—The big day: As is now the custom, I decorated her place at the dining table with streamers (blue this year) and put a little present there for breakfast. She woke up early and was super-excited to get cranking on the birthday fun. At school, she declined to be recognized during “Movin’ and Groovin,” her most hated school activity (led for all the first graders by Mrs. W, about whom: more below), and otherwise had a fantastic day being the special birthday kid. At home, she and I got right to the important task of baking her cake, which this year was a round two-layer cake with a gigantic number “7” on it in blue sanding sugar. We all ate her favorite meal for dinner: spaghetti with butter & cheese. Afterward, she opened presents, which included: tickets to Disney on Ice (for her and for me, two Saturdays later), Goldie Blox, Lego Friends, iTunes cards (for apps), walkie-talkies, a magic kit, and a Kidizoom watch (which takes videos and has games on it).
—The party: Earlier in the year we’d thought of having her party at home, but because we thought we might have construction going on (turned out, it started a little later, in November), we looked for a new fun place to have her party: Color Me Mine, which has a new location in the mall near us. She kept the guest list to 14, which made a full table of kids (including Lukas), and everyone loved the unique idea of it. Going with her requested “undersea” theme, I ordered her a special cake from a local bakery with a mermaid and a cute hammerhead shark on it, and made a banner for the wall at Color Me Mine. Hilariously and awfully, we showed up late to our own party — three of her guests were already there, probably wondering if they were at the wrong place … but it worked out fine, and with help from the other parents (and especially my friend Anne), we got it all done and a good time was had by all!
— 7 year checkup: She’s almost 49 inches tall (she’s really shot up this year), and her eyesight is as sharp as ever. She was able to get the inhalable flu vaccine, so no shots, and was very good at helping Lukas get past his shrieking, gibbering fear of same so he could get his inhalable flu vaccine at the same time. Yay for big sisters!
—Lukas knows his left and right: I’m not sure how he picked this up, but he has — and he can even choose correctly on a person who is facing him (i.e. reverse it). Wow!
—He’s into superheroes and Buzz Lightyear: The little guy has figured out, through cultural osmosis, all the superheroes from Spider-Man to Iron Man, plus all the ones in the Pixar universe (mostly for movies/TV he’s never seen). He’s forever talking about “punching out bad guys” and trying to fix in his mind who is a bad guy and who is a good guy.
—Monster in the morning: Lukas putters around by himself in his crib for awhile in the morning, but when somebody goes into his room to fetch him out, he crouches down behind the crib bars and then pops up, going “Raaaaahhhhrr!” You’re supposed to pretend to be scared of the “monster” (or dragon, or dinosaur, etc.), and then, relieved, say “Oh, whew, it’s just Lukas! I was so scared!” or whatever.
—The thing with him and opening the front door: He’ll get to the front door first and block it, telling me “You can’t do it, but [whatever he’s holding or wearing, e.g. stretchy alien, the car on his shirt, a handful of stickers, Buzz Lightyear] can!” You’re supposed to unlock it, then let him (or it) press the handle down and shove the door open.
We don’t get out a lot as a family, but when prompted, it’s often epic: Our friend Ian has a new children’s book out, and invited us to his launch party at a bookstore in Marin. We accepted, and made the 1.5 hour drive up there. We all had a great time (at the reading and at the running-around-the-store afterwards); Ian and Kusum’s son, Theo, had a school friend there, who got an eyeful of Annika and said to him, “How do you know HER?” hah! They invited us to their house afterward for some celebratory champagne, which we had while the kids ran around some more. Then we headed home, stopping in to our old stomping grounds, Celia’s Mexican Restaurant in Daly City, for some takeout (we even got to visit briefly with our old friend Miriam, who was often our waitress in those long hangouts of a Saturday or Sunday afternoon). When we finally got to our house, Uncle P. and Cousin Sonic were there to greet us, as they were on the run from Cousin A.’s slumber party back at their house. So it was a long day and a late night, but epic fun!
—The 9/11 book incident: Annika somewhat elliptically revealed to me one night that about a month ago, a substitute teacher in her class, having read them a book about Philippe Petit (the guy who walked on a wire between the two WTC buildings in 1974), had told them all about 9/11 (including such choice details as 3,000 people dying, people falling or jumping from the buildings, the pilots crashing into the building on purpose — which I had to amend to the bad guys threw the pilots out and they crashed the planes on purpose, etc.). SO. R. and I were beyond furious. He went to the principal the very next morning, and managed not to yell at the guy (who was, to his credit, properly appalled), and the whole thing grew into a string of emails between us, the principal, her teacher, and the sub — who defended herself on grounds of 1) she’s been teaching for 46 years and is beloved there, and 2) she didn’t say that stuff, which of course was bullshit. We didn't want Annika to be in any class taught by this woman, and actually kept Annika out of school one day when we knew she was going to be the substitute. Finally, there was a meeting with all five of us, at which we were eventually satisfied that they acknowledged that the whole situation was messed up and told us how they’d plan not to have something like this again. Annika dislikes the sub on general principles (she says she treats the first-graders like babies, the highest possible offense!), but as far as we know, is unaware of all the kerfuffle — so we got that going for us.
—Red Ribbon Week: My god, what a nightmare for my kid who only wears blue and does not own sports-related clothing … this was a theme week about “making healthy choices,” and there was some sort of special attire “suggested” every day. I spent HOURS and DOLLARS on trying to get her kitted out correctly, only to have her scream and cry and berate me — for the yellow-striped shirt on “black and yellow” day that had GRAAAAAAAAAYYYY IN IT (she ended up wearing the black velvet dress that was the base of her Halloween costume); for the SF Giants shirt on “sports/team attire” day — the literal only SF Giants shirt in Target — that was TOO BIG AND YOU ALWAYS GET ME CLOTHES THAT ARE TOO BIG (she wore the velvet dress again, with a uniform skirt over the bottom half); for the “wear all red” day (she hasn’t a stitch of red, which is clearly my own personal evil and intentional fault) …. Next time, I’m letting her outfit herself, or not, and I’m not getting anywhere near it.
—Dandy Day: This was a triumph all around! Her school has one big fundraiser, a walk-a-thon and silent auction called Dandy Day — that covers most of their “extras,” such as science lab, music, art, computers, etc. She solicited donations from the family (and I put it on Facebook), and wow, did she earn that money! She walked 37 laps — which I’m told is nearly 11 miles, the latter half with a huge blister on her left instep (by the end, she was just gutting through it, really in pain, but refusing to stop), and ended up earning $420 (thanks, Uncle J., for the $5 per lap pledge!). She bragged to everyone about how much money she earned for the school, and was thrilled to get a special “Paws” medal for raising more than $300; her class even got the first grade’s “Golden Shoe” award for most money raised. She’s already talking about next year, and how much more she’s going to walk. Look out!
So Annika noticed at the dentist that there’s a free app you can download from Oral-B toothbrushes, where you scan your Licensed Character Oral-B toothbrush on your iPad and it plays a timer for 2 minutes, gradually revealing a picture from a Licensed Disney or Pixar Property, after which you get a virtual sticker to add to a virtual album. Simple, yeah? IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN BOTH KIDS’ LIVES. I’m only kidding by a very, very little bit here. The fights, the elbowing, the screaming if one of them pushes the start button on the other’s profile — it is NUTS. It does get them to brush for a full two minutes, morning and night, but … we’re starting to wonder if it’s worth the ag.
—The costumes: Annika went through fewer ideas than you’d think; if Halloween were in May, she might’ve gone as Frozen’s Queen Elsa, but by late summer she was pretty well fixed on being a black cat — specifically black, such is her orthodoxy in matters Halloween. But she wanted to wear a dress, so I searched the internet for a garment of the correct length and coloration, finally hitting the jackpot with a black stretchy-velvet skater dress from American Apparel; bought a size too big, it was the proper length for milady, and she was thrilled with it. She had a tail from some cheap kit she’d gotten me to buy her at Michael’s a month ago, but the glittery kitty mask from that kit wasn’t any good — it was flat, with no nose indention, and some of the sequins were missing. So I found a plain black mask with the nose thing, and got black and silver glitter, plus some whiskers and a hot glue gun to affix them to the mask. We mod-podged the glitter on, I hot-glued the whiskers — mask sorted. Then, the matter of claws: I bought a pair of black gloves and a pair of black jazz shoes (this at Prima Dancewear, heh), and drew claws on both with a silver paint pen. She loved the whole ensemble, and she was definitely the cutest, most ladylike black cat in Halloweendom. Lukas, in his first year of real Halloween eligibility, was all over the place in his costume plans — Spider-Man, doggy, Iron Man, Dora (and friends), Spider-Man dragon — but then got specific and definite: red dinosaur. He stuck with that for two weeks, so I finally went ahead and searched — and darned if there wasn’t a red dinosaur costume on sale at Pottery Barn Kids! Amazing. Ordered it, it fit, he loved it — win! He was quite happy to wear the headpiece (some kids won’t wear stuff on their heads), and the glove-claws that came with it — he was committed to doing this all the way. Cutest little red dinosaur in the Anthropocene Era!
—The costume parade at school: It hadn’t rained in three years, but the forecasts were 100% for rain on Halloween, so there was some doubt the school costume parade would be held outside. The weather cooperated, though, and had the added benefit of moving things along a little faster than last year. There were, predictably, tons of Elsas and Annas, but a lot of fun stuff too (my favorite, besides Annika, was a third-grader with a stuffed tiger — Calvin and Hobbes!). Lukas was super excited, yelling and pointing as he spotted several "Iwon Man"s, Captain America, "box guy” (a kid with some sort of box around him — I think Minecraft-related), “blue guy” (a kid in an all-blue one-piece unitard that covered everything, including his/her head — not sure what that was supposed to be), etc. Tons of fun, and just so friggin cute all around.
—Halloween night: We decided to stay local this year, and scored an invitation to Annika’s friend Niamh’s house for dinner and group trick-or-treating. Rain had fallen in the afternoon and was still threatening, but there was no more than a mist in the air by the time we finished dinner, and trick-or-treating was ON. We parents walked their neighborhood, which is one of big, holiday-decorated houses, with to-go cups of adult beverages, while the kids ran house to house. Lawson and Lukas held hands pretty much the entire time (gaaaaaaaahhh so cute!!! him running, holding hands, with that dinosaur tail wagging behind him!). When the kids declared themselves done, we adjourned to Niamh’s house, where the adults stood around the kitchen with wine and the kids ate a ton of their candy haul and ran around like maniacs till about 9:00. The next day, we broke our usual rules and let Annika & Lukas eat candy more or less all day long — Halloween is but once a year!
—“This wowipop tastes like swazzberry!” (His approving commentary on a grape sucker he was eating.)
—“Woo-wee" (aka Woody, from Toy Story)