—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. :-)
—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.
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!”
—RIDING A BIKE! 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!
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.
—“poutons" = 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!