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. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

December 2013

Top o’ the world
We started the month off right — on a dry, warm and sunny early-December day, at the end of Thanksgiving weekend, we took a family walk through the park, and decided to climb the big hill all together for the first time. Both kids ascended the steep slope like champs, and the views were AMAZING. Got lots of good pics, had a great time, kids loved it. 
California Christmas with the fam
This was a non-traveling Christmas (which was good because R. and I were exhausted, ha!). The four of us went to get our Christmas tree on a cold and very windy day (after the only rain we’d had in months); since our usual lot was no longer in operation, it took some driving around, but we finally found a great one and brought it home. This was the year everyone helped to decorate it — even Lukas was more helpful than destructive, ha! Then we all watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas to kick off the season officially. Grandma and Grandpa arrived the next weekend, which meant they were here to attend Annika’s class’s little sing-along presentation (we were all singing “Mele Kelikimaka" for weeks) and get into all the other Christmas prep. Christmas Eve was fun, with hot cocoa, tamales from Chavez Taqueria, and some of the Christmas specials on TV (and of course A Christmas Story for the grownups after the kids went to bed). Christmas morning got going early (but not brutally early as in years past, yay!): stockings, tons of presents (including Annika’s for the rest of the family, which is the first time she’s really given presents — and a very thoughtful list she came up with, too!), candy and cookies more or less unregulated all day long. We did the full Christmas dinner (turkey again!), then in the late afternoon, the cousins came over (probably the ultimate highlight, as far as the kids were concerned). Overall, it was a really good holiday, and a great time to spend together. 
Annika the small grownup
—The little girl is getting into ever more complex pursuits, from crafts to Deep Conversations about things I personally don’t remember even being aware of till I was much older.
—A (hopefully brief) reign as a Mean Girl: For awhile, she was basically shaking down these other kids for their blue Lions’ Pride tickets (given out for good behavior, redeemable for books and other small prizes from the school) so that she could amass a fortune of them herself but still “buy” the books (I only became aware of it when another mom told me — and I just about DIED).
—Rainbow Loom insanity: There’s a thing called the Rainbow Loom, which is a little plastic hellmouth that you use to make bracelets out of ten billion tiny little plastic rubber bands. It is ALL THE RAGE in the K-5 set, and it’s just that eensy bit too complicated for her yet, so at least at first, it was instant frustration dynamite. Annika got one for Christmas, and doggedly pursued the YouTube videos for how to use it, and it is 100% R.’s (and Grandma’s) bailiwick to deal with — the whole thing is total mental Kryptonite for me, I can’t get anywhere near it without a rage stroke in my brain. But she loves it, and has created all these really complex things from it so … I guess it’s good?
—Paint your own ceramics: With the grandparents here and school out till January, Annika and I were able to go by ourselves to Color Me Mine (in the mall). We picked out a couple of things to work on; I made a mug for Mamalah (with a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird), and Annika made a tiny little tea set for herself and a little reindeer for R.’s Christmas present. She has such patience and concentration for this type of thing, wow. It was so much fun! We both want to go again soon. 

Lukas His Ownself
—These days, more than ever before, Lukas does what Lukas wants.
Talk to the hand, cause Lukas ain’t listenin. Persistent and clever, and now tall and dextrous enough to get into a wider range of deviltry, he’ll wait till you’re engaged in something else, and then quietly sneak off; in a single day, I found him — THREE TIMES — sitting silently in the dark bathroom (he can’t reach the light) with the door shut, sitting on his footstool, slathering sunscreen on himself. And that’s just one of the things he thought of on that one day; it never stops. [headdesk]
—”How do dat?” He is very interested in how things are done, so he says this a lot. It’s very cute — and usually when you explain, he’ll say “Oh!” as if he totally gets it now, and finds it quite ingenious.
—He’s expressing himself with complete thoughts; the sentences are sometimes a little out of order, but it’s very clear what he means.
—He loves to perform: When he’s not messing with something, he can often be found dancing and singing with pretend instruments and/or on a platform (e.g. the footstool).
—He’s a mynah bird, and it’s hilarious: For example, we watched quite a bit of HGTV over the holidays, and at one point he walked into the guest room and said, arms wide, “Dis is a very nice room!” So now we all call it the Very Nice Room.

Friday, January 31, 2014

November 2013

Lukas turns TWO
The marquee event of a very busy month was, of course, Lukas’s 2nd birthday. He doesn’t really get birthdays yet, of course, but he quickly picked up the idea of opening presents (“Oopoin pesents!”) — most of them at this stage were cars, trains or balls, and/or Spider-Man related (“Pi-maaaan!”). I made a chocolate cake (which rose via the miracle of chemistry, instead of with eggs and milk) and topped it with marshmallows and powdered sugar. He loved it and loved the candles so much he wanted us to re-light them. He is hilarious these days, such a merry fellow, very sweet with the kisses and hugs and “Yob-oo!” (I love you) — although we could do without his pitch-perfect, snarling “Fine!” and “You’re mean!” and “Awww, come ON!” when things don’t go his way, oi! Little mynah bird we’ve got here … anyway, he’s a two-year-old handful, but he really is a jolly and precious little guy — happy second birthday, tinyman! 
Speaking of a very busy month: 
—The joint birthday party: On November 9, we had a get-together for old and new friends as a sort of midway-between birthday bash for both kids. We had lovely weather, so we all stayed mostly outside; kids on the play structure, grown-ups drinking wine on the deck, mixing it up with everyone from Grace’s family to the cousins to friends we haven’t seen in years. And there was a piñata! Good times.
—Lukas’s 2-year checkup: The kid is, in his pediatrician’s word, “thriving” — even though his diet is mostly soy milk and graham crackers. We finally asked about the ever-present tearing in his left eye, so she made us a pediatric ophthalmologist appointment, at which we learned his eyes are “about as close to perfect as you can get” and that the tears are likely from a narrow, though not blocked, tear duct that will probably widen as his face grows along with the rest of him. So that’s all good!
—First whole-family movie night: We finally got going early enough in the evening to include Lukas in a family movie night. He really enjoyed it (especially eating popcorn, made by R. without butter for him) and laughed a lot and now wants to have “moo-fee night” every night.
—Thanksgiving at our house: We weren’t traveling at Thanksgiving, and we ended up not having any guests, so we did the whole thing just for ourselves: The bird, all the sides, the Macy Day Parade, etc. It was actually really nice; Lukas napped through the most hands-on part of the prep, Annika helped, and we all got to sit down to the table together. My attempt at vegan mashed potatoes for the little guy didn’t go so well, but everything else was great — and we got the kids down for bed by about 6:00. Awesome!
—Coppelia: Annika’s dance school put on a production of Coppelia, so we got tickets to go see it. We went with her friend Grace (and mom Anne); the girls enjoyed the show, and kept spotting kids they knew. We all went out afterward to the “tea party restaurant” at the Pruneyard, a very girly thing indeed (and one we were all sure the little brothers would not have handled well, ha!). 
School Days with Annika
—Our first parent/teacher conference: … was very short! Seriously, I think we were in there all of ten minutes. Mr. Ford showed us the charts of where she is academically (thumbnail version: way ahead), said she’s a great kid, and that he wishes he had 29 more like her. Well, OK then!
—Volunteering at school: Finding himself temporarily short-handed, volunteer-wise, Mr. Ford put out the call for more help through the holidays. R. was able to cover for me at home, so I signed up for Wednesday mornings, which was typically seat work and then computer lab for her class. And boy, was Mr. Ford not kidding about needing help! That many kids in one room, it was a real challenge making sure everyone was understanding the work, and getting along, and making progress, and not crawling under their desks and such; at the computer lab, it quickly became apparent that I was the techiest person in the room (yikes!). It was pretty great, actually; I felt needed and useful (as opposed to the way I feel doing Cornerstone … oi), and Annika LOVED having me there. Loved it a little too much, actually; when I had to leave, she cried and screamed and threw a gigantic fit every single time. Poor kid! Transitions always have been a little rough for her. Anyway, when Lukas is in preschool, I’ll definitely be signing up again, and hopefully she’ll have matured enough that my leaving will be easier on her.
—The Thanksgiving program: The Kindergarten had prepared a musical program, with each class wearing a different Thanksgiving-related theme costume; ours were Native Americans, which meant oversize T-shirts with the kids’ chosen five Native American symbols painted on them (plus headbands that they made themselves). It was a really cute, 15-minute program; unfortunately most of our pictures show Annika with a woebegone, tearful face, since (as we learned later) some kid was standing in the wrong place and taking up some of her space. Mkay. 
Accomplishments & Milestones
—Annika learns to whistle
—Lukas graduates to an articulate "thank you” (instead of “dek doo!”)
—Lukas knows his shapes
The Quotable Lukas
—“I hiding!” (Sung out happily whenever he would disappear, in answer to our calling for him; usually we’d open doors till we found him via call-and-response.)
—“Chockit treat!” (With near-manic enthusiasm, since this is the month we started to let him have after-dinner treats, and to withhold same for bad behavior or not eating real dinner.) 

—A-kyu-ah, Aqua, Ankina (Variations as he works on pronouncing his sister’s name; mostly he stuck with “Ah-ka.”)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

October 2013

Annika turns SIX
On October 9, our amazing, wonderful, sweet, smart, creative, willful, mercurial, hilarious girl turned six. I decorated her place at the breakfast table with streamers and gave her one little present to open (a flowery hair clip), and even Lukas was excited about the special day (“Ha-booday, Ah-ka!”). I spent the day putting up streamers, setting the table (pink tablecloth, scattered “jewels,” etc.), wrapping presents and making a cake, which she decorated mostly herself with pink icing, sugar and M&Ms when she got home from school. The family birthday dinner was a tea party (3 kinds of little sandwiches, baby quiches, ginger cookies with lemon curd, tea, etc.), with cake and presents afterward. Then — because this is the vogue now — we had her other birthday party, the one for her classmates at Airborne Gymnastics, the following weekend. Much, much less stressful this time around because of no trips to the Emergency Room that morning like last year, but still a fairly big production, heh. We were at capacity for the number of kids, so it was a fun, chaotic couple of hours, and since I’d hired our young friend Mason to watch Lukas, I did actually get to speak to some of the parents. The birthday girl got so many presents it was almost embarrassing, but she made thank-you notes for them all (I am the thank-you note Nazi) within a couple of weeks. So that’s it till the next one!
What’s up with: Annika
—Origami: She got way into origami this month, learning with YouTube videos and the saintly patience of her dad (mom was M.I.A. on this one; I get brainmelt and sudden rages, it’s practically a medical condition). Her focus is amazing, though sometimes she’d get crazy-frustrated and wail about the injustice of it all. But she stuck with it, and can now do a heart in about 90 seconds.
—Fall break: Her school had a week off in October, about six weeks into the school year. We could have gone somewhere, but R.’s work had said no vacations during this crucial time, so we mostly puttered around on this and that and had a good time not doing the morning rush.
—Her third lost tooth: Another one on the bottom, this time, with the permanent one more or less forcing it out!
—Pumpkin patch field trip: I chaperoned while R. stayed home with Lukas. We went on the school bus (that was the biggest thrill for all the kids, you could tell!), and I was responsible for her table (six kids) through the whole day. We did the corn maze, the little train, lunch break, the film about how pumpkins grow, the selection of our own little eensy pumpkins to take home — and amazingly, Annika didn’t melt down even once! By the end, I was so tired that I wanted to crawl under a rock in a cave and sleep for forty hours, but it really was a fun time. 
What’s up with: Lukas
—Unique outfits: He likes to put on hats, mittens, backpacks, headbands, capes, other people’s shoes, whatever he finds lying around, while he plays. He wore Annika’s glittery pink-and-black butterfly wings for almost an entire day once. The kid, he makes his own fun.
—Knowing colors: Although I was starting to think he is colorblind, since he’d just say any old random color word for the longest time, he does know his colors now, ha! He’ll still sometimes just call everything red, but that’s mostly when he’s just goofing or not paying attention. 
Notable happenings
—Daniel’s kid’s party: R.’s work friend Daniel (direct report, actually) lives in our neighborhood, and they threw a big big party for their second daughter’s first birthday. We went, and it was awesome — balloon animals, Filipino food, a photo booth, crazy treats — even though both of our kids acted like jackasses to us the whole time.
—Grace’s family at our house: We returned the invitation to Grace’s family, so they spent an evening at our house. It was a great time, with plenty of wine and the kids all behaving and everything. :-) 
An old friend, long missing, resurfaces
R. and I last heard from our friend Q in 1999 (that’s not his real name or even initial, but it’s what we called him back in the day). Recently, though, he made contact with some of our other friends, and through them, found us; after a decade or so of bouncing around the world, he has been living back in NYC and making a very good living in finance. He proposed coming to see us, so we said yay, and late one evening he arrived at SFO just like he said he would. We drank a bunch of wine and stayed up way too late talking, and the next day hung around the house with him (he helped Annika with some origami) and all went out for a walk in the neighborhood and park. Annika took to him pretty quickly, chattering away and impressing him with how quick and smart and funny she is, while Lukas mostly bombed around being his ungovernable but cute toddler self. That night, we got a babysitter, and the adults went out for a fabulous meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, during which Q, in a reflective mood, talked a lot about how he wanted a family and thought he would be a good (though admittedly intense) father. Early the next morning, he was off to the airport, and the kids talked about him for quite some time — he obviously made an impression. Here’s hoping it’s not another fifteen years till we see him again! 
Lukas’s first complete sentence
The little guy is very verbal (see The Quotable Lukas, below), and has started to really pull things together. He repeats lines from his favorite board books, e.g. "Walkin some-un's feet!” from Gossie & Gertie (“GossieGoo-dee!") and makes near-complete sentences all the time. But on the walk home from school one warm, dry October afternoon, Annika stopped us to get her water bottle from her backpack and take a swig, and Lukas said, clear as day, “I want water, too.” Simple, but perfect! 
Halloween
After a year of a million costume ideas, Annika fixed her mind in late September on going as a jaguar. I found a cute one-piece outfit online, with a headband (ears) and tail, and bought some makeup to do the face. She was super, super cute and adorable (whether she was being “a nice jaguar” or “a fierce jaguar” at any given moment). Coincidentally, her friend Grace (from dance) had the same costume — the week of Halloween, when all the kids wore their costumes to class, it was hilarious to see the two of them together, slinking around with their hands held up like paws, hiding in corners, stalking prey, whatever they thought jaguars would do.  Lukas of course still had no idea what Halloween was, so we went with his love of Yo Gabba Gabba! and had him wear the DJ Lance Rock costume Annika wore when she was three. It was too big (I had to shorten the pants with staples, ha!), but it worked out fine, and he loved it. He even wore the glasses and hat all night! There was a costume parade at school — so much fun to see all the kids dressed up! — and though we’d been told by the school that they’d have to change into their uniforms after, Mr. Ford let them wear their costumes all day. Halloween night, we went trick-or-treating with Alyna and her friends in their apartment complex the way we’ve done the past few years, which was fun — but it was almost certainly the last time we’ll do that, since Alyna is 10 now, plus the trick-or-treating around our neighborhood seems like it might be pretty awesome and it would be good to stay local. Annika is an old pro at it by this point; Lukas got the hang of things pretty quickly, although at least the first half-dozen times he did just walk on into the houses instead of taking his candy and leaving, hahahahaaaa! 

The Quotable Lukas
—“Whass that soun? Holes!” (his version of the Yo Gabba Gabba! song that goes “What was that sound? Who made these holes?”)
—“GaceSean!” (Grace and Sean; he gets very excited when we’re going to see them, whether socially or at the dance studio)
—“Ah-san house!” (Lawson’s house; Lawson is Annika’s friend Niamh’s little brother)

—“So sick! Yeahhh!” (“Cool trick! Yeah!” — another Gabba thing)