Wednesday, January 27, 2016

December 2015

Christmassy stuff
—Advent calendar treasure hunt:
From the “biting off more than one can chew” department: I bought these cute unpainted wooden advent calendar xmas trees last year on clearance, figuring we’d paint them and I’d put little treats in them for the season. Well … the first part went beautifully, but the second got way out of hand. The boxes for each day were only like 1”x1”, so really nothing but an M&M would’ve fit, so I ended up putting in a clue as to where the treat was hidden. The kids liked the clue-hunt part so much that I somehow found myself making a 4-clue treasure hunt of it every single day. They loved it, it was fun, but … oh man, please tell me I didn’t sign myself up for this as a yearly thing? I’m out of ideas! LOL.
—The tree: We got the tree early this year (well, for us), following the Kiwanis to their new location the first weekend of December. Decorated it the same day, with both kids finally old enough to actually help, instead of the younger one just getting underfoot, heh. As always, it was one of my favorite parts of the season, and the fresh tree smell made it seem like Christmas.
—Lukas’s holiday potluck and musical at preschool: Just like for Thanksgiving, Lukas’s school held a potluck holiday lunch, but this one had a singing performance beforehand; Grandma & Grandpa were already here, so they came along to see it. Lukas’s class, the oldest, went last and made the most sense — he was hilarious and very proud of himself for singing all the words.
—Holiday Fantasy of Lights at Vasona Park: This year, the lights were much easier to see — they had a ticketing system, sort of like the FastPass, where you were given a window in which to show up, which minimized waiting. We went on December 26; Grandma & Grandpa got to see it for the first time, and the kids were thrilled all over again.
—1000 cookies: We baked a lot — and Annika is now a full partner in the kitchen, yay! — mostly cookies. The funniest thing was the cream cheese cut-outs; I quadrupled the recipe, thinking that’s what I had done last year, but no … it made so many cookies, we covered the bar top from end to end. Annika and I iced and decorated them, and everyone ate them for more than a week. Hilarious!
—Christmas Eve & Day: After a solid month of build-up, the kids were out of their minds for Christmas to actually be here. We watched Christmas shows, ate dinner early, put out cookies for Santa, and got the kids to bed. The next morning, niiiice and early, the kids got up and Santa had indeed been here! So! many! presents!!! They got to plunder their stockings and eat candy before breakfast, then open a couple of presents, then we had to get the turkey in the oven before getting back to the gifts. Lukas was particularly entertaining, freaking out over pretty much all of his gifts — so much fun! The cousins came over, and there were more presents! The kids got bikes! We had an awesome Christmas dinner! It was nuts, and so, so, so much fun.
Daily life
— Grandma & Grandpa arrive (after a night in the Denver airport):
G&G were supposed to get here on the 15th, but the weather had other ideas, and they ended up spending the night in the Denver airport and catching another flight to SJC the next day. It was pretty hard on them, especially since Grandpa had a cold, but they caught up on sleep that day and were more or less normal within a few days, getting woken up at the crack of dawn by the kids every day as usual …
—Lukas’s room is finally finished! Well, except for getting the doors painted. But he got his big boy bed and a nightstand at last, and with Daddy’s careful painting and the gorgeous moldings, it’s now the nicest room in the whole house.
—The new bikes from Santa: Annika got a bigger bike, since she’s so much taller now than when she got her old one, and Lukas got one with training wheels. We took the first nice post-xmas day and went to the school blacktop. Annika got the hang of hers right away; Lukas entertained himself by stomping on the brakes ever two or three revolutions of the pedals, to the point where R. and I were so exasperated we let him ditch it and ride his scooter instead. Oh well — he’ll change his mind soon enough.
—Holiday Bowling: R. was home for those two weeks, so we were able to go bowling mid afternoon one day while Grandma & Grandpa, both kind of under the weather, took much-needed naps. I wore my new bowling shoes (xmas present!), and the kids managed to not fall apart, so — good times!
—Build-a-Bear: Annika got a gift card for Build-a-Bear for her birthday, so we took Grandma and Lukas and went to put it to use. She immediately selected a sparkly white reindeer named Glisten, while Lukas dithered forever trying to pick something; he ended up not with a bear or animal, but with two blue light sabers ("light savers are the best savers”) meant for the Star-Wars-branded bears to hold — and they actually did light up! The funny thing was that, although they have not seen any of the movies (on grounds of they both say it’s waaaaay too scary), Lukas — making his saber selection — discarded Kylo Ren’s fancy red one for a simple blue one, because “Onwy de bad guys have wed wight savers. De good guys have bwue ones.”
Friends and whatnot
—Family party at the Thomases’:
We were invited to a holiday party at the twins’ house (Anna & Ella), where the kids acted like maniacs and we enjoyed some tasty beverages and food and got to know the parents better.
—Annika’s Brownie tea party: The troop had a little tea party for its last meeting of 2015, and invited the moms. It was so sweet how hard they all worked to set it up and act as waitresses — I could get used to that!
—Billy Beez: Lukas was invited to a party at Billy Beez — a kids’ play space in the mall — which was just nuts (a giant indoor playground with slides, bouncy areas, all kinds of pretend-play toys, etc.), and while we were there, Annika and her friend Sydney went to Raina’s, where they decorated a gingerbread house and played ninjas and whatnot (the three of them are a tight little group these days). 

—“Mommy this is SEWIOUS: Santa has two magic eyes that can see whether you're asweep!”
(Lukas, both hands on my face, reporting with great urgency)
—“handkerchip” (Lukas’s interpretation of what Grandpa uses instead of Kleenex)

November 2015

Everyday happenings
—This month, the kids were STILL bunking together
(and Lukas was, frankly, being an a-hole, what with the all-night jumping around, flopping around, bothering Annika, not going to sleep, etc.), until — on his birthday! — the little guy finally moved back into his own (85%-finished) room! Yaaaaaaaaay! He was still sleeping on the futon mattress, but at least, it was on his own floor …
—A brief Yo Gabba Gabba renaissance: Lukas found some old Gabbas on Annika’s phone, and they both started watching them, which led to watching them on TV for like two solid weeks. It was nice while it lasted!
—Annika gets her ears pierced: Years ago, I said she could do it when she was eight … and she remembered! A few of her friends are starting to get their ears pierced, too, so it was time. I did some research, but we ended up going to Claire’s in the mall, where we got ‘em done with the ol’ piercing gun (with one person on each side of her, so it was over quickly). She was a champ up in that chair, picked her earrings out, and squeezed her eyes shut - boom! Pierced! She looks adorable, of course, and loved picking out a bunch of earrings to wear when the 6-week trial period is over. 
Lukas’s birthday
—Pump It Up!:
The Saturday before his actual birthday, we invited his preschool friends, plus Grace and Sean and Lawson & Niamh, and ended up with about 12 kids for his party at Pump It Up (bouncy houses & whatnot). He had an absolute blast, except for when he was told to sit in the birthday throne for the presentation of the Spider-Man cake he chose from Lucky — at that, he wept, thinking he had to sit there the whole time instead of sitting at a table to eat with his friends! Poor kid — once we figured out what was wrong, he went back to having a blast. :-) The next day, same time, we went back for Sean’s party at the same venue; Lukas was pretty wiped out, but the allure of PIU is strong, and he had a great time for the most part (minus a small overtired meltdown or two, heh).
—The glorious 18th: We had a family birthday dinner for the little guy on his actual bday, with his favorite meal (PB!) for him and regular food for us, plus a vegan cake I’d baked and Annika decorated (with red icing, his favorite color). He got a ton of presents, mostly superhero and/or action-based, plus some books and Pixar merch). Hard to believe he’s actually FOUR YEARS OLD!!! Sweet boy, habitual line-stepper — that’s our precious little Lukas-man. 
School days
—Lukas’s school Thanksgiving:
The preschool had a potluck Thanksgiving party, which I went to; it was adorable, with all the kids in either Pilgrim or Indian construction-paper hats. Lukas of course wanted to come home after the party, so we made an early day of it.
—Annika’s first solo field trip: The second grade went to see a play at the Campbell Heritage Theater, and since so many parents want to chaperone, there’s a one-field-trip-per-parent policy; Annika preferred I come on the trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in the spring, so I sat this one out. She had a great time; it’s really fun to see her gain independence as she gets older!
—Annika gets into the Titanic: Browsing the shelves at the school library, Annika came across a section on the Titanic, and immediately became almost as fascinated with it as I had been at about her age. She made her favorite of the books the subject of her November book report, and asked me repeatedly to look up pictures on the internet. I did explain that it was a terrible tragedy, and kind of walk her through that part of it — Tragedy 101, I guess? — but I think she’s mainly into the grandeur and the hero/villain narrative, which sounds about right to me.
—Lukas goes to Cole's Pump It Up birthday: I think we started a trend among the preschool set! Back to PIU for another session of bouncing till he can’t bounce no more …
—Dandy Day honors: Annika, it turns out, raised the most money by any individual in the whole school at the walk-a-thon: $1250.00!!! Fully $500 was from Uncle Jake and Aunt Jill, who pledged $10 per lap (she walked 50 laps! hahaha!). Her prize was an iPod Nano, engraved for the occasion, and she was presented it at an assembly in front of the entire TK-K-1st-2nd grades — what a thrill!
We woke up Thanksgiving day to a cool frosty morning (there was so much frost on the neighborhood’s roofs that the kids thought it had snowed!) with a crazy full moon still in view. We all watched the Macy Day Parade while the turkey roasted, and everything came together on time for a great Thanksgiving dinner for the four of us. Truly one of our better turkey days — good times all around! 
Social stuff
—The city and P-Town:
We were invited to a first birthday party for Mike & Angie’s daughter Viv, so we made a Saturday of it — first the party, then a leisurely drive down to Pacifica to walk the old neighborhood (it was a gorgeous sunny day, with whales visible not far offshore as we strolled the ocean walk), then an early dinner at Celia’s (with plenty of takeout for the next couple of days). It was fun to see the old places and point them out to the kids; Annika remembered some of it, but of course, Lukas had never been there. Great day!
—Play dates: We had a couple of get-togethers with newish friends: A surprise/impromptu play date at Sydney’s, and a Thanksgiving-week after-school play date at Anna and Ella’s. We’re getting to be better friends with each of these families, and looking forward to getting to know them.

—"The Minion Bunch”
(Lukas’s conflation of two new things in his life: the minions, from the Despicable Me movies, and the Brady Bunch, one episode of which we screened for the kids, to much appreciation (the one where “mom always said don’t play ball in the house!”)
—"Let's have a band for the birds!” (Lukas making a happy suggestion, while I practiced bass and he banged around on the keyboard, and a bunch of birds were flying around just outside our window)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

October 2015

So we got home from Disney, exhausted but so happy with our awesome vacation and all wanting to pretty much go right back again — and found our house (or at least the upstairs) torn to bits for Lukas's room remodel. Unnnngggghhh. The lighting in the hallway looks awesome, and we can tell how great the room is going to look, not to mention the doors that were replaced in the whole upstairs hallway, but there just seems to be so much more to do, and the kids bunking together (Lukas on a futon mattress on Annika’s floor) — much as the two of them like it, giggling away about “fart-butt” and “poopy-head” half the night — it’s ruining R.’s and my lives. They get to sleep later, they wake up earlier, and Lukas absolutely cannot be trusted alone in there with all of Annika’s fascinating, forbidden, breakable toys. Here’s hoping this is finished with a quickness!
Annika’s birthday
—October 9:
Per our family tradition, I had decorated her place at breakfast and had a small present for her to unwrap. It happened to be college shirt day at school, so she wore a Columbia shirt and the birthday crown they gave her at school all day long. This was also her “VIP week” in the classroom, coincidentally, so she got to do a lot of special stuff during the week, which made it extra nice. That night, we had a family party, with a cake I baked and she decorated, and a whole bunch of presents, including the long-desired EZ Bake Oven. Eight is going to be awesome, my sweet girl!
—The fairy party: Per Annika’s heartfelt wishes, we did her friends party at home this year. Here’s how it went: 
16 fairies, with wings
2 little brothers
1 babysitter who was so helpful I should have paid her $500
1 parent who was so helpful I probably embarrassed her with the effusiveness of my thanks
A fairy house painting craft (Pinterest gold!) that was actually rather a success
A cake parade (18 kids marching through the house shouting CAAAAKE! CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE!!!, much like drunken adults at a bar when that "Shots" song comes on)
A fairy dance party (primarily to Taylor Swift's entire 1989 album, purchased online for the occasion, on repeat)
The pin the wand on the fairy game (I forgot both the eye covering -- eventually using a scarf that, well ... I just really hope none of those kids had lice that night -- and the fact that there's supposed to be a prize for the winner)
A fairy egg hunt in the gloaming, which served as the distribution for and stuffing of goodie bags 

R. and I were exhausted, but the party was a hit, and she was thrilled and grateful (oh my heck, one only turns eight once, doesn't one, after all?), and we are NEVER DOING THAT AGAIN.

Lukas life
—Big Hero Six:
Lukas has gotten way into the movie Big Hero 6, which he’s only ever seen parts of (at school movie night and at the gym’s kids club) but has a couple of books about. He tells us who we are and what our powers are, he loves pretending to be the character Tadashi (which he renders as “Kendoshidi”). It’s pretty hilarious — and I’m assuming it will make a lot more sense if/when we ever watch the whole movie ourselves.
—Swimming: Lukas earned his “O-Fish-Al” Jellyfish ribbon this month! He was so proud to get it — and now every week he doesn’t get one, he complains about it. Up next: Octopus. 
Annika’s adventures
—The Brownie troop:
This month, her Brownie troop went on its first field trip, to a local pumpkin patch. It’s the first field trip I’ve not gone on with her, because Girl Scouts has some seeeeerious regulations w/r/t who can drive the girls (there’s a training & qualification thing that I haven’t done), and of course Annika handled it like a champ — such cute pics they sent back! Also this month saw the start of a thing I didn’t know existed before: fall sales, which involves nuts, candy, and magazine subscriptions. I got press-ganged into “managing” it, which since I decided more or less unilaterally was going to be online only, wasn’t as big a deal as I had feared; we’ll likely do booth sales next year, but at least for now, we’re easing into it.
—Dandy Day: Holy moly, did she exceed her last year’s performance and this year’s goal! She did 50 laps — which is about ten miles!!! — and thanks to a number of per-lap pledges, earned $1,200 … $500 of which was a super-soaking of good old Uncle Jake and Aunt Jill, who pledged an insane and probably unsustainable-in-the-long-term $10 per lap. She was thrilled with herself and grateful to all her sponsors, and excited to do it again next year.
—Spy Adventures club: The most perfect after-school class of all time landed in the white envelopes, and it could not have been farther up her alley — the Spy Adventures club. Mondays after school, it involves all manner of spycraft and mystery solving, including the building of a periscope and the creating of crazy aliases, etc. She loves it! 
The greatest day of the kid year (besides Christmas) was on Saturday this year. Annika was a Pearl Fairy (costume ordered from a place called Chasing Fireflies — $$$ with bad customer service, but the dress was really lovely — with a pearl wand handmade by me) and Lukas was Captain America (which he decided on a month or two prior, and which remained unchanged despite his ever-changing allegiances to various other superheroes and animated characters). The costume parade at school on Friday was hilarious (and a lot longer than last year, due to a lack of the rain that shortened it in 2014). Saturday, we went to our friends the Marshalls house, had dinner, and got costumed up for a great time canvassing their neighborhood; we even ran into Raina and her older sister and did half of the route with them. Both kids got a ton of candy, and as Lukas’s allergies seem to be fading somewhat, he even got to eat some of the chocolate & caramel stuff this year! I even let them have some candy before breakfast on November 1 (which, alas, was the night of the time change … so we were up mighty unnecessarily early, ugh!). They were so cute, trick-or-treating — there wasn’t anything too scary at the houses, and Lukas finally gets it (including the fact that you don’t just barge into the living room, ha!); at one point, he took off his Captain America glove so he could hold hands with “Wawson,” his BFF-whenever-they’re-together. A great night for everyone!

— "I'm Batman!"
Lukas, jumping through the bedroom door one night at bedtime, wearing his house slippers and a black eyemask and nothing else
— "Do you think they're brothers?” Lukas re: some ants he’s spotted on the curb at Whole Foods
—“Super unstoppable bagel finger!” Lukas, with a finger stuck through the center hole of a mini bagel

Monday, October 19, 2015

September 2015

Our Busy Social Calendar
—Labor Day weekend this year was nothin’ but swimming and grilling, and that’s how we like it! The one exception was that we went to the Marshalls’ for a late birthday party for young Lawson (who’s a little older than Lukas, but still his great buddy). Things were fine until the Incident in the Bouncy House, in which Lukas went down and a bigger/older kid jumped directly on his left knee. He tumbled out, crying, and couldn’t put weight on it; this is the kid that takes a licking and keeps on ticking, so when he couldn’t walk it off, we had to leave the party and take him to the ER (we were going to leave Annika at the Marshalls’, but Lukas was crying for her — “I want my sister!!!” — so she came along). A couple hours and $75 later, we were told there was no break visible on the x-rays, so he was supposed to take it easy and let it heal up, which it did after a few days. Whew!
—DHS Class of 95 reunion weekend: I did a strange and hilarious thing: I flew to Texas to go with my sister to her 20-year high school reunion. Arriving in DFW the day of, we borrowed Jake’s car and drove to the old hometown, then the next day got to have lunch with Aunt Emma & Uncle Rusty. We stayed with Jake & Jill that night, before jetting back to our respective coasts the next morning. I didn’t leave R. in the lurch too much, though — his parents arrived for their visit the day I left, and I was home in time to pick the kids up from school on Monday. :-)
—Brownies! Annika had her first Brownies meeting at long last, complete with vest and troop shirt, and she LOVED IT. I did, too … until I found out I had been straight-up conned into being manager of Fall Sales (nuts, candy and whatnot, done entirely online). Grrr …
—Almaden Art & Wine fest: We did it the smart way this year — we went to the annual festival right when it opened, toured the booths, got some beer, put the kids through the bouncy slide a billion times, and got out (and back to our pool) before the heat of the day set in. It’s a fun little local event, if you do it right! 
Grandma & Grandpa
The Dorks visited later than usual this year, on account of they wanted to be here to celebrate Grandpa’s 80th birthday with us. So they plunged right in to a never-ending stream of activity, from batting practice with Lukas, to making a fairy house and learning about fairies’ magical tools with Annika. Both kids had an awesome time, and as exhausting as it no doubt was, so did their grandparents. We celebrated Grandpa's 80th birthday a couple of different ways: First, R. and I took his parents out to a fancy steakhouse in Los Gatos (where they printed special menus that said “Happy 80th Birthday, R___!” and made us some very good martinis. The next day, his actual birthday, we had a family party with all the kids and Uncle Paul & Aunt Amy; there were presents, Carvel ice cream cake, and a couple of little books with questions about Grandpa that all of us kids & grandkids wrote in. The whole thing was fun, and we hope there will be many more. 
We’re going to Disneyland!
Unquestionably the marquee event of the fall, we took our first trip to the Magic Kingdom during Annika’s weird school break at the end of September/beginning of October. We flew out of SJC (into SNA) the same morning G&G left for “Yo-hi-o,” and went straight to Disney’s Grand Californian hotel — which is absolutely gorgeous and mere steps from the park entrances. Our room had bunk beds, which was probably the best decision we could have made — both kids were thrilled by the novelty. We went to the pool (everybody loved the waterslide!) and then ate and went to bed early, because …
—Day one: We were up before dawn, eating a room service breakfast as we dressed and got out of there to take advantage of our “Magic Morning” pass (getting into California Adventure an hour before the park opened to the general public — worth every penny!). We rode Radiator Springs Racers (maybe the best amusement park ride of all tiiiiiime), then a whole bunch of other rides (Cars Land was AMAZING — gosh, the level of detail!), finally breaking for a “character dining experience” at Ariel’s Grotto (in which you get a meet-and-greet with Ariel herself, and several of the other Princesses (Cinderella, Tiana, Mulan, and Rapunzel) stopped by the table to sign autographs and take pics with Annika (Lukas dove under the table every single time). Back to the hotel for a nice long nap in the heat of the day, then head back to the park for more rides, finishing with the light-and-fountains show World of Color after dark. Miles walked: 8.79
—Day Two: Up early again, room service bagels, juice & coffee, and over to Disneyland for their Magic Morning or whatever it’s called. We rode all the classic rides (Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Dumbo, etc.), saw the famous castle, ran into the kids’ pediatrician as we waited for those little tour boats, R. and I rode Star Tours (a Star Wars thing, awesome!) and Space Mountain (separately & at different times of the day, because the kids couldn’t ride those), got through a stereophonic meltdown at lunch, went for another planned nap, back into the park for more rides (Annika found a little roller coaster she loved in a maaajor way — I may have a thrill-ride partner before too long! — and It’s A Small World was a HUGE hit with both kids), dinner, and the light parade & fireworks at the castle that night. Miles walked: 7.6
—Day Three: Another early start, for a criss-crossing multi-park blowout of seeing and doing ALL THE THINGS. Haunted Mansion! Indiana Jones Adventure! Radiator Springs Racers four times in the day! Pirates of the Caribbean! Small World again! Ice cream sundaes at Ghirardelli! Souvenir shopping! By the end of the day, we were all out of our minds with exhaustion, but felt like we’d maximized every minute. Miles walked: 13.2
     The last morning was comparatively leisurely, as we packed up and ate and waited for our ride. It was a near-perfect family vacation; R. and I barely looked at our phones (except to coordinate meet-ups and FastPasses and that sort of thing), there was no TV at all, and there was really only the one actual meltdown the whole time. The kids were troopers, and they had the time of their lives. I’m now a full convert — I can’t wait to go again! 
Our house is getting torn up again!
This time, it’s the long-planned renovation of Lukas’s room: tear down the walls, put in insulation, give him a better/functional closet, put lighting in both his closet and Annika’s, put up (and paint) new drywall, add moldings, etc. The timing was meant to coincide with moving him out of the crib at last (gaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh) and into a big-boy bed, and the work began the day we left for Disney. More to come on this one. 

Quotable Kids
(Lukas, attempting “pistachios”)
“My friend is a black friend; his hair is black and his skin is light black, sort of brown.” (Lukas, matter-of-factly describing a schoolmate)
“the four of trees" (Lukas with playing cards, pointing to the four of clubs)
—At Almaden Art & Wine festival, as we come into sight of the band we’ve been hearing (and mocking) for some time: R: "Oh, [the band] are kids!" Annika, dismissively: "No wonder they're so bad."
—"Whenever scientists invent something, they always name it the Something 3000.” (Annika, astute with the observations)
—“Poor me!” (a sick, feverish, sniffly Lukas, without self-pity, but just appropriating what we’ve all been saying to him off and on for the past couple of days) 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

August 2015

First day of Second Grade!
We got the letter on the Monday before the Wednesday start date: Annika was assigned to Mrs. Merrell’s class! It was exactly what she’d hoped for, and although a lot of her friends were scattered to different classes, she was thrilled to have her friend Raina in the same class (and as we found out the first day, actually at her same table — yay!). She said she was nervous, beforehand, which she really hadn’t been the previous two years, but it turned out fine, and I was pretty pleased with her classmates (I like the ones whose moms I am friends with, ha!). We were on time this year, unlike before — who knows how we managed that! — and got her established in the room before she told us to scram. Heh. Afterward, I let her skip swimming just this once and took her and Lukas to get ice cream in Willow Glen. All in all, a good first day, and hopefully a very good year ahead. 
Preschool happenings
—After a few happy months in Miss Penny’s 2-3 year olds class, Lukas was moved to Ms. Mita's classroom (the 3-4 year old class). He liked it OK, but resisted tracing letters, because he wanted to play — too bad the older you get, the harder the work! Heh. 
Fun times
—The Monterey “Baquarium”: On one of Annika’s last free days before school started, we went down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where we all had a blast once again — there’s never a bum day at what Lukas calls the “baquarium.”
—Annika "texting" Vilma: Missing her friend, and looking forward to the day when she’s old enough to text (which she has decided is when she’s ten), Annika built herself a new cardboard iPad and for several days, carried it around with her, “texting” constantly, laughing at Vilma’s replies, and showing it to me so I could join in the fun. I’m saying it again: I don’t think we actually need to buy electronics for that kid; the ones she makes are plenty good enough!
—The Incredibly Social Weekend: We usually need a week’s recovery time between guests, but it just worked out calendar-wise that we had our friends Mike and Angie and their baby and their dog on a Friday night (swimming, grilling, chilling) and the Carneys on Saturday night (same deal). The kids loved having both a baby, and a large, chill, old dog around, and of course Grace and Sean are some of their most favorite playmates, so this was pretty much their favorite weekend of the whole month.
—Back to Sharks Ice: Annika’s friend Olive had her birthday party at Sharks Ice, and BOY, was it a nightmare to get Annika to go — she was freaking out that everyone would be better at skating than her, and she’d have to use the buckets, etc. (and I mean FREAKING OUT, crying and screaming for HOURS). But at a certain point, R. and I decided, forget this — she’s going. She’s got to get over this freakout, and the only way out is through. So I took her, and she verbally abused me throughout the drive, our arrival, the pizza, the putting on of skates … and then got out on the ice and had an absolute BLAST. She and Cayli did a lap of the end zone with the buckets, then ditched them and headed out into the rink, where they stayed until they got called back in for cake and presents. Amazing. 
Aunt Lesley visits
My sister came to visit for a week, and we did all the usual family stuff plus a couple of outings:
—Bowling bowling bowling: A random thought on Aunt Lesley’s part, we just packed up the kids after school and took them bowling. They had SO MUCH fun, hoisting and tossing those 6-pound rocks (usually with a cringe-inducing thud about 8 inches from the foul line)! The kids used bumpers, which these lanes put up for individual bowlers instead of for the entire group, so the adults roll without them. Anyway, it was so awesome that we went the next day with Daddy, and bought everyone discounted passes that let us play up to three games per day, including shoe rental, until September 7 - whaaaaaaaat? So we went twice more with Aunt Lesley, and then a half dozen times with just me and the kids or the four of us once she went back to NYC. Got our money’s worth, and rediscovered our old favorite pastime that we can now do with the kids — yay!
—Chuck E Cheese: Another semi-random outing, because the kids are always up for Chuck’s, and Lesley hadn’t been in years. We played an amazing amount of skeeball, Operation, and “kids basketball” (Lukas’s favorite game), among other things, and earned enough tickets to buy a good prize for each kid. 

—Lukas, playing with an empty Spider-Man Pez dispenser I bought him at Lucky: [Excitedly:] “Spider man, can you catch dat bad guy?” [Gruff, flat:]“No. I'm a Pez."
“recordion” — Lukas’s take on “accordion”
—Lukas w/ small metal play cooking pot on his head: "I'm a pot head!”

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

July 2015

Fun times
—The Glorious Fourth:
We were back from Hawaii in plenty of time for our traditional Fourth of July activities (mainly swimming and grilling). We went to the Montevideo neighborhood parade in the morning, which was … extremely short. Like, 3 floats and a Scout troop short. Eh, well, the kids got candy, so they were happy! Then that night, we walked over to the lake park at dusk to watch the fireworks — it was a really great show, much longer than last year’s, and we all really dug it (except for Lukas’s terrified screaming at the loudness, right at the start — eep! — but he got over it and watched the rest of the show from Daddy’s arms, so it was OK in the end).
—Kent and Kylie and Sky and the wedding weekend and the Sauce weekend: Our old friend Kevin’s wedding was July 11, way up in the Berkeley hills, and our dear friends Kent & Kylie and their son Skyler made the drive out from Kansas to be there. They spent the night with us before we grownups headed off for the overnight in the East Bay (with Aunt Amy attending all three of the kids at our house). We had an awesome time, and a great (if hungover) drive back down, and the kids got along like a house afire — ate what they wanted, had hours and hours of screen time, etc., with Sky sleeping on a futon mattress in Annika’s room. Then the Smiths went off on a round of camping, sightseeing, friend-seeing, etc., meeting back up with us that Friday at the Sauce Compound for an epic Sauce weekend — the whole band was back together! The kids once again had a great time, mainly playing Club Penguin and swimming and stuff, we all went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Saturday, we rocked both nights … and by the end of it, we were all worn out but exhaustedly happy. Now Skyler wants to schedule a monthly FaceTime date with Annika, to keep in touch!
Shimmer and Shine: Just when you thought you’d seen the worst show, along comes this one, about two genies … and the kids both LOVE IT SO MUCH. Oi.
—Hiking playdates: TBH, I made a whole lot of plans with friends just to keep Annika socially engaged now that Vilma has gone back to Finland (see below) — so we went to these cool Japanese gardens with Brianna’s family and Mrs. Casey (will I ever be able to call her Jayli? I may not, though I like her so, so much and think she could be a friend!) & her oldest daughter, and to Quicksilver Park with Sydney’s family & Ezra’s mom, and a couple of other things here and there. Also I like to meet up with the families where I like the mom, so … ;-) 

—The last days of Vilma:
Poor kid, her best friend in the world just moved halfway across it. Vilma and her family left for Finland on the 16th, and in the weeks before that, we made every possible swimming playdate and meetup that we could, including a day where she and Vaatu came over alone while Anu tried to finish packing up. It was actually pretty great — the four kids played together really well, and I snapped a few pics of them eating homemade popsicles and painting at the craft table and such. Annika was prone to finishing trains of thought with “And I’ll never see Vilma again [tragical face].” I took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese on the day the Vaisanens actually left, basically to distract them, and while we had fun in the moment, the exit from Chuck’s was one of the worst stereophonic meltdowns I’ve ever seen my kids have. I was fireman-carrying both of them out of the place. So … stressed and upset, a little. Yeah. I do hope we can visit Finland sometime — they are good friends, and I’d hate for this to be the last we ever see of them. But: Bon voyage, Vaisanen family, and best of luck to you all!
—The Summer of Fairies: Annika got into reading an apparently infinite series of books called “Rainbow Magic Fairies,” in which these two girls, Rachel and Kirsty, have various adventures in fairyland with the multitudinous fairies whose domain is this, that, and the other area of human life (e.g. chocolate, Christmas stockings, fashion shows, the color blue, etc.). They’re cute and harmless and among the few books that are of the reading level she needs but with content that’s OK for a seven-year-old (although it’s introduced some phrasing in her vocabulary like “This is going to be a disaster!”, LOL). She built a mall out of boxes in the movie room — Tippington Fountains Shopping Center (a location frequented in the books), with a half-dozen shops & merch and whatnot, it’s amazing — and allowed herself to be talked out of bunk beds only by the purchase and installation of a fairy-lit, purple tulle fairy canopy over her existing bed. Also she wants her birthday party to be a fairy theme. So … we are very into fairies up in this joint. :-)
—A swimming breakthrough: Annoyed and bummed by the lack of a ribbon in recent months, Annika asked me to sign her up for AVAC’s “intensive” lessons, which is a week of lessons every day — and by granny, on Wednesday of her week, she earned her Marlin ribbon and is now working on the Orca! They’re learning breaststroke and some other fairly complicated stuff (teachers say Orca level is the hardest); she’s part mermaid, so I’m sure she’ll earn this one too.

Lukas has entered the “why” phase, in which every single question — and there are lots of questions — turns into a rundown back to the most basic and elemental things. You can answer the opening Qs, the easy lobs, but then as the interrogation goes from something like “Which crayon is your favorite?” to “What is blue?” and “Why are there colors?” … you find yourself out of answers. He also has many theories as to why (on any given topic), which are as entertaining as they are educational.
—Party time: Lukas was invited to his classmate Alex's birthday party, held at the Almaden Lake Park. He was excited to have gotten his very own invitation! We went, and it was fine, but sizzling in the un-shaded sunlight of a Saturday morning on the SURFACE OF THE SUN. He even ate a real cupcake — the kind of petroleum-byproduct item you get at Lucky — without any ill effects, and said thanks for inviting me/I had a nice time without much prompting. 

—Annika to Lukas:
"You look like an old person when you tuck your shirt in!" (To me, confidentially & knowingly: "Old people do that.”
—In the mornings, Lukas has me cover him in the dots blanket (blanket dots) in the crib, then tells me he's going to "crack out" of it
—Lukas, confidently buying Annika a post-swim-lesson cookie at AVAC: "My sister wants a chocolate chip cookie!"

June 2015

It’s so cool / in my pool
It finally got warm enough to start using the pool a lot in June, so in the first two weeks, we had a Vilma & Alana & families end-of-school pool playdate, the first family pool weekend, and a pool playdate with the neighbors (Janeen and sons Greyson and Anders). I’m finally figuring out how to do it right, w/r/t timing, towels, a pitcher of water & some glasses outside, etc. And with Lukas in a floaty suit, I don’t have to hold him in my arms the entire time he’s in the water — yay! Often, after a long hot day, I’d get the kids in the pool in the late afternoon (sometimes after their dinner); the shadow of the house shades the pool at that hour, so no sunscreen is necessary, and not only does the water calm both of them down, but also, in this drought, it suffices for a bath/shower. 
Family game night ahoy
For no real reason, I decided we needed classic editions of Clue and Monopoly, so we got them, and took a chance on playing Monopoly as a family … and it actually worked! Even Lukas held his own, although he more or less always thought it was his turn, and Annika became incensed anytime anyone else gained money or property … lol. Of course it takes forever, so we quit after an hour or so and came back to it another day, and left it set up on the dining table for weeks (until we had houseguests and had to take it down so we could feed them properly). Feels like the start of a new era! 
Annika’s world
—The last week of school:
School runs into June here, and this last week was really pretty sad for us — Annika hated the thought of not being in Mrs. Casey’s class anymore, plus knowing Vilma won’t be there next year … :-(  There were actual tears the last day. First time I’ve ever seen (or done) anything like that!
—Camp Mom: Annika decided she didn’t want to do any camps this year — in her words, she wanted to “take a break” — so we scheduled nothing, but made a list of fun and/or educational things to do (e.g. go to Chuck E Cheese, get a library card, learn to tie her own shoes, have a picnic, work in the 3rd grade notebook, bake, etc.), and started in on them right away. Of course she played a lot of Club Penguin, but it was pretty well balanced with the other stuff — and she is hugely proud of having her own library card. Takes it very, very seriously; borrows all the Rainbow Magic Fairies books (there are apparently three million titles); always remembers to get a book or two for Lukas. So cute!
—The Last Dance Recital: Annika still insists she doesn’t want to do dance this next year, which means 2015 is her last recital. She loved her costume, she loved only doing ballet (no tap), and she really enjoyed being onstage (and Lukas LOVED the show — I mean it, I doubt there’s a dance parent in the whole audience who was more into it). But when it was over, she was as firm in her convictions as ever, so I guess that’s where we’ll leave it for now. 
Lukas Land
—Potty trained??:
The kid had been keeping dry during the day and overnight (mostly) so we made the leap (hoping not to have to take diapers with us to Hawaii) — and it’s early yet, but it looks like we may have VICTORY!!! Woooooooooooo!!!!
—Lukas’s first invited party: He’s used to being dragged along to Annika’s parties and playdates, or included as her plus-one, but this month, Lukas got his first very own party invitation: to our young neighbor Anders’s superhero party! He did great, and wore the party-favor superhero mask for three solid days (most of the kids took theirs off within about 15 minutes).
—Swimming: Lukas finally earned his first ribbon at AVAC! He’s not quite as achievement-oriented as Annika, but BOY was he proud of himself for getting his O-Fish-al Jellyfish ribbon. A big day for the little swimmer! 
Blue Hawaiian
The big event of the month — nay, the whole summer! — was our almost-two-week trip to “our place” in Hawaii (the condos near Waikoloa, on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island). This time, we didn’t muck it up with long drives or Hilo or luaus or any of that stuff — we stuck extremely close to home, packing a cooler, having breakfast on the lanai, and hitting the beach club early every single day of our stay — which made for a very mellow, actually-at-times-relaxing vacation. Highlights included:
—Lukas learns to swim for real: Maybe it was the buoyancy of the ocean, or the amount of time we spent in the water, or all those months of swim lessons, but he finally really got it, and spent all his time either playing “chase race” with me or swimming in a triangle between me, R., and Annika.
—Annika and Daddy snorkeling: Those two booked some serious time in their snorkel gear, going way out past the rocks, even seeing a shark just past the reef! Annika continued to work on her (excellent) free-diving in the channels, and is excited to learn scuba or snuba as soon as she’s allowed.
—Annika and I doing water sports: I rented a SUP board one day, took it for a lap or two, then picked up Annika as my passenger and paddled us around the bay. It was awesome!! Another day, I rented a two-seater kayak, and we paddled together almost as far out as she and R. go snorkeling — a really fun change of pace for us both, and I was extra glad to be in such good shape (that stuff is hard work!).
—Lukas in restaurants: Parents of the Year, here, we let Lukas have his favorite meal every time we went to a restaurant … and by the end, he was ordering "French fries, ketchup, and water” like a pro. Ha! 

The Quotable Lukas
—“Hey Mr Chivers - I'm wearin underwear!”
Imparting important facts to our contractor, who had come to check on the progress of the new downstairs shower.
—Annika, seeing Lukas with hands behind his back: “Hey Lukas, whatcha got there?” Lukas: “My CROTCH!” he roars as he jumps 180 degrees, pointing to his butt and collapsing in giggles.
—“honeypickle" = Popsicle
—“I was SO gone!" What he told his teacher, Miss Penny, re: having been on vacation