party (with the kegerator of Guinness), and this year was much easier for us than last year — Annika can hold her own in a crowd (plus they were showing Frozen upstairs in the kids’ playroom), we didn’t have to follow Lukas around all over the place, and R. and I actually got to talk to some people (including a guy who was randomly in town and happened to know our college friend Weird Arthur, back in Louisiana — small world!). 
School days
— Crazy Hat Day:
I can’t remember what was the reason for it, but they did a Crazy Hat Day. Annika, true to her own inner light, chose to wear a garland of metallic green St. Patrick’s Day stuff (clovers, mostly) that she found at Michael’s. So cute!
— Scooter time: Her friends Alana and Vilma both have Razr scooters, and their moms would bring them to school pickup, which led to Annika instructing me to bring hers every day that we’re not going somewhere after school (e.g. dance, swimming). From a somewhat cautious, wobbly beginning, she quickly got quite proficient, scootering all the way home from school, and even doing some one-footed tricks and super-long glides by the end of the month.
— A new career: Annika now says she wants to be a science teacher, based entirely on her love of the science lessons taught by Mrs. Daly (who apparently makes the rounds at school, giving age-adjusted variations on subjects like electricity, density, nature topics, etc.)
— Field trip to a farm: The Kindergarteners got to go (on school buses! yay!) to a farm in the hills; I went along as a chaperone for her class. It was really a great trip — lots of animals (chickens, goats, pigs [ugh], cows), a garden of edible plants, all kinds of things. Now she has renewed her pitch to get a cow (“We can build it a shelter on the grass by the pool! We’ll have fresh milk all the time!”).
— St Patrick’s Day: Still inexplicably one of her favorite holidays; this year was notable for her insistence that leprechauns are real, and that whatever was going on (e.g. can’t find a sock, rainbow happening, toy out of place) is due to their activities.
— Another excellent report card: As expected, her second trimester report card was a sea of 3’s (that’s the highest grade) and nothing else. She is killin’ it! 
Tooth time
— Since our previous pediatric dentist has retired, we worked our connections and found a new dentist; he was great, the staff was great, the place is MUCH closer and easier to get to, and Annika and Lukas both loved it there. Yay!
— Busy Tooth Fairy: Annika lost her two upper front teeth about a week apart, so she has the classic little-kid gap right now. She is so, SO cute like that. :-) 
Lukas the ungovernable
— Crazy walking stamina:
I can’t get this kid into an umbrella stroller anymore, and he insists on walking absolutely everywhere on his own — including all the way home from picking Annika up at school. Even when she’s zipping ahead on her scooter, he is running to catch up.
— A new, unwelcome trick: Lukas continues to be a butthead about food, and his latest trick is to hold something in his mouth the entire time we’re at the table. Recently it was a bite of chicken nugget; he chewed it and held it in his cheek, like a chaw of tobacco, while he drank milk and refused anything else, for nearly an hour until I finally got fed up and dug it out with my finger. WTF. He LIKES those friggin chicken nuggets. WHY DOES HE DO STUFF LIKE THIS.
— Pinkeye: Who knows where he got it, but Lukas had pinkeye, which required him to have eyedrops 4x/day for a week. He didn’t like it, and struggled a little, but by and large it was not too difficult — he took it like a champ.
Annika the Accomplished
— Swimming:
After months of no new ribbons, and a little bit of discouragement for that reason, she earned her O-fish-al Porpoise ribbon at last. We were so proud of her for not giving up (reminding her that she was only doing lessons once a week instead of 2x/wk like in summer, and no practice at home), and she was SO EXCITED to finally get this one.
— Reading: We’re going through the Little House books at bedtime again, in no particular order, but with a new twist: At the end of each night’s chapter, I have her read the first page of the next chapter to me. And she can do it. For real. She figures out new words, she gets the rhythm, she knows where to pause and how to read dialogue — it’s amazing.
— Climbing: There’s a sort of rock face piece of equipment at the playground where we always stop on the way home from school, with no grips or toeholds, just irregularly-sized and -spaced steps, and she’s always been kind of afraid of trying it. But one day, she just … did it! And now she’s a regular power girl, going up it in two seconds, NBD.
— The magic clock: We got her a clock that turns green at a time you set, and it’s been a miracle for us — she no longer bursts through our door at 6:15 on the weekends! If she wakes up early, which she almost always does, she waits till it turns green at 7:00 to come wake us up! Victory!
The Quotable Lukas
—poh-pee-doh (computer)
—PAHSS-ba-bye (pacifier)
—“Whatchoo got dere?” (inquiring)
—“My ankees baseball book” (originally Annika’s, now his fave)

The Quotable Annika
—“Mr. Ford says that in the next Year of the Horse, we'll all be 17 years old, and he'll be in a nursery home.”
— “They mean news, Mommy, not apps.”
(Her explaining about “Goldbug updates” in the Richard Scarry Busytown Mysteries books.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

February 2014

Two times the fun
The kids have really been playing and hanging out together a lot. Lukas has developed almost an obsession with Annika’s whereabouts (he’ll ask, upon waking, “Where Ah-kah?”, craning his neck to try to see her; he won’t go downstairs in the morning without her coming too). They built a “secret hideout” together over several days out of the same cardboard box that’s been in the corner of our living room for like two years. They love to watch TV together, and are now into the show “Olivia” (about an irrepressible 6-year-old pig and her family, including younger brother Ian and baby brother William) and another one called “Tickety Toc” (which is awwwwwwwwful, but they both adore it). And they play games together, e.g. “Grizzlies,” which as far as I can tell is just them crawling all over the furniture and growling, occasionally going to “sleep” in their “den,” aka the secret hideout. It’s been really fun to watch them turn into real playmates, even if it does sometimes devolve into pushing each other’s stomachs in and then ratting each other out.
Our busy social calendar
—Three birthday parties back to back:
At one point, we went to Pump It Up on consecutive Sundays and Saturdays (Grace’s birthday and Vilma’s birthday), and then to the local Little Gym for Tarek’s birthday party (Annika was one of only two kids in their whole Kindergarten class that Tarek wanted to invite; all the other guests were family and soccer buddies).
—A trek to Marin: We finally went up to San Rafael to see our friends I&K and their kids in their new house. It was a rainy but very nice visit, and the M&H family were there too, so really it was more like a small party. The kids all had a great time, and so did we — even if it was a long day, since we headed up there at the end of one of the Pump It Up parties and didn’t get home till 9:00 …
—Valentine’s Day: Of course we had to make 31 Valentines for Annika’s class, but it was a fun crafty thing with stuff we bought from Michael’s. She and I made sugar cookies with pink sugar for the family, and the kids got little gifties from us (a little stuffed elephant, balloons, chocolate treats). Very cute & fun. :-)
The Lego Movie: Annika and I went together to see it in the theater and LOVED it! R. and I considered making it a family outing, but we weren’t sure Lukas could handle the entire hour and a half — maybe next time.
—Cirque du Soleil: R. got tickets to Cirque’s Amaluna through work. He thought Annika would like it, so he took her with him (a lot of his work friends did the same thing). She really enjoyed it (although he said they could’ve cut about an hour out of it and made it better, ha!), and it was a really nice outing for the two of them.
—The winter Olympics: For two solid weeks, including the week Annika was off of school for their winter break (known as “ski week” in California), we did almost nothing but watch the Olympics. Annika loved the opening ceremonies, and her favorite sports were figure skating, speed skating, cross-country skiing and snowboarding. Lukas was happy when any sport was on, but particularly hockey (every time we turned the TV on, he’d say hopefully: “Hockey? Wass some hockey now?”).
—A brand new car: Thanks to a confluence of factors including the Prius’s age, mileage and resale value; the availability of HOV access stickers, and a really good price, we decided now is the time to get a three-year lease on a Chevy Volt (electric car with gas backup). So R. did his research and ended up working with a dealership in Van Nuys; one Tuesday, he flew down to Burbank, got the car, and drove it back up. It’s the first American car either of us has had in over 20 years, and so far, it’s a good ‘un — but the best part is that the HOV sticker means R. is getting home at least an hour earlier than usual these days! Yay!  
Music hath charms …
I discovered an accidental parenting hack: Playing classical music on Sirius channels during dinner and bedtime. During the Christmas holidays, we always had a holiday music channel on, so recently during a crabby dinnertime, I said, “Let’s have some music!” Annika requested “pretty ballet music,” so I put it on the symphony hall station, and darned if it didn’t settle both the kids down some. So we left it on, and have been doing the same thing every night; it seems to help them rest easier when they go to bed (especially Annika — the Lukas man loves to sleep, so he’s no prob).
Lukas Life & Times
—Lukas loves his footstool:
Those friggin gray plastic footstools. He carries them around, and guess what he uses them for? Jumping off of, and reaching stuff he ought not to. Arrrgh.
—“I riding my entefant!” (His word for elephant; he likes to ride that stuffed rocking-horse-style elephant that Uncle J. & Aunt J. gave Annika when she was a baby.)
—A(nother) disastrous beginning of potty training: The kid is Not Interested. At all. Each time I try, I’m all “THIS IS IT, WE’RE GONNA DO IT IF IT KILLS US.” And he’s like, nope. Ixnay. Nein. Nyet. Go jump in a lake.
—Hitting baseballs: His favorite thing to do outside. He can pressgang old Daddy Dad into it, easy; he likes both hitting off the tee, and swinging at pitches. Either way, he has a hell of a swing — he knocks those whiffle balls from where he stands at the side gate all the way to the chimney.
—"I wearing Ah-kah's i-kates!” That’s what he says he’s doing when he jams his hands into her roller skates (aka, to him at least, her ice skates) and crawls around on all fours (with the front ones rollin’).
—“I DO IT!!”: The defining statement of his entire life and ethos right now. Everything — EVERY THING, ALL OF THE THINGS — are “I do it!” Opening doors, closing doors, putting the milk in the fridge, putting it on the table, brushing teeth, climbing into the car, going up or down the stairs, evvvvvvvvvvvverything all the time, with hell to pay if you don’t let him or don’t think of it first. Which is fine and all, but the worst is when he says “I do it!” and then … doesn’t. But then gets hysterical if you then do the thing for him. “I do it! I do iiiiiiiiiiiiiiit! I do it!” repeat repeat repeat drink Scotch.

Onward, Annika!
—Swinging:
As is her wont, she figured out all at once one fine afternoon how to swing under her own power. She didn’t get it, she didn’t get it … and then, she did! Yay! It was so great to see how proud she was, and there is really nothing like watching her push up to the sky, hair streaming out and legs driving her higher.
—Running: We registered for the Wildflower Run (which is in April) in time to get the discount; she is absolutely able to handle the distance (she’s done it tons of times), but I’m still not sure she’s actually going to do the race, when we get to the actual day. She gets overwhelmed and shy, which — boy! do I understand. But I do think she’ll push through, because that’s the only way to get a medal, and getting medals is Her Thing.
—Scootermania: She’s had another breakthrough on the physical front: Really getting the hang of using her Razr scooter. She has requested I bring it with me every time we are going to walk home from school -- and so I do -- so she gets a good deal of practice.
—Her first try at roller skating: We went out one afternoon to try out her new roller skates. R. had to hold her up, and she really didn’t grok the method of keeping her feet under her. Next time, I think maybe we should try on grass or carpet or something that will offer a little resistance (and cushion if/when she falls); I do feel that as she gets more confident with those long glides on the scooter, and does a little more bike riding, the skills will sort of inform each other and she’ll get it. That’s really kind of how she does things, after all! (See above, ha!)
—Lexia: She is now on level 6 of the computer reading program thing at school, which if I understand correctly, is fourth grade material. Holy moly. That’s our girl! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

January 2014

NYE 2014
The kids are still too little to stay up till midnight, so we put them to bed at the usual time, and started off 2014 relatively well-rested. Grandma & Grandpa left out for the frozen steppes of Ohio on January 4, though, which meant the kids had absolutely wicked grandparent-attention hangovers for the next couple of days — particularly on Monday the 6th, which saw Daddy back to work after a nice long break, and Annika still at home (school didn’t start up again until Jan. 7). 
Annika’s happenings
—Running:
Annika decided she’d like to get into running, particularly to do the Wildflower Run this April with me (she’d do the kids’ 2K, I’d do the 5K) so she can get a medal. So when Grandma and I took the kids to Stride Rite to get properly fitted, we got her a pair of running shoes to go with the running clothes R. already got her, and she and I went for a run nearly every day of the break (and a few times on the way home from school). She takes it seriously, as is her wont, but also there is a lot of leaping, and tangents, and complaining about how faaaaar we’re going, hah!
—Free Dress day: The kids at her school contributed so much money to the fund for victims of the hurricane in the Philippines that they earned a free dress day. Annika, like most of the girls, took that as their opportunity to go fancy; she wore a swishy long skirt, a purple shirt with a big sequined heart on the front, and her sparkly silver shoes. So cute!
—Scrooge McDuck: The kid has some serious Scrooge tendencies. Lately her thing is that she wants to save up $400 to buy her own iPad Mini, which she persists in refusing to believe we wouldn’t let her just use all the time whenever she wants (“It would be MINE, bought with MY OWN MONEY,” she says … but the house rules would still apply, so, dream on, kid). So she’s bugging us for money, bugging us for chores to earn money, and putting all the money she has out on a table or bed and counting it, again and again …
—Bingeing on Lexia/DreamBox: At the computer lab at her school, they do these two programs called Lexia (reading) and DreamBox (math). She got obsessed with the levels (as she does), and badgered us to set her up with the programs at home, which we did; in one weekend, she played for like six hours at a time (while I did the Ace Parenting move of reading an 800-plus page novel, The Goldfinch). Result: She earned dozens of “coins” in DreamBox, and is now up to Level 5 (third grade) in Lexia. 
Brother & Sister together
—Impromptu playdate at Grace & Sean’s: I leaned on my friend Anne to take Lukas while I did the Cornerstone reading (finally caught up! woo!) at Annika’s school, and then when we went to pick him up, we just kind of stayed there for awhile. The four of those kids really do have a good time together (Sean, 4, enjoys playing big brother to Lukas), and Anne is pretty much my best friend I’ve made here in old San Ho, so it was good times all around.
—Passing the Gabba torch: So, judging by her choices when she’s in control of the remote, Annika has outgrown Yo Gabba Gabba! at last. But luckily for R. and me, Lukas has taken it up in a big way. He LOVES it, so so much. I’m really glad we will get to hang out with the Gabba gang for awhile longer.
—Working together: They are friends, and are learning how to depend on each other. The funniest example lately: Lukas leaning on one elbow and saying hopefully, in the car after swimming or whatever, as if they’ve just finished a tough but productive shift at the factory, "Watch somefin on tee-fee?” and Annika nodding thoughtfully, “Yeah, I think so.” 
Lukas His Ownself
—Footstool Follies: Oh my heck, him with his little gray footstool, toting it everywhere like a beloved pet, and chocking it down and reaching for every goddamn thing, it’s driving me NUTS. It increases his reach (and he is already a Gumby octopus), his sight lines, his underfootedness … I mean, I’m proud of his simian ingenuity, I guess, but aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhgggggghhh.
—Numbers: He knows his numbers 1, 2 and 3 really well now; I quiz him on how many (eyes, ears, noses, heads, feet) he has, and he always gets it, plus he can count how many marshmallows or whatever I put in front of him. He can say the next number all the way to ten (if you say “1, 2, 3, 4 …” he knows it’s 5), but can’t do independent counting that high yet. 


The Quotable Lukas
—“Ah-ka OK?”
Whenever she coughs, sneezes, or is out of his line of sight.
—“Daddy go to wuhk.”
When Daddy is dressed and headed out the door.
—“Mommy OWN-leee.”
Demonstrating that he does too know he’s not supposed to do, or touch, or handle, or whatever deviltry he’s currently doing as he says it.
—“Haffit right now!”
Insisting, always.
—“WALK SELF!”
Dog forbid you try to carry him across the road, or anywhere else. FOR SHAME.
—“Curian George” 
The good little monkey, friends with the man in the yellow hat.
—“monster soap”
The Elmo & Friends training toothpaste we use on his baby toothbrush.