Thursday, June 11, 2015

May 2015

—Mother’s Day: Annika was the main instigator of the plans for Mother’s Day, drafting R. as necessary, including: Buying a waffle iron to make waffles for me (they were delicious!), making me several little crafty adorable presents, and buying a flowering plant in a pretty blue flowerpot. I got to sleep in, too! Yay for Mother’s Day!
—Daddy’s birthday: Homemade brownies with ice cream and homemade chocolate sauce, presents, family dinner, cards — we celebrated old Daddy Dad’s birthday in style. 
Grandparents visit
Grandma & Grandpa flew out for a springtime visit, our Christmas gift to them (and sort of a do-over for that particular visit, ugh), arriving in time to allow R. and I to go to a Senior Sauce (aka kid-free) and also, the next weekend, to go to the Plumed Horse in Saratoga and stay overnight in a hotel (a birthday gift from me to R.). The kids, as usual, forgot we existed as soon as G&G got here, and the four of them spent many quality hours together, just enjoying each other’s company. Grandma even escorted Annika to her classmate Alanna’s pool party, just about a block from our house, and came home with more information about Alanna’s family than I’d gathered in a year of knowing the family — that’s Grandma! 
School happenings
—Art Show: Annika had two pieces in the school’s Art Vistas showcase, so we all went to the evening show. She was really proud of her work, and it was neat to see what the other grades had been up to as well.
—School open house: Grandpa stayed home sick, but the rest of us piled into the car and went to the school open house. Grandma got to meet Annika’s teacher, the fabulous Mrs. Casey, and we were all taken through the list of “things to see” by our tourguide, Annika, in order and at a regimented pace (that’s our girl!). It was pretty amazing to see how much they got done, and how she’s improved from what we already thought was a high level of work. Lukas, up past his bedtime, was a butthead, except for the brief moments when he was lounging on the beanbags in the classroom’s reading nook, like he owned the place …
Playdates with new playmates: I haven’t said it this way exactly, but with Vilma moving back to Finland, Annika needs to diversify her friendships — so I was very glad to help arrange a few new-ish friend playdates: one with her buddy Raina (which went very, very well — she’s a great kid), and one with Brianna, who mostly pals around with a couple of other girls but is fun and cool and I like her mom, so it’s nice for me too. :-)
—Girl Scouts party: At Annika’s desperately-pleaded request, I have signed her up with a Girl Scouts troop for this fall. The rest of them have been meeting all spring (Annika already had piano and dance on the meeting days), but invited Annika and the other girl who had a time conflict to their end-of-year party at Brianna’s. It was fun and a good chance for her to get to know them a little better, although she gave me grief on the way home (as is her wont) about how come she hadn’t been meeting with them all along and how she didn’t feel like part of the group yet (see above re: conflict.) Oi.

Annika's mystery rash, Lukas’s HFM: Antibiotics killed Annika's mystery rash (see April 2015) right away. But then, Lukas sprouted similar bumps on his feet and wrists; we treated it with antibiotics (though his strep test ended up coming back negative), before we found out the neighbor kid with whom he’d recently had a playdate had Hand, Foot and Mouth disease — which we concluded was what he had, instead of the same thing Annika had had. Gaaaaaaah! Anyway, they both got over their ailments, and all is now well.

Quotable Kids
—Lukas, in re: killing a fly: “I gotta get something very very sticky, and very very very smashy!”
—Lukas’s version of the middle bit of the ABC song: "A K K K LMNOP"
—Lukas in his crib one morning, to me: "I'm turning into a dinosaur! [spins] Raaaaaaaawr! I'm turning back into a precious sweet boy! [spins other direction, whispering 'Magic powers!’]"
—Lukas asking the important questions: “Does Thor play with toys when he's tired of banging his hammer?"
—Annika, officiously, to all of us, clipboard in hand: “Take this survey. Survey: What's your favorite animal: fox, wolf, cheetah, or cat?” R. and I choose from the list. Lukas’s answer: “Ghost.”
“Sauerkrap” = Lukas’s rendition of sauerkraut

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

April 2015

Spring break
Annika’s spring break happened to coincide with Daddy’s trip to Las Vegas for work, so it was mostly me soloing with both kids, and we did all right, I’d say! Highlights included:
—Chuck E Cheese: Both kids LOVED this place, and honestly, I’m not sure there’s more fun to be had for $20 worth of tokens. Really fun time!
—The tea party restaurant: One day while Lukas was at school, Annika and I went to this tea place in the Pruneyard for a very girly outing together. We ate tons of those little cinnamony cookies with lemon curd, I let her put all the sugar cubes in my tea, and we nibbled little bitty sandwiches like fancy ladies. A new tradition!
—The Children’s Discovery Museum: Glad we had free passes to this one … it was fun, but 60% of the place was under construction, so there wasn’t that much to do, and we bailed early to eat “breakfast for lunch” at a diner near home. 
—Sharks Ice: Another girls-only outing, for a little ice skating while Lukas was in school. Annika’s skills have really picked up!
—Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: An excellent day on our new season passes, full of rides and junk food and no meltdowns! This one we did after Daddy got back, of course, heh. Annika made a friend, a little girl who was there with her aunt, and rode a bunch of rides with her while Lukas did the baby belugas ride like seventeen times. 
Lukas’s school days
The little guy is still doing great with preschool (well, when he goes, which is only about 70% of the time, considering he’s gotten every illness in Northern California in his short tenure there). He still loves Gymsters, on Mondays, although he has quit basketball for reasons undecipherable. He's always excited when he has a school day, and his smile when I come to get him is just the best. 
Annika’s wild life
—Party time:
This month, she went to Alana’s birthday party at Pump It Up, then a couple of weeks later, to Petroglyph for Raina's party.
—The mystery rash: One Thursday night, she said her knees were itchy, and by the next evening, her knees and elbows were like cauliflower with painful hive-like bumps. We went to a doctor on Saturday, who had nothing of value to tell us, and then to a dermatologist the next Wednesday, who at least gave us a cream that seemed marginally effective, but by that time she had a 101.5 fever and had thrown up in the car, plus the welts had spread over her thighs and ankles, so she was out for the rest of the school week. The next Monday afternoon, her own doctor took a strep swab, which came back positive, so it looks like that might have been the mystery ailment — here’s hoping!
—School singing performance: The first grade had a short concert at Castillero Middle School one evening, so the whole family went to see it. Annika did beautifully, and even Lukas loved it (I took video of him copying the arm gestures of one of the songs — hilarious!).
—Club Penguin: Annika got obsessed with this one kids’ online game called Club Penguin. It’s incomprehensible to R. and I — we can’t tell what is the object or why you would care — but she really does love it, and after a month of playing the free version and racking up “coins,” she made a very considered and thorough pitch to be allowed to become a member ($19.99 for 3 months) so she could upgrade her igloo (?), wardrobe, and music library with all those coins she’d saved. So far, so good, although — seriously — WTF is this game? and why god why? Oh well … 

—“If I close my eyes, you can't see me.”
—Lukas, on invisibility
— “I got a machievement sticker!” — Lukas, on the 90-day sticker he won on the toothbrushing timer app.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

March 2015

Lukas starts preschool
The marquee event of the month was Lukas starting preschool. He was thrilled and excited to be going to “school like Annika,” and had his specially-chosen Spider-Man water bottle and lunch box (aka “wunchbocky,” his goofy term for lunchbox). He liked it a lot, and made friends quickly — they all greet him in the morning (“Hi, Lukas! Lukas is here!!”), and by the end of the month he had started naming some of the kids he would play with that day. Sometimes he’s a little clingy when I’m trying to leave, but it hasn’t been too bad. He LOVES Gymsters, which is on Mondays, and is really proud of the little art projects he’s produced. Of course, preschools being basically huge vats of germs, he got sick right away — he spent the first weekend after he started, all pukey and feverish, and missed a day, and as soon as he was better from that, he got a feverish cough and general yuck that turned into pneumonia (mild, treatable, but kept him out of school for a week). Poor kid — but he got better quickly, and here’s hoping he doesn’t pick up something else! In the meantime, the new era has begun, and it seems to be working really well for him.  
Annika’s amblings
Their school does a voluntary science fair each spring, and Annika announced right away that she wanted to do it, and even had a project in mind: Finding out what liquid would clean a penny the best. So we filled out the forms, got a trifold board, followed the scientific method, and got it done nearly two weeks early. She drove the whole thing, btw — I provided logistical support and materials, with the occasional assist from R., but this really was Annika’s from start to finish. We were so proud of her! At one point, she declared rapturously, "I LOVE Science-O-Rama!” Heh. Anyway, so the night of the event, we went to school, and she had to answer questions from a judge about her project by herself (we parents all had to wait outside as the judges roamed around the cafeteria interviewing the kids); she knocked it outta the park! 
—Wildflower Run: Our plan to do the Wildflower Run together — me doing the 5K and her doing the kids’ 2K — hit a snag when I broke my toe (the right pinkie) the weekend before. I was ready to bag the whole trip, but Annika really really wanted to do it and earn her medal, so R. stayed home with a sick Lukas and she and I road-tripped to Morgan Hill ourselves. She ran the first two and a half laps without stopping, and really pushed the rest of the run as well — it was a real thrill to see how hard she worked and how well she did. So she got her medal — and hopefully we’ll both be race-ready next year! 
Things Life Whatnot
—Annual Guinness party at the Marshalls:
Mid-month, we went to the belated St. Patrick’s Day party at Annika’s friend Niamh’s house. R. and I had a good time drinking Guinness and talking with grownups, and the kids — after a rocky start, when Annika felt Niamh wasn’t paying her enough attention and Lukas had a rough time in the bouncy house — enjoyed themselves as well. 
—Spies playdate: Annika and her friends are into All Things Spy-Related these days, so when her school had a couple of minimum days (out at 1:00) for spring PT conferences, we invited the Alana and Vilma families over for a Spies playdate. The girls had to take a quiz Annika had written out (sample Q: Where do spies live?), then they all bombed around the house sneaking and writing cryptic notes and peeking around corners and whatnot. Good times!
—Pop torture: This is my fault, but unfortunately, the kids both love Taylor Swift (argh). It’s all because of that ONE SONG I kind of liked, which they both loved, and now they ask me all the time to find TS and her various noodlings on the radio … [headdesk]
—Homestyle gymnastics: Annika has been heavily into perfecting her cartwheel, both at home and on the playground, and what she does, Lukas must also do — so they use our room for gymnastics practice: cartwheels for her, somersaults for him, on the carpet. It’s hilarious, if occasionally hazardous …

Quotable Kids
—Lukas, in re: tornados:
—Annika, rushing to interpret what he was trying to say about a Little Charmers character: “Hold on - I know Lukas talk!"
—Lukas, watching her doing magic in his room one morning: "Dat's coool! How'd you DO dat??"
—Lukas, warning innocent bystanders before he somersaults: “Wook out be-kwow!"
—Annika, doing a little informal history research: “What was your favorite app when you were a kid?"
—Lukas, starting the next game: “How bout we pway ... [dramatic silence] [dramatic whisper as he opens a cabinet door with a flourish] … wegohhhhhhs!”
—Lukas, about an intriguing musical instrument: the "recordian" (accordion)

Monday, March 9, 2015

February 2015

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

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

January 2015

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

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

December 2014

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

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

November 2014

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

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

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