Sunday, February 11, 2018

January 2018

Family Fun
—My birthday:
The festivities this year started the night before, with dinner at the Plumed Horse for R. and I — which was awesome, but meant I reeeeeally needed to sleep in on Saturday, heh. The kids made me adorable homemade birthday gifts, and from the grownups I got things like Stone Roses merch and Scotch — a very good birthday indeed!
—MLK Sauce: Our first Sauce since June — so we made it a two-nighter, even though we are all old, setting up Saturday and staying till Monday of the holiday weekend. It was a great one, despite the fact that Lukas had an allergic reaction to their cats and needed Benadryl and then had to more or less hide in Mason’s room the whole time … heh. Kids love Sauce for the relaxed rules and increased screen time, yay!
—Burns Night: We were invited to a family party at Annika’s friend Alana’s, featuring Scotch and haggis and all that good stuff, in honor of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. We all had a good time (and finally there were people there that we knew besides the hosts!), and it wasn’t even all that hard to do my Girl Scout volunteering the next morning … (two hours packing SUVs with Trefoils at the cookie distribution center). 
Lukas Life
—Lukas loses a second tooth:
He’s got a mouthful of wiggly ones, and this time, he lost a tooth at school! I was sick, so my friend Ami brought the kids home, and it was of course the first thing he wanted to show me when he got home. Tooth Fairy tonight!
—Skateboarding: Thanks most likely in part to Lawson having done it last year, Lukas wanted to take after-school skateboarding lessons; the first session was a rainout, but on the last day of the month, he got to bust out his (Annika’s) board and his new set of pads and get started. He said he’s gonna learn "a kick flip, grinding, and grabs.”,),
—DanTDM manifests again: Lukas has discovered the apparently infinite stores of videos of DanTDM playing various games — Minecraft, Roblox, a thousand variations — and doing various “challenges” (e.g. “try not to laugh” challenges). R.’s and my opinions of these … would not have made the dude rich, but it’s the kids who love him, so … 
Action Annika
—Baby teethpocalypse:
At the kids’ regular checkup, the dentist told us that she had eight baby teeth that were mere shells sitting on top of already-emerged permanent teeth. So we scheduled an “extraction,” which was basically (per the dentist) “flicking” the shells out; she didn’t want to do it, but A)it didn’t hurt, and B) she got to skip school and swimming, plus absolutely cleaning up in Tooth Fairy gold coins, so altogether not too bad an experience. 
—Annika starts band: Another thing we almost missed doing: A local music school formed a band at the kids’ school, for grades 3-5, with practice before school 3x/wk. Friends of hers decided to do it, and we happened to have a flute available (Cousin Alyna recently upgraded her instrument, and loaned us her “starter” one), so she agreed she’d like to try it — and she has really enjoyed it! Practices without  being told! Wants to keep going with it! So we’ll see — but for now, it’s been lots of fun.
—4th grade musical performance: Once again, back to Castillero for the six-song EP (heh) performance! Annika seemed to be having a fine time, while Lukas and Lawson played with slime and ignored the stage entirely. 
—Girl Scout Cookie sales: As I mentioned, it’s cookie season, and our troop got lucky with a whole bunch of booths in the first week. Annika and I were out there the first day (Monday) and the third (Wednesday), which discharges our booth requirements for the session; she was really great with customers this year,! Meanwhile, P2P sales have been brisk, so it’s all been relatively painless … ;-) 

Quotable
Lukas, on Land of the Lost and other Sid & Marty Krofft entertainments R. put them up to watching: “We watched a really bad show about dinosaurs, and then a show by the same guys that had a rotten sea monster named sidmond.”

Monday, January 22, 2018

December 2017

Christmas!
The biggest event of the entire kid year, and it’s basically all month long! We started with the advent calendar(s) and the advent treasure hunt on December 1. That first weekend, we went to get a tree; slim pickings out there, but we found one we all liked at the second lot we tried, and brought it home, spending what’s maybe my own favorite afternoon of the year decorating it. Even Lukas is old enough now to hang the ornaments, so it was all the more fun. School was basically camp for the last week or so (including Pajama Day, on which I’m assuming very little work gets done by anyone), and the kids were super excited to be the first to put presents under the tree (both homemade and things they bought from the “Penguin Patch” gift shop at school, with their own money). We all loaded up in the Highlander and went to Fantasy of Lights, a perennial favorite. A couple of days before Christmas, we had family movie night and watched A Christmas Story — which finally, FINALLY the kids are as into as we are; the entire rest of the break, they would recite lines from it, re-enact bits of it, fall to pieces laughing at scenes they remembered … Christmas Eve, we baked cookies, snuck off to wrap last-minute presents, hung stockings, and put out treats for Santa & the reindeer, then off to bed (after a bedtime reading of ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, of course). Christmas morning, the kids woke early but not awfully so … and Santa had been here!!!! The pile of presents extended well into the living room, and it was all we could do to hold the kids to a couple of presents and the contents of their stockings until R. and I could get the turkey into the oven. But when we did dive into the pile … hoo boy: a giant pile of Harry-Potter-themed pillows, some gorgeous stuffed animals, 1500 wooden dominoes (to set up and knock down), a baseball glove and a guitar for Lukas, these crazy little Cozmo robots for both kids, cameras for both kids, a cool metal jewelry-making kit for Annika, a two-wheeled scooter for Lukas, books, games, puzzles, a fox hoodie for Annika — these kids made out like bandits! The cousins came over for a little while, late in the afternoon; meanwhile, Lukas had come down with a fever that ended up spiking pretty high (103) and lasting for six days, poor thing. But all in all, it was a really really nice Christmas for the whole family. 
Kid Stuff
—Quitting karate (for now?):
Just as quickly as it arrived, the karate train has apparently left the station. Annika stopped first — just flat refused to go anymore, for reasons we don’t understand because she won’t tell us, and then Lukas. We are annoyed and baffled and suspect that at least on her part, it’s about screen time and the fear of being unable to break a board, but she stonewalled us and he doesn’t really care all that much. So for now, at least, we’re allowing our pre-paid term to expire mid-month and that’ll be that for awhile.
—Grandma & Grandpa arrive: The grandparents showed up mid-month, for what might be their last long visit on account of with any luck, their condo will be finished and ready to move into before the next trip!
—Girl Scout stuff: The Scouts were active this month, with a trip to a food bank to deliver their troop’s donations and get a behind-the-scenes tour, and of course the Christmas party at the troop leader’s house, where I helped the girls make ornaments and decorate cookies.
New Year’s Eve
We had a pretty quiet NYE at home — just us and the TV — and Annika had Raina over for a sleepover (long-planned and basically the reason we didn’t do a NYE Sauce, lol). Grandma & Grandpa stayed up through East Coast NYE, then went to bed; we made Lukas go to bed around then, but promised to get him up for the ball drop (which we did). There were noisemakers, those little exploding poppers, homemade crowns for the kids (Annika’s doing, of course), and sparkling beverages (cider for kids, Schramsberg for the grown-ups). Here’s to a great 2018!

Quotable
—“Hey, kid!”
and “I can’t put my arms down!” — both kids all the time, post ACS

Saturday, January 20, 2018

November 2017

Lukas is Six!
Our boy Lukas turned six this month! The big day was on a Saturday, so we had his party at Pump It Up in the morning — tons of little maniacs running around, caroming off the inflatables, screaming — and then in the afternoon, made him the chocolate cake with raspberry filling and chocolate glaze that has now become the family go-to for birthdays and special occasions generally (although the dinner we had, hilariously, was pasta for three, and a PB for one — his birthday, his choice! LOL). He made out like a bandit, present-wise — stuffed animals, marbles, Star Wars shirts, transformers, Legos, Captain Underpants books [sigh], etc. Hard to believe he wasn’t even born when we moved into this house, and now he’s a half-grown tasmanian devil in the form of the sweetest boy in the wide world. 
All-Around Annika
—Girl Scouts: This month, the big event with GS was her troop’s hike to the top of Mt. Umunhum, which is a place you can see from everywhere around here but not that many people have ever been to (including me). She really enjoyed it, even though she has started to say she wants to quit GS …
—iPad time: Annika’s been saving for over a year to buy herself her own iPad mini, and this was the month she finally had enough $$ to do it. R. ordered it to get his discount, and threw in a cover and the AppleCare insurance. We made it clear that the family rules about when and how it is used still apply, and that we would always know its password, and so far, she’s been conscientious about that. She’s very proud of herself for reaching her goal, and so are we.
—Fun outing: Her BFF Raina won the teacher raffle for Mr. Dinh’s class at Dandy Day, which was a trip to a restaurant in the mall with Mr. Dinh and a friend for an item called a “Pizzookie” — a cookie the size of a pizza, with ice cream and stuff on top. Raina invited Annika as her plus-one, and they went on a Friday afternoon to get their treat. 
Lukas Life
—Lukas loses his first tooth! The Tooth Fairy made her first visit for Lukas this month. He lost one of his bottom front teeth, which had been wiggly for weeks — so exciting! He was thrilled, of course, and very surprised that though there was a tiny little bit of blood, it didn’t hurt. In the morning, the tooth was gone, and three shiny gold dollar coins had taken its place — pure magic! He looked extra adorable in all his birthday pics, with the little gap where the tooth used to be …
—Birthday party month: Since Lukas was in TK and all those kids have their birthdays in October and November, we had a flurry of parties to attend, including: Brayden’s, at Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl (a bowling alley and bar, with an undersea theme, inside Bass Pro Shops); Samantha’s, at a gymnastics school (Lukas had an absolute blast at this one!); and Dylan M.’s (at Cucina Bambini, a cooking school for kids, where they made their own pizzas and ice cream treats).
—The TK/Kinder musical performance: On the last day of school before Thanksgiving break, the TK/Kinder classes performed a half-dozen songs in the cafeteria (the same ones from last year). Coincidentally, Lukas’s class were Pilgrims again; he was so flippin’ cute in his little Pilgrim hat and collar!!! And he knew all the songs already, so this was all showmanship … heh. 
Family Time
—Parent-Teacher Conference week: We managed to get both conferences on the same day, one right after the other, so we put the kids on their iPads and got ‘er done. Mr. Dinh, of course, had high praise for Annika academically (she scored in the 99th percentile on a statewide verbal/English assessment and 97th percentile on the math portion, yay!), and mostly socially, with the minor exception of her extreme anxiety around being wrong or being challenged by him or (especially) by peers, which manifests in tears and lashing-out (with which we are already familiar; we just have to keep working on her developing the skills to handle those situations). Mrs. Goldman said Lukas was one of the best readers in his class, knows all the sight words and more, and is doing great with the math skills (again, one of the top kids); it was not news to us that he occasionally is an ungovernable little turkey in class (my phrasing, not hers, lol).
—More painting: We went back to Color Me Mine on Veteran’s Day, since the kids were out of school. Lukas painted an Iron Man head in a variety of fun colors, and Annika painted a set of four coasters, each with a completely unique design. I made a mug for R.’s xmas present that said “I don’t have to outlast Dunder Mifflin. I just have to outlast you.”
—We got a house for Grandma & Grandpa! This month, we actually closed on the condo in the Villages — a 2/1, 913 sq. ft., in need of a total remodel but definitely priced to allow it. The first step to moving them out here! Wooooo!!!!
Thanksgiving
This was the most chill, pleasant Thanksgiving in recent memory — everyone was for the most part calm, happy and mellow; we were able to watch the entirety of the Macy Day Parade without incident, the turkey was FABULOUS, all the sides came out great, Annika made a rich & wonderful dessert almost entirely by herself (chocolate pots, from a Jamie Oliver recipe), everyone ate (even Mister PB had a full plate that he ate … some of), and we had time for a family movie night (Despicable Me 3) before bedtime. Exactly what we all needed! 

Quotable
Annika's response to a crossword clue: "Noah's ___” … ”Bagels?”

Saturday, November 25, 2017

October 2017

Disneyland and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Because of the continued strength of Harry Potter’s presence in our lives, we decided to tack on a little 10th-birthday surprise to our Disneyland trip this year: a day at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (in Los Angeles). They were unfazed by the fact that we landed at a different airport, but it wasn’t really until we were checking in at the Hilton Universal that Annika was like … waaaaaaaait a minute! this isn’t the Grand Californian! She was THRILLED, though she’s not really the type to enjoy surprises (even if they’re good). We had a great time in the Hogsmeade replica town (including a great lunch at the Three Broomsticks, eating fish and chips and drinking butterbeer, and an hour inside Ollivanders choosing wands that didn’t entirely work on the things they were supposed to but … ), although a day really was all anyone needed there, and we were happy to catch our Lyft down to Anaheim. The next day, we went at it: our plan, as usual, included early morning starts and midday breaks, and this year the new MaxPass (and R’s mastery of its use) meant we got to ride everything we wanted and we never waited more than ten minutes for anything. Everybody loved Space Mountain — including Lukas, who was finally tall enough to go on it!), Annika conquered California Screamin (and persuaded me to go on it more times than my old noggin could really handle, LOL), Guardians of the Galaxy became a new fave (it took over the Tower of Terror and was, IMO, a much better ride — we only did it the once, on the last day, but it’ll be a priority next time); we all liked Splash Mountain; Annika (influenced by Vines and YouTube) kept doing bits for the ride photos and getting us all into it; Cars Land was in full Halloween dress (very cute, but tbh we missed the song “Sh-Boom,” which used to play during the light-up of the area at dusk), and of course, we got Ghirardelli on the last night. Till next year, Disneyland & California Adventure! Yo ho ho ho, pirates of the bean!
Annika’s birthday
She’s TEN, and if that ain’t a big deal, I don’t know what is! Our girl wanted a sleepover party, so that’s what she got (albeit with a smaller guest list than last time … hoo boy). The theme was “foxes,” as in the woodland creature — we put up fake vines everywhere, she made signs, etc. They watched a couple of movies, went swimming for a couple of hours in the pool (which we heated this time, LOL), and ate a million pounds of Pirate’s Booty again; the only crisis was glow-bracelet-related (a couple of the cheap glow bracelets broke open and glow liquid was flung everywhere, including all over Annika’s arm and into Niamh’s eye). In the morning, I made pancakes … and the toilet overflowed, soaking the bathroom, pantry, and hallway (which was fun to deal with as the parents arrived to pick their girls up, yeah). Lukas sad to not be a part of it, but R. managed to console him with their two-dudes sleepover upstairs, so all was well. 
Halloween
Halloween is never at its biggest when it’s on a Tuesday, but that’s how it fas sometimes. This year, the kids had a minimum day (it was during Parent/Teacher conference week), so they really didn’t have much of a school day once the parade was done — which was fine by them! Lukas was a ninja (with long swords he wasn’t allowed to bring to school), and Annika was a golden phoenix. We all went to the Marshalls’ house for pizza and to go out trick or treating, during which we were joined by Raina and her mom and grandmother. R. and I had biffed it, costume-wise, but he got inspired by a kid’s costume from the parade, and — thanks to a desperate sprint through the mall by me — we managed to put together a Clark Kent for R. (with a Superman T-shirt peeking through an unbuttoned dress shirt) and Lois Lane for me (trench coat, reporter’s notebook, PRESS i.d. card on a lanyard). The kids got TONS of candy, which really is the only criteria that matters. 
Fun stuff
—Pump It Up! and up, and up: All the TK kids have their birthdays right around now, so we are spending a lot of time at parties on weekends, including Jacob’s PIU party (for which we showed up at the local venue, only to discover that we were supposed to go to Morgan Hill … Lukas rolled with that one better than I thought he might!), and Manir's PIU party (during which Annika & R went together to Color Me Mine).
—Dandy Day: Another fun time for most everyone … Annika ended up doing 72 laps (entirely on her own, no help from a pusher/greyhound, and no extra credit from my volunteering … which I did not do) and Lukas bettered his record despite frequent breaks for acting a fool with Lawson. We had great weather (cool and slightly overcast for part of it, never hot as in years past), and I did not win too many items in the silent auction …
—Annika’s swim school finish line is in sight: Annika earned her Flying Fish II ribbon! That means just one more ribbon till she “graduates” (her term, LOL) the program!
—Lukas pumpkin patch field trip: The kinder and TK classes went to the Uesugi Pumpkin Farm again this year; I saw the email too late to sign up, but I’ve already been on this trip twice (once with each kid) so I was ok with letting someone else, ah, experience it. Heh. He loved it, of course, and came home with a mini-pumpkin of his very own. 
Quotable
—“Seven hundred o’clock" (Lukas reads time on a digital display)
—“I’m the Principal!” —Lukas sitting behind the executive-looking desk in our room at the Hilton hotel
—“It’s spicy and I love it!” —Lukas trying Coca-Cola for the first time
—“Ya look like ya takin a DUMP!” -some rando kid, re: his mom’s face in one of the post-ride photos
—“Yo ho, ho ho, pirates of the bean!” Lukas’s mondegreen, which we all picked up and probably will be singing for the rest of our lives 

—“Twinklebell” (Lukas’s interpretation of the fairy character’s name)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

September 2017

Labor Day weekend
The month got off to a bang with an absolutely ferocious heat wave — well over 110 for several days in a row, hitting a high of 113 on September 2. Good thing we had the pool — we pretty much lived in it, and what socializing we did, was out there as well — the Carneys came over, per tradition, for grilling and chilling. On the hottest day, we knew the kids weren’t getting to sleep in their oven-like rooms, so we had a late family movie night with family sleepover, in which the kids slept in sleeping bags on the floor of the movie room and R. and I huddled in the guest room with fans on — if you don’t have AC, laying low, literally, is the only thing to do in a situation like that. The next morning, the kids discovered a massive ant infestation in the dining room and kitchen — so that was the next couple of hours, killing, cleaning up, setting traps, etc. Ugh. So — fun, minus the ant army … 
Fun stuff
—Girl Scouts Coastal Cleanup Day:
Annika’s troop joined a big volunteer day effort to clean up the waterways around the area. They were assigned to a park that had a creek, and spent a Saturday morning picking up garbage — educational and useful!
—Lukas and daddy start piano: Now that Lukas is the same age Annika was when she started learning piano, we signed him and R. up for the parent-participation beginning keyboard classes at the community center on Saturday mornings. He did really well, and seemed to enjoy it — he was really proud of what he’d learned.
—Art and Wine Festival: This year, we knew to go early, and Manir’s family (Ami & Ritesh, Manir, and Amira) came over and walked to it with us. It was easier and so much fun to go as a group — the kids really had a good time, and we grownups sampled the beers and turned into easy touches for buying the kids stuff. Heh. 
Travel weekend
The second-to-last weekend of the month found us all over the place. Annika’s Girl Scout troop went on their big weekend camping trip (we packed everything according to the list, including food and equipment, etc.), and she had a great time (and fell asleep in the car on the way back, according to the troop leader). I went to Portland with Anne, a long-delayed girls’ weekend that we planned just for fun; we ate well, slept relatively late (8:00 a.m.!!!), and I got to go to the greatest bookstore of all time: Powell’s City of Books. R. and Lukas stayed home, having a good time on their two-dudes weekend, mostly eating pretzels and watching Star Wars. 

Quotable
—Sparenheit and Celsius
(the two temperature scales, according to Lukas)
—"Is he in heaven already?” (Lukas upon seeing an ‘80s picture of Elton John; Annika likes him now because of “I’m Still Standin’”)
—“Lydia Lemon Markoff is your name.” (Lukas the human mashup-maker)

Monday, November 13, 2017

August 2017

School days are here again
—Last day of summer:
We were invited to a summer’s-end party at Anna & Ella’s, which went pretty well for Annika but involved a lot of crying from Lukas … [sigh]. And then we went home and I dyed the kids’ hair again — Lukas’s an allover bright red, and Annika’s just a few inches of bright turquoise at the bottom; both very cool looks that got a lot of fun attention the next morning.
—The first day of school: It was a good first day for both kids. Lukas liked his new classroom and teacher (Mrs. Goldman, formerly Miss Emmons), and there were 8 kids from his TK class there, so he had friends already. Annika went in with the confidence of knowing all there was to know about her class and teacher, so she was just excited to see her friends again. That afternoon, we went for ice cream in Willow Glen (and met up with the TK friends), skipping karate just this once. 
All-Around Annika
—Harry Potter event at Hicklebees:
A local independent bookstore had a Harry Potter trivia contest for all ages, so I took the kids and they were on a team with a half-dozen other kids from Annika’s class — all in their House robes, with wands at the ready. The team did well but didn’t win any prizes (unless you count the books we bought at the end, lol).
—Hiking Quicksilver with Mr. Dinh and classmates: Early in the month, Mr. Dinh organized a hike for whoever was around, and so Annika and I joined them; Raina and her mom and sister were along for what turned out to be a 5.5-mile loop that we (mostly) got in before the worst of the day’s heat … whew!
—Girl Scouts Camporee: This was a kind of trial run for the camping weekend coming up in September. The troop went for an entire day, returning well after 10:00 p.m., and hiked, ate s’mores, etc. Annika really enjoyed it and is looking forward to the longer trip. 
Lukas Life
—Emmett’s birthday party:
Emmett’s party was at one of the neighborhood pools, and was on a long hot afternoon. Lukas did great, even if I did have to yell at him a time or two for playing too rough.
—I’m back: A couple of weeks in, I started volunteering in Lukas's class on Wednesday mornings. I am one of two parents helping with the small groups, and it’s really good to get to know Lukas’s classmates and see how his teacher works. 
This & that
—Solar Eclipse 2017!
We kept the kids home for the morning to view the eclipse — you don’t get 78% coverage every time this happens, so it was worth it. They were very good about abiding by the safety rules, and it really was just so cool!
—A visit from the Lendlers: Our friends came down from San Rafael on a little end-of-summer tour of their own, and spent the afternoon hanging out, swimming, grilling, etc. As before, the kids had fun left to their own devices, and we adults got to talk and catch up.
—Aunt Lesley visits: My sister came for a week, and mostly we just bombed around, ate at Mo’s a lot, and chilled — good times! She came with us to back-to-school night since we’d already arranged a babysitter, heh. 

Quotable
—“Take a picture - knock yourself out!”
(Lukas, hilariously direct0
—“lime-onade” (what he called the beverage we made from the abundance of ripe limes dropped from the neighbors’ tree)
—“Doesn't Annika's hair look like she's queen of the world?” (Lukas making an admiring observation one morning — he was right, too!)

July 2017

Summer fun
We have been all over the place this month, with the only regular stuff being karate and swim lessons. We had a park afternoon with Manir’s & Brayden’s families, we had Alana’s family over to the pool for an afternoon and the Carneys over for another, spent another pool afternoon with the TK families at Manir’s. We got the Summer Games pass again, so we were back to bowling once or twice a week. We went to Niamh & Lawson’s joint birthday party, got into Power Rangers and Pee-Wee Herman, had a really good two-night Sauce at Mike & Heather’s. Annika got into latch-hook in a big way, the kids both went to karate camp at their studio for a week (day camp, not a sleepover thing), Annika and I left Lukas with Grandma & Grandpa for a couple of hours and went to the new tea party restaurant at Santana Row. And of course we all had a great time on the Fourth of July — the parade was fun, the pool was necessary (it was a hot one!), and the cousins came over later in the evening to walk over and see the fireworks with us — Murica!
California on the horizon
Moving to California has long been the plan for Grandma & Grandpa, and we decided it was time to put some weight on that lever. So, P&A and the two of us agreed to just … get them a place to live. That will be in The Villages, a 55+ community they’d toured and really liked some time ago. We contacted our realtor and started shopping, discovered that this really was a viable option, and started planning. When G&G came out for their summer visit, we had a little party on their wedding anniversary and told them our plan to make a gift of it — they were, understandably, quite surprised and thrilled! So now we just have to find the right place. Stay tuned for updates!

Quotable
Q:
What properties describe a jungle?
Lukas’s A: “Vines and sweaty trees and lots of bugs. Oh, and temples."