binary girl: the secret blog



Archive for the ‘love’ Category

old photo catch-up

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Breakfast of champions.

Super strong!

Birthday shenanigans: expanding the portrait wall

The dogs do not trust the selfie stick.

Max selfie

Katie selfie


Monday, December 29th, 2014

I don’t think we’ve had a really good staycation in a while, so this holiday break was definitely welcome. and unexpectedly wonderful. I appreciated the opportunity to not really have things planned out with the kids — even their TKD, swim, and gymnastics classes were canceled for the most part, so having unscheduled time with them was great.

Things we did included:

– Brandon and Katie took their TKD belt tests. They’re both yellow-white now, and Brandon was invited to the Black Belt Club (provided that his parents approve of this). Hee. Katie is actually doing much better in class now that Brandon is there with her, and he has an opportunity to work out himself with either a coach or another dad, so he’s not stuck to her side the whole time.
– Katie and I went to The Nutcracker with my mom, sister, and Riley. The Nutcracker itself was fun. The stuff that came afterwards is covered in a post that barely anyone can read because it’s locked down, yo.
– Random nighttime drives around to look at lights, with hot chocolate and cookies, in PJs. The first time, we came across a street dubbed Candy Cane Lane (Dewey St. in RWC) and we ended up going there purposefully a second time! (It’s a smaller version of the insanity that happens in San Carlos on Eucalyptus.)
– We went to Happy Hollow with Casey. The kids were totally amazing that day and it was a super fun time. :D The kids totally adore Casey, and I loved having time to catch up with her.
– We took the kids on the Niles Canyon holiday train, because our friends Carolyn and Peter were amazing enough to coordinate it so we could all sit together in a caboose! Both of them really enjoyed it, even though they were pretty maxed out by the end.
– Jordan, Elyssa, and Lexi came over; having a day with old friends is always wonderful.

Christmas itself was awesome. The kids were amazing about the presents they gave each other, and us, and the ones they received; it was a little more difficult when we went to my parents’ house later, because having all four cousins together made it a little more grabby-grabby (but not awfully so).

Overall, I think the best gift we gave each other was being together for the week; I got to learn more about their personalities and I finally settled into a more adept version of myself as a parent by the time that it ended. It’s hard sometimes to realize just how big they’ve gotten, because they still feel very little to me, and having time to “turn no into yes” and experience more of what makes them individuals is rewarding.

Feeling too hot, literally. :(

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Feeling too hot, literally. :(

Holiday party goodness!

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Holiday party goodness!

aging gracefully

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Brandon turns 40 this month. My hubby! Forty!

I remember when my parents turned 40 (5 years apart). In our old neighborhood, there was a kit that would go from person to person each year, and as they turned 40 they would add to it. It had all the requisite “middle age” stuff — adult diapers, vitamins, a cane, and as a kid I was a bit confused as to why my parents, who seemed pretty young to me, would need any of that stuff. I remember that for my dad’s 40th birthday, my mom threw him a huge surprise party luau. So, this age has been pretty iconic in my mind from the get-go… it’s nearly impossible to consider the fact that we’re approaching it. But, my acceptance doesn’t change it, I guess! :D

In the tradition of my mother, I was considering, and actually began to plan, throwing a surprise luau in our yard — it’s big enough and I doubt anyone would complain :) But, when Brandon got wind of my plans (I am terrible at secrets), he told me that if he had his druthers, he would much rather throw himself a party and spend the entire time cooking. This is awesome and yet problematic… awesome because it means that I don’t have to spend money on catering, but problematic because all of the money I would save on catering, Brandon would spend on assorted party stuff that he considered important. Oh, that, and the fact that he is a miserable, horrible person to be around in advance of any big event he is throwing because he turns into a stressjob. And, as predicted, all of these things came to pass! :)

I rented a huge bounce house for the kids, and then I splurged on a margarita machine (also rented). Brandon took the week in advance of the party to start cleaning the house, the yard, and buying supplies… enough alcohol to make sure we get through the next 3-5 years (this is probably an overstatement of how long it will take us to decide to drink this stuff, because of the children), a pop-up tent that works to cover the outdoor kitchen when it’s super sunny, a new table and some chairs, a bunch of new chair pads, etc., etc. He also took an opportunity to ride the fancy new custom Trek Domane that I “bought” him (he calls it his midlife crisis bike, and I just signed the check for it). He also got a ton of food and then even bought himself a cake (I don’t even know how to explain the fact that I overlooked that. I am seriously a bad person). I handled inviting the people:


So the day of the actual party, I took the kids to gymnastics and swimming (which I moved an hour earlier) while B dropped the pups off for a day of doggy daycare and an overnight (to help them avoid the stress of being locked up in the house while people were coming and going) and finished setting things up. When we returned, the bouncy house and margarita machine were already delivered, so I got to follow through on the punishment I had to unfortunately dole out earlier in the day (each kid had to wait 5 minutes before going in: Max because he was fake crying, and Katie because she was sass-talking to her mama). Then, the kids went crazy while we finished cleaning and putting things out.

Overall, the party was SUPER fun. We have an outdoor speaker that has a microphone, so a few of the kids spent some time singing to Frozen — most notably Riley, who has a karaoke machine at home and was VERY into her performance. Our friend Alex is an accomplished mixologist so he did a lot of the drinks that helped Brandon get pretty happy as the night went on. We ate ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, and assorted other goodies, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves; the kids either did bouncing, slip-n-slide, some sprinklers, water table, or hung out in the hot tub. (Some spent some time inside, but at one point I forced them all outside telling them that this was not a kid party so it wasn’t fair to make an adult stay inside with them when the adults wanted to be outside and together.) Lots of our favorite friends were there, including my family, some of Brandon’s coworkers, my friend Casey, Ava, Nina (Martha) and Carlos, Valerie and Blaise, Tharanga and Rajith, and our old neighbor Susanne. And, of course, Caroline brought Ruby, which brought everyone no end of joy because having an adorable little puppy around is always a nice thing. (Max in particular could not get enough of her and spent most of the time before she arrived asking about her, and then most of the time after she arrived either petting her asking me if I could help him hold her, or talking about her.)

Brandon, I think, had a good time. He was super cheery at the end and … possibly had a rough night and a rough recovery day the next, but we spent most of it hanging out inside and watching TV with two kids who got a good amount of sleep but were still marginally wiped out. And, he said he had fun, so that’s good, too! :D

Oh, and in 8 hours, the margarita machine never froze. So.

8 years

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

To Brandon, my sweet husband:
Today I love you completely, as I did yesterday and as I will tomorrow. I will be there for you when you need me most. I will hold you in my heart just as I hold you in my arms. I will share in your dreams, delight in your joys, and comfort you in your sorrows. I will be your confidant, your counsel, your friend, and your lover. When you are not within my sight, you will be within my thoughts. At this moment you are all that I know and all that I see. You are my life; you are my dreams; you are my joy; you are my love; you are my everything. As we grow old together and our love matures, may we hold on to the passion and affection for each other we feel today.

fourth of july!

Monday, July 7th, 2014

My new job is amazing in many ways. Besides the fact that I am super busy and loving every second of it, they also gave us an extra day off before the Fourth of July, so Brandon also took it off, while the kids enjoyed being at school that day, and we ran errands and had lunch and spent too much time at Costco and enjoyed time together doing things that are super hard to do with kids in tow.

The Fourth itself was a “high needs” kid day, especially for Max — about every third word from his mouth was my name, but it wasn’t as much as he wanted to tell me something as much as he wanted my constant attention. It was a very family day, and we didn’t do anything specific beyond “spend time together”, including time at the school riding bikes and playing. Both kids wanted to stay up for fireworks, but because it gets light so freakin’ late, we thought it would be smarter to watch the NY show on TV… but even though it started at 8, there were so many frickin’ musical guests that the fireworks didn’t start on TV until 9:30, which is when the local show is anyway. I stole outside and found that we couldn’t see anything through the trees, and Katie fell asleep while they were going off, while Max told me that he was tired (this never happens) so I took him to bed and he fell asleep immediately (also never happens). Nicky was fine with the local fireworks because he’s pretty much deaf, but Ash was extremely restless, especially when the particularly loud stuff was going on at the school across the street. He tried to hide in both Max’s and Katie’s room, as well as under the sheets with me, before laying down between the loveseat and table in the front room.

Saturday was our normal routine, for the most part: gymnastics, Home Depot for their weekly kid building stuff event (first Saturday of the month, this time they made bug houses), lunch, swim class, then date night! Woot! Since we’d recently seen all the movies we wanted to (X Men: Days of Future Past, Malificent, The Edge of Tomorrow), we opted to see 22 Jump Street, but because we knew it would be sub-optimal, pre-medicated with a drink at the only place with a bar open pre-5: The Old Spaghetti Factory. Dinner was at Quinto Sol (an old fave) and then we went to the Living Room afterward. The kids were sort of awake by the time we were done but fell asleep painlessly enough.

Finally, Sunday! We took the kids to see How To Train Your Dragon 2, which ended up with me on one seat with Max in my lap (when he wasn’t constantly climbing on the railing ahead of us, good lord that kid can’t sit still at the movies), Katie next to me so that half of her seat was empty, then the rest of that seat and another empty seat between us and Brandon, who ostensibly sat there enjoying his movie and popcorn. Then we went to the mall for some errands and lunch, then ended up at Alex and Patty’s house to swim! Which was fairly amazing because Katie spent most of the time independently swimming by herself, diving for rings without floaties or anything. Max was floatified, and … all I had to do was sit there and watch them. It was amazing.

Happy family! :D

Out on a date… with a giant head.

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Out on a date… with a giant head.

Originally uploaded by alibee09

we went to disneyland

Monday, June 16th, 2014

And all I did was forget to write about it.

Okay, that is not entirely correct. I’ve been thinking about our trip, and I did post an entry about the rides we went on (here), but I certainly failed to write anything in depth about it, so here are a few things I can recall.

First off, we decided to stay at the Grand Californian this time, and do a five-day park stay, partially because we were treating ourselves to a vacation between my jobs, and partially because the other resorts were all sold out of the reasonable rooms, so it was actually cheaper. We had a two bed setup for the first half and then moved to bunks, which was awesome, because they had told us they wouldn’t have bunks at all and then I went and begged (mama needed sleep) and they were able to move us. The hotel is really nice and has a lot of cool amenities, although we didn’t take care of the childcare because Max is too young and I didn’t really see the point in only leaving Katie — we were on vacation as a family, after all.

This trip I was smarter about dinner reservations, which was to our benefit. I also booked us the World of Color seating at the trattoria in California Adventure one night, which was THE BEST IDEA. We had dinner and a virtually front-row seat to the Pixar Play Parade, and then we had a little time to do a few rides before hitting up the show, where we were afforded front-row, get-yourself-drenched seats to the World of Color. (IT IS SO FAB.)

Speaking of that… a great story! Max was FINALLY 40″ this trip, so we went on a bunch of rides that we didn’t during our trip at the beginning of the year — Radiator Spring Racers (we went this an obscene amount of times because it was one of their favorites and that ties in nicely to the fact that when it’s a Magic Morning, we can get on it early), Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Star Tours, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Soarin’ Over California, etc. Also, relatedly, Katie, and Max in particular, have always been obsessed with talking about “scary” rides — ad nauseum. So somehow the Tower of Terror came up (probably the fact that it’s this huge thing in the middle of the park) and Katie decided that she was ABSOLUTELY going to go on it after dinner at the trattoria. (Recall that this is the same girl who was so terrified of scary rides the first time that we went to Disneyland that she could barely handle the Ariel ride, or Peter Pan.) Having never been on it myself, I said… well, let’s go stand in line and see what it’s like. Max declared that if Katie was going, he was too, and while we stood in line, I queried the people around me about the amount of psychological content of the ride: was it scary because it fell fast, or because there was “scary” stuff surrounding the ride itself, like in the Haunted Mansion? Hands-down, to a person, they told me that there was no psychological element to the ride.


We were in the line for a long time because only one elevator bay was running and we were continually pre-empted by Fast-Passers (and we used Fast Passes a lot on this trip, just not in this case). Turns out there is a Rod Serling Twilight Zone introduction, and then the ride itself, which I was hoping would be fun but was instead vaguely nauseating. As I realized what was happening, with all the talking and whatnot, I started talking to the kids and trying to normalize it a bit, and then as the ride commenced, I was covering them and trying to make them feel safe. For their parts, both of them were stone silent the entire thing. Then, the ride ended and I told them it was over, and they both BURST out in hysterics. It was absolutely awful. Max was hyperfocused on the part of the ride where Serling impersonator said something to the effect of “Say goodbye to your family”, but I got him into a good mental state faster than I could with Katie, who needed a lot of close attention before she could calm down. I felt totally horrible (as I should have), and I can’t be thankful enough that we walked directly to World of Color after that, and erased most of their upset… but ugh. Really bad call on my part.

The next day we tried to go on the Haunted Mansion because the line was short but at the end of the elevator section, which we had to really really work to get the kids to go on to start, Katie said, “I can’t HANDLE THIS!” so we all exited before the moving walkway; I wanted them to understand that we weren’t going to force them to go on any ride, and that helped them believe us.

Other neat moments:
– on the pirate island, Max asked me to tell the pirate band that he wanted to be a pirate, so they surrounded him and danced and sang and then thought up ideas for how he could be on their crew
– Indiana Jones, Ariel, and a Small World were closed for most of our trip, but we randomly happened upon the first two when they were doing “test” openings, meaning that B and I both got to go on Indy (although it broke down during his ride so he got to go twice) and we all hit up Ariel
– relatedly, the Matterhorn did a weird switching thing when I was on it (where they pull out a car to try to speed up tracking) so I got to go on it twice.
– this is sad because that means I went on B’s fave ride twice, and vice versa
– we went on Star Tours 2x in a row and that was bad because I wanted to vomit
– the kids each got awesome costumes; Max got a pirate outfit that he wore every day for a month after we got home, and Katie got an Aurora costume. I also snagged two Olafs and two two-sided Elsa/Anna dolls (so that Riley and Tyler got a little something from DL, too)

I’ll add more as I recall it.

ridiculously long vacation post, part three

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Man. writing these posts is … time-consuming. :P

Long trip post the THIRD!

So, we drove back from the Beverly Hillsish area (I like to refer it that way because it sounds posh) on January 4 and called Taire, in Burbank, to let her know we were heading to Anaheim and when we’d want to meet for dinner. The drive isn’t that long, but both kids, who was extremely tired, of course fell asleep on the way. Of course — because the “hey, where are we?” video couldn’t be complete without a howling Max when he wakes up (or, it might not even be existent if they woke up after we got to the Disneyland Hotel). However, traffic was CRAP so ultimately, Katie woke up before we got there and participated in a game of “if you can’t read, can you figure out where the hell we are?”

Turns out that no, you can’t. There are no obvious signs to or outside the hotel while would indicate to a non-literate individual where you were at ALL. Finally, the gatekeeper was the one who let Katie know where we were, and Katie responded very shy/slyly, sort of like she thought that MAYBE we were having her on and then, when I continued being excited, being excited as well.

However, that that long nap w/o warning while driving in traffic did not bode well for K’s sleeping self and she had a… wardrobe malfunction. Then, Max woke up, and was crying (because that’s his thing when he naps in the car, as previously mentioned). So, we needed to check in, get Katie in a different outfit, and deal with Max flipping out and only wanting me — all at the same time! (I ended up running K to the restroom and putting her in my sweatshirt, as the luggage was already on it’s way with the bellhop, while B checked in and Max wailed, and then coming out and rescuing them). The kids ended up watching some carolers pretty closely (and wow, they were GREAT) and talking to them while B finished up. Then we walked across the grounds (and oogled the pool and two waterslides) to the Frontier Tower, where we were staying, and walked into an amazing room — with a huge wooden headboard that had twinkling LEDs in it which looked like fireworks over a carved image of Sleepy Beauty’s castle. At check-in, the desk people even gave Katie and Max autographed photos of Mickey (for Max) and Aurora (for Katie). This place? Swankage.

We got the luggage, Katie changed, and the kids a bit settled, and then we went down to meet Taire and Ryan, who had just arrived. We headed out to the clusterfuck that is Downtown Disney on a Saturday night (oops, fully my bad) and saw the Frozen ice rink, and then tried to find a place to eat; even though it was early, everywhere was booking up (Rainforest Cafe had a TWO HOUR WAIT) but the lady at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen said the wait would only be 30 minutes. LIES. An hour later the kids were melting down and Ryan was starving, so B ran back to the room to get the iPads and then we eventually were sat. The food was great, though, and seeing Taire and Ryan was also great, so there’s that :D

By the end of dinner, the kids were falling apart, so I bid my friends adieu and we put the kiddos to bed. We had to get up super early the next day: Magic Mornings (where you get in 1 hour early at the DL parks) was included every day, meaning that we were due at California Adventure at 7am! That means we woke up at dark o’clock again on January 5 and took two barely-awake kiddos, in the double stroller, through an incredibly foggy Downtown Disney to the park opening. We had decided that even though it would be a prime time to do the Carsland Racers, we were going to avoid that ride, because Max, our biggest Cars fan, wasn’t tall enough and would possibly be jealous. So, when everyone ran to that ride, we oogled Radiator Springs (really, I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with their reproduction — I felt like I had walked into the movie) and did Mater’s Tractors and Luigi’s Tires (our first ride, we were the only ones on it). Walking through the tire shop was cool, in and of itself!

Lightning and Mater appeared during this time, and Max, whose eyes could NOT have been bigger, was fairly brave in walking up to them and touching them/talking to them. He was incredibly excited in his shy way about everything he was seeing, and I know it was making a big impression on him because he was talking up a storm. We walked to A Bug’s Land to see if any of the rides there were open (they were not), but I was suddenly reminded fully as to why Disneyland is so great — the attention to detail is so great in the park in general, which was why I had had such a visceral positive reaction to Carsland. In Bug’s Land, every light is made up of a lightning bug perched on something (a bent straw, etc). The buildings are repurposed bits of garbage, etc., and the whole land fits perfectly into the theme of “Flick’s Fun fair”. It’s even sort of cool that this whole thing is happening in the shadow of the Tower of Terror (like it’s the garden of the hotel or something.)

Anyway. We looked at the map for “open early” rides and headed down to the play Midway Mania (a Toy Story ride). On the way, we noticed that the Little Mermaid ride was open, and since we were going to have lunch at Ariel’s Grotto (which I booked the previous night — Disney’s online food reservation system is great!), we stopped by. It was pretty awesome, although Katie was immediately scared enough of the scene with Ursula that she wouldn’t ride it again. So, we headed on down to the Toy Story ride, but as we walked by that ride we noticed a big coaster called California Screamin’ that had very little line, so after Midway Mania (which was fairly fun and a neat interpretation of the old “flat things that you do stuff to” game — with monitors, etc) I ran over for a ride on it while B took the kids on the carousel and the ferris wheel (file under “things that would make Mommy want to vomit and also have a panic attack). It was awesome! As much as I liked the drop on the Project X coaster at Legoland, this had an upside-down loop which meant that it beat the other, hands down. I was so pumped afterward that I made Brandon go on it while I took the kids around to see the Muppets 3D movie, and then we wandered around Buena Vista Avenue before we walked back down towards A Bug’s Land.

A Bug’s Land was great in terms of just-our-speed sort of rides; the only one that was a fail was the bumper cars, because Max couldn’t reach the controls and thus spent the entire ride fighting to get out of the belt. As a result, he was PISSED and doing this “I’m just gonna stand here and look extremely angry” bit for a while. He then spent the entirety of Henrich’s Chew-Chew Train screaming because I was riding with Katie instead of him. I felt a vague sense of impending doom as we started walking back toward the boardwalk (for the eventual character dining thing we were doing at 1:10pm), but his mood was alleviated by a) seeing Red (fire engine from Cars) hanging out nearby, and then b) going to see the Bug’s Life 3D movie, which scared him and Katie a great deal (and also pissed them off when the “acid” sprayed them).

Since we had a little time left before lunch, we spent some time on the Boardwalk playing games and did so well on one of them that we won two large-sized Bullseyes (the horse from Toy Story — first Max won, then Katie). The kids also got to meet Jessie and Buzz Lightyear (in the Buzz pics it’s funny because each kid’s head is buried in his/her Bullseye). Eventually we headed back up to Ariel’s Grotto for our Lunch With Princesses™.

I was actually a bit worried at how this meal would go, and towards the end it did go awry, mainly because the kids were really, really wiped out. That said, both Katie AND Max were super stoked that we were having princess lunch, which made me happy because I’d had a hard time deciding if our character meal should be with a bunch of random Disney characters or princess-specific. Katie was flat-out awed at Ariel, and got a little shy and quiet when it was time to talk to her, but was not so overwhelmed that she was speechless; Max hugged her and every single character he had the opportunity to meet. In our photo, Katie was holding on to Ariel’s hand so tightly it looked like it might fall off :D

I am so glad that we prepaid for that meal, because between the annoyance of trying to get the kids to eat (including Katie, who was doing her World’s Tour of Mac N Cheese) and the fact that the kids were falling apart at the end, I never would have paid what they were charging for what I ordered. :D (My salad should have been advertised as Featuring World’s Smallest Lobster Tail.) We met Belle, Aurora, Snow White, and Cinderella as we ate, and each time, the kids popped out of their seats and hugged the figurative pants off of the princesses. But, by the end of it, they were both Done, so we decided that we had seen enough of California Adventure at this point and needed to head back to the hotel for a little “down” time.

This down time came in the form of POOL! Max and I walked around and up/down the stairs at the wading pool at the bottom of one of the water slides while Brandon and Katie both flew down the small and big slide. It was nice and laid back and helped us all regroup so that we could eventually go back to the main park, as I’d made dinner reservations at the Carnation Cafe, and also so we could see what was going on there and maybe go on a ride or two.

Um. Holy crap, was that place crowded. We got to see the lighting of the tree, and I tried to excitedly show the kids Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, but the entire place was TOO CROWDED with people to see much of anything. So, any ideas I had about filling my kids with wonder on their first entrance to The Magic Kingdom were replaced instead by them being overwhelmed (although they did get to see Mary Poppins when we walked in.) We left the stroller by Pixie Hollow while Brandon and Katie went on the Matterhorn (K’s review: way too dark and scary for a roller coaster) and Max and I did Alice in Wonderland (M’s review: fun enough that he would do it again, even though I’m fairly certain that he had no idea what the hell was going on for 90% of the ride). At the end, I wanted to walk back to the stroller, and suddenly…. COULD NOT BECAUSE THE ENTIRE STREET WAS CLOSED AND JAMMED WITH PEOPLE.

Fucking parade.

It took me 20 minutes to figure out a way back to my stroller, that was only 100 or so feet away. It was completely ridiculous. However, we did decide to take this opportunity to ride A Small World, which had barely any line because of the parade and was totally decked out for the holidays, still! Yay! Katie was so uncertain of dark rides at this point we had to drag her on the boat and repeatedly promise that it was a super friendly ride. At the end, she screamed, “THAT WAS AWESOME!” And honestly, the holiday version was pretty fantastic. I loved looking at the faces of both kids and seeing them filled with awe.

We came out of the ride to find that they had moved our stroller somewhere. After 5 minutes of searching, we finally managed to locate it, and quickly decided that we should head to ToonTown to see what was there before going to the cafe. We actually even got in line for Roger Rabbit, which Katie was scared about, and whining about, and really angry about, and not wanting to go on, and fidgeting about, and then the ride broke down and we were out of time, so we headed to the cafe, where Katie proceeded to have a complete bathroom emergency requiring us to cut in front of a line of people, and then Max had a meltdown outside the restaurant, then Katie joined in, then getting them to eat barely happened and I could not wait to get out of there (and also learned that dinner on this part of the trip had to happen WAY earlier).

And we went back to the hotel room and everyone sacked out.

ridiculously long vacation post, part two

Monday, January 13th, 2014

The long vacation post! Part two!

We got up on January 1 at dark o’clock in order to get to Carlsbad at a reasonable hour. Happily for us, Arizona is a rebel and doesn’t participate in PST/PDT so whatever time we left was really an hour earlier in Carlsbad. This drive was much like the others, but we saw some pretty amazing things — the sand dunes and huge rock mountains impressed both kids (as well as adults) and were interesting conversation points. We also showed them the state line, which was a little confusing to Katie at first because she didn’t understand why California’s sign had a flower instead of a star like Arizona.

Anyway. Max, as would be his way, fell asleep as we got close, and I took the “woah! where are we?!?” video when we reached Legoland with Max howling, as he is wont to do when he wakes up from a nap in the car. Max: good at falling asleep in the car, not good at waking up in the car. They were both really surprised, though, and were super stoked to go inside and check out the huge castle/pirate ship and run around looking at all of the things and seeing the minifigs walking around. They also thought that our room, which was castle-themed and included bunk beds and their own television, was amazing — and I was actually pretty stoked about it took, because even though it was the “cheapy” room, it felt big enough that I wasn’t claustrophobic in it. (It had a layout that reminded me of a cruise ship, in some ways.) We ate dinner at their overpriced buffet and then B went swimming with the kids (WAY too cold for me) before we retired to our room for the night. (Best things about the hotel: spontaneous dance party in the elevator, which we experienced when we looked at the other floors: adventure- and pirate-themed; the whoopee cushion in the floor that said “Oh, you stinky peeg!” when you stepped on it; the public restrooms that would talk to you about how cute you were when you washed your hands. Oh, and the guy at the hotel who told me that he thought I was 27 when I told him that the next day was my Day O’ Birth Celebration. Also, the kids loved that there was a treasure-hunt at checkin that resulted in them each getting a minifig — Max got a baseball player and Katie, an Amazon warrior — as well as chocolate coin treasure! WOO!)

We had breakfast in the buffet the next morning, where one of the workers gave Katie a minifig because she was upset that she couldn’t crawl through the holes in the wall (she promptly gave this minifig to a crew member at the park who didn’t have one — apparently they all participate in a trading program and Caitlin had failed to load up her tag for the day, so Katie handed over fakey Elvis minifig to her). Because we were at the hotel, the park opened an hour early for us, so on my birthday we were first in line and immediately hit up the “most raved-about” ride — Sky Cruisers. While I did think this ride was fun, I do not understand what all the fuss is about — you have to literally pedal your own little bike thing around on a track above the park. We then went on Coastersaurus, which was one of Katie’s favorites (although her REAL favorite we would ride at the end of the day), and then Max’s favorite ride: Fairy Tale Brook. One of my favorite memories of this ride was when a little dwarf from Snow White waves at the boat and Max, in awe, waved back. TOTALLY ADORABLE.

We headed back to Fun Town for the opening of the rest of the park, and Katie and Max both participated in Junior Driving School, which was great for Katie but frustrating for Max because he repeatedly slammed his car into whatever unmoveable obstacle was available and couldn’t figure out how to undo this. So while Katie rode that twice more, we went on the helicopters (bad idea, Max couldn’t reach the joystick so he’d climb out over the bar and I’d have to quickly turn the ‘copter away from the operator so s/he couldn’t see) and then went to get sodas, where we met this awesome manager who became my buddy and gave me a birthday pin and some free Legos (and a free soda the next day). Eventually we met up with Katie and B again and then we all did helicopters (I rode with K so I am assuming B somehow kept Max tied down, but I doubt it), and then we wandered into the pirate area, where they all did the small log ride while I ran into someone I actually know from here on the Peninsula. (I wanted to go on the big one but it’s part of the water park and that is closed right now.) We eventually wandered up Castle Hill for the infamous apple fries, which I devoured without sharing in part because I was starving. Since everything in Castle Hill was aimed at the larger crowd, I took Max back to Schooner School while Katie and Brandon rode The Dragon coaster and also went on KNIGHT’S TOURNAMENT, DESTINY ONE (a ride which which looks like a huge hand flinging people around, on which you can pick from multiple “destinies”, aka thrill levels). We rounded out the time with the Coast Cruise, which was so deserted we went on it… twice!

At some point here I think we went back to the hotel for lunch, and to decompress a little. It was around this time that I started to realize that my desire to hit every ride in some sort of order from open to close was inhibited by the fact that my children are only 3 and 5 and start to lose steam (which in their case translated to random wailing tantrums, like the one Max had in line for Schooner School). A little iPad time during lunch helped them re-center themselves, as did a brief jaunt to the pool, and then we were back in the park, where I made everyone walk through the huge Lego cities in Miniland, and then we explored more parts of the park we hadn’t seen yet — I got a chance to ride The Dragon (mainly because it had a huge Lego dragon inside — I wanted to get K to come with me but she wouldn’t because it was too scary), and Katie and Max ventured into Land of Adventure, where Max found his two favorite rides (besides Fairy Tale Brook): Beetle Bounce (which I literally rode 6 times in a row with him, making me feel like I was going to projectile vomit) and Cargo Ace (a flying plane ride that also made me want to vomit), while Katie found HER favorite ride in the nearby Lego Technic Coaster (which included a big drop that makes your stomach feel all funny). We also hit the Pharaoh’s Revenge, which is essentially a laser shooting indoor ride, that freaked K out.

And at this point I should have realized something really important about Katie, but it didn’t hit me until the end of our first day at Disneyland: she LOVES thrill rides, but is extremely, sincerely frightened by rides that are in the dark and contain any “scary” element. At Legoland, this was really only two: The Dragon, which had a Lego cat outside that was so scary she couldn’t even handle waiting in line a second time for the ride as well as the big dragon inside the castle, and Pharaoh’s Revenge, which is entirely dark and blacklight lit. I didn’t take her concerns as anything more than tired whining at the time, and it caused me to seriously readjust our Disneyland plans once I understood what was happening.

We ordered delivery pizza in-room that night, as we’d had enough of the hotel food at that point (props to Paradise Pizza!) and the kids were so exhausted that Katie was having serial meltdowns. They soon fully collapsed … and so did I!

On January 3, we got in early again but this time we decided to skip the Sky Cruisers and go for fan favorites. For Max, this meant the Fairy Tale Brook; for Katie, the Coastersaurus. We then hit the Safari Trek and when we were done there, we headed back to the other rides we really liked. As we had already spent a lot of time there the previous day, we concentrated on the rides that the kids really wanted to do — and this is when I got a free soda from my friend the store manager when we showed up before they had cash in their register (but were open) :) I do have a very specific memory on this day of Katie having an epic meltdown at the Star Wars X-Wing, where she was just flipping out the entire time we looked at it and we were doing that parent thing where we drug her along behind us, wailing her head off. Also, at one point while Brandon and Katie were on Bionicle Blasters (this Mad Hatter Teacups but way faster), Max had … diaper needs and a stranger lent me a ton of wipes. THANK YOU STRANGE MOM!

After lunch we hit the attached Sea Life Aquarium. It was pretty cute in that it had lots of Lego people in the water with the fish (except… not cute from a “wtf, these things do not coexist in nature” standpoint), and I appreciated the fact that they have an education program in place about conservation, pollution, and also the obligatory Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program call-out. Little did we know that there was a photographer halfway through the aquarium — who surprisingly didn’t ask us for a pic. Turns out that Katie had posed on her own for what was just an incredibly adorable pic, yay!

Other random things from Legoland:
– We made friends with lots of random families and employees while we were there. This is good because I like friends and making them. This is bad because I suffer somewhat from face blindness so people would say hi to us and I wouldn’t remember how the heck I knew them.
– There are “secret” slides on Dune Racers that the kids really liked.
– Apparently part of getting old and already being prone to motion sickness is that everything makes you motion sick, even rides that aren’t particularly aggressively circular. So… that sucked.
– Our kids fight a lot when they’re in a double stroller, and they demand to be carried a lot, and when they get tired, they whine a lot.
– More as I remember it!

We rounded out or last day at Legoland with dinner at the Skyline cafe at the hotel, and then I made sure to cram everything that I could in the car. We had a day before we honestly got to point E (mainly we had to check in at the hotel the next day), so I made plans with Jenna to hang out at her house over Shabbat and then to meet Taire and Ryan for dinner! That meant that we left Legoland earlyish, then we drove to Beverly Hills (J-san and family live on the outskirts), where we spent an enjoyable Shabbat lunch with Jenna, Seth, and their absolutely adorable kiddos who I hadn’t ever met before (last time I saw Jenna, we were both pregnant with our firsts). Eliana and Katie bonded quite well, and at the end, when we were leaving, Katie declared, “I LOVE HER!” and they decided to be pen pals. (Max wasn’t as keen on Asher because he didn’t like the fact that A kept trying to play with his stuff… alas.)

More in the next post!

ridiculously long vacation post, part one

Friday, January 10th, 2014

So. We took a long vacation. It was LONG! And this is what happened!

We left to go to Green Valley, AZ, where B’s parents live, on December 23rd. The last time that we drove there was when Katie was almost 3 months old, so we knew from experience that it took about 12 hours straight through (which was far too long to have driven the first time we did it) — there was no way we were going to manage that with the two kiddos. Instead, we booked a hotel called The Curve in Palm Springs and made that our destination for the first day. We woke up really early and got on the road by 6am, so it was still dark out and each kid was carried, sleeping, to the car. I was hoping that they would fall back asleep on the road, but they slowly started to wake up and look around, and spend the first hour or so chattering to us and back and forth, with Max sleepily speaking so softly I could barely hear them.

When I got things for this trip, I did so with the hope that we wouldn’t be using the iPads on the road a lot — I imagined this as a road trip like those in my youth. These are the things that I ended up with, by stars next to the things we actually used:

* lace and trace boards (we had Pets and Farm)
* Water Wow books — I had five different ones
car bingo
Mad Libs Junior
Color Blast books

We also listened to lots of stories on mp3 (the favorites being those from Story Nory) as well as some of our favorite songs, and played with stuffed animals and the like. Brandon, who was in the passenger seat, did a lot of work with the kids making sure that they were getting the toys they wanted, and interceding in fights and the like. I also made sure to stop every 1.5-2 hours at rest stops or at gas stations to get things like Cheetos (who knew this was the ultimate car-ride bribery food?) and soda, and we made a lunch stop in Pasadena at a McDonald’s with a Playland where the kids got their sillies out for an hour. Then, at the hotel, we made a bee-line straight for the pool and I ordered delivery dinner.

The next morning, we did the same sort of drive — and the fact that the scenery was changing helped a lot. Although we got started early, B used a series of misdirections with his mom (aka leaving out details and saying things like “We left Palm Springs” about 3 hours after we left) to make her believe that we were going to entirely miss Xmas dinner, which … did not amuse her one iota. We got to Green Valley around 3ish and the kids immediately fell into playing with their cousins and (re)meeting their aunts and uncles. Then we had Christmas dinner, and the kids were very curious as to how Santa was going to know where they were — but luckily, he and his elf and Mrs. Claus called me and we talked a bit about how their presents were going to make their way to us.

Christmas was great, and started off with the kids freaking out with excitement that the cookies and milk we had left in our room (at this table at the foot of our bed) were eaten! Max’s big gift was this sweet castle that we had gotten because he played with it in every toy store we went to, and he literally played with that thing every day for the rest of our visit to Arizona. Happily, it was supplemented with a dragon from his aunt/uncle/cousins (who were tipped off ;) ) and then some knights from his other aunt/uncle/cousin (for who it was just a lucky guess!). Katie got the little pink-haired mermaid she had asked for, and a couple of other toy dolls that she had wanted.

The day after Christmas started with us going to the Tucson Zoo with B’s older and younger bro, and families. The trip was a little hard in that both kids were overtired and emotional, but we did see an elephant, which was Max’s ultimate goal. :)

On the 27th, Katie spontaneously lost a tooth! I was brushing her teeth that night as she was watching a movie with Max and cousin Tristan when she made a funny face and spat out something, which she handed to me. I thought that maybe she had some hard toothpaste stuck in her toothbrush or that something gross had been caught in the toothpaste tube or her teeth, so I went to look at it, and rolled it around a bit. Then I looked at her and pulled her lip down to find a bleeding hole where a tooth was formerly located. Seeing that she had gotten her teeth late, she was expected to go through teething milestones on the late side, so I was STUNNED that she had lost one so soon. I drove down to the only store open in Green Valley (Safeway) to find that their safe locks at 5 so they had no way of getting me any “funny” money, so we called the Tooth Fairy (formerly known as Santa) to tell him that we weren’t home and to reschedule our pickup for the next day.

The next morning (the 28th), Katie wrote the tooth fairy a note. The kids were super bored with being inside, but unfortunately for us, Green Valley is decidedly kid unfriendly, so we had to do some real searching to find a frickin’ place for them to play outside. Thanks to the joy of Google Maps, we drove around Sahuarita to find a place for the kids to play– they have these crazily boring housing developments with small parks sprinkled about, so they got to play for about 2 hours with two similarly-aged kids we met there. When we got home, Brandon went out with his dad to acquire some $2s and Sacajawea coins that the tooth fairy could give her, and that night, I replaced the tooth with said monies and a note that said that it was clear that she was taking great care of her teeth and brushing often. :D So, when Katie woke up on the 29th, the tooth fairy had been there!

Sadly, for us, the arrival of the tooth fairy also meant that all of the cousins left, save for one who is much older than the kiddos. We took Grandpa S with us to crash on a fancy play structure for a few hours, and went on a walk of Sahuarita’s copper safari (a bunch of copper statues of animals that the kids totally adored playing on). That night we took the family + B’s parents, Aunt Maxine, and Tina/Drew out to dinner (my first trip ever to a Red Lobster), and the kids were uncharacteristically horrible the whole meal, even with iPads in tow. It was mildly embarrassing but I’ve happily learned that as long as I’m making a parenting effort towards my kids’ behavior when they’re being rough, that I don’t give a crap what other people think. Yay!

On the 30th, we found what turned out to be the holy grail of the rest of our Arizona trip, and something that we will definitely do again: The Children’s Museum of Tucson. Not only is this a downright amazing children’s museum, the people who work there are incredibly friendly, as well. The grandparents accompanied us on the first day, and we explored all of the rooms — they have one with a real police motorcycle, firefighter suits, and a mini-ambulance; one that is an actual kid-sized grocery store with little carts and checkout lanes and a pretend citrus grove with magnetic fruit, a pretend garden, a pretend smoothie bar, and these huge giant parts of the body (I am not sure how that last bit ties in but whatevs ;) ); a pretend vet clinic with actual microscope; a train room; a wooshy air room where you can blow things through tubes and do other sciencey stuff; a huge art area; two small “3-and-under” areas for quieter play and building, etc. It is REALLY fabulous and I would recommend that anyone with kiddos visiting Tucson check it out. For lunch, we headed to the University district and are at a place called The Hub, which we thought would be a diner/ice creamery based on the face that the museum listed it as “american/creamery” but it turned out to be fancy instead. REGARDLESS, I had the best frickin’ ice cream there: “grown up chocolate”, which included port wine, huge pieces of fig, and chocolate ganache. NOM.

We went back to the museum the next day, it was that fab. And we went to bed early on New Year’s Eve because the next day we were going to D!

(Katie spent a lot of the ride to Arizona looking very closely at the map. The waypoints were: A (home), B (Palm Springs), C (Green Valley), D (Legoland), and E (Disneyland). Since the actual places D and E were a surprise, we just kept referring to them by their waypoint names or, in the case of Disneyland, “Potato”, which was a codename that Brandon and I came up with while making dinner with potatoes one night.)

Side note: At some point on our trip to AZ, Katie told Derek and Aubrey that she is going to to get married and be a mommy. When she’s 13.

2200+ mi, two states, one grandparents’ house, two amusement parks, no screens in the car. Give us a prize! ;)

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

2200+ mi, two states, one grandparents’ house, two amusement parks, no screens in the car. Give us a prize! ;)

Originally uploaded by alibee09

A princess! In real life!

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

A princess! Orn real life!

Originally uploaded by alibee09

Bryan Adams

Friday, December 13th, 2013

I was in the car this morning trying to make my Google Play turn on this amazing song by the Acabells of FSU (caution: Bitchy Resting Face ahead) but somehow it ended up playing Glass Tiger’s “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone”. And I was reminded, again, that somehow Bryan Adams shows up on a perfectly decent, rockin’ 80s anthem to… accompany? Or something?

So, this transpired on FB:

Alison, 9:39am
I’m I the only person who ever noticed/is distracted by Bryan Adam’s contributions to Glass Tiger’s “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone”?

Melissa, 9:41am
No – I remember he was on there and is probably the only reason that song got as far as it did in the 80’s.

Jill, 9:45am
Canadians all have this problem.

Alison, 9:48am
Jill, do you mean all Canadian rock bands have the same issue: “I was innocently recording a song and then Bryan Adams showed up and started trying to jam with me!” ?

Erika, 10:01am
Nope. Not just you.

Alison, 10:23am
Remember when Bryan Adams was big enough that Tina Turner sang on one of his tracks?

That reminded me that Del Amitri opened for Bryan Adams when he was touring a number of years ago, so I had to write Justin and ask if Bryan Adams was normal. It sort of shocks me that it has never occurred to me for pump him for information on this in all the years that I’ve known him, considering my devotion for Bryan Adams pre-and-up-to-“Everything I Do, I Do It For You”/”All For Love”.

And this leads me to tell an amazing story that I may have never told in this venue before, because at some point in my life between 1997 and now (how long I’ve had a blog) I’ve stopped caring about disclosing my silly teenagedom.

My mom and family are from Hawaii, so we’ve spent many vacations there. One year, instead of our usual haunts, we decided to hit the Big Island, and spent a lot of time driving the island to see the volcano, etc. I remember distinctly that I was very into Bryan Adams at this point, and as I spent most of my youth with a pair of earphones attached to my head, I made my way through most of my BA tapes in the long drives around the island. At one point, we stopped at a small local market for lunch, or whatever, and as I was EXCEEDINGLY boy-crazy at this age (I had a total reputation among my friends for this fact, even though I didn’t date until I was almost out of high school) I immediately noticed this super cute bagger who was helping us with our groceries. As is my habit to talk to anyone, I struck up a conversation with him and remember getting into the car that he was perhaps the guy that I was destined to be with (I was also exceedingly romantic at this age because I read far too many books, so that combined with my love for pop music — which is idealized and romantic generally, if it’s not a Del Amitri song — sort of overhyped my ideals of relationships).

About 20 minutes later, my chest REALLY started to hurt. And of course, I was absolutely convinced that I was experiencing true heart-break because my parents were driving me away from my one true love — DAMN THEM! I spent a lot of that car trip in misery, because my parents and sister clearly couldn’t understand what I was going through, and my chest frickin’ hurt.

Turned out that I had a chest cold from the air conditioning. The end.

no screens

Monday, November 18th, 2013

We did a day entirely without screens yesterday, which sounds like it should be obvious, but in our world, is not. Brandon loves his phone because he is addicted to a couple of mobile games (on a rotating schedule — once it was Simspons Tapped Out, now it’s Puzzles and Dragons); I love my phone because I’m addicted to social networking and my gamut of RSS feeds; Katie and Max love TV and Kinect Party and and lots of their iPad apps (currently Trees of Doom, Angry Birds, Pet Rescue Saga, Tiny Gods, and the Bob Books app). Normally we pepper our weekend activities with “breaks” of a show while breakfast is being made, etc., but we REALLY want to get out of that habit (and normally do for a while, and then something happens and it all reverts).

In the morning, the kids and I played a bit and had breakfast. Brandon and Katie took the dogs for a walk together while Max and I played t-ball outside, then the dog-walkers returned and they played while I took a shower. They then started playing alone together, so we waited until a natural pause to all pile in the car and drive down to a local furniture store to look at bunk beds — because we’ve already ordered a twin Jack-n-Jill trundle for Max’s room, and needed to get around to ordering a bigger bed for Katie, as well. (They’re currently in toddler beds converted from their cribs.) We ran around the store for a good while before finally deciding on the bed for Katie, and then decided to take part in their Toys For Tots No Sale Tax drive, so we walked to Tuesday Morning to get something to donate (which turned into quite the negotiation as to which toys they thought they were also getting). We got a play tent and brought it back to complete our purchase.

At this point, Mommy had fairly had it with the constant whining and yelling, but I took them all to lunch at Johnny Rocket’s anyway — a huge mistake, as they were having two parties and the place was packed/slow/not great, quality-wise. The kids were manageable enough, though, that I took them grocery shopping with me and B instead of taking them home first (partially influenced by the fact that Max is obsessed with Llama Llama books and wanted to reenact part of “Llama Llama Mad At Mama”). Next to our Safeway is a Blockbuster that’s going out of business, so we went in — and I had this weird moment of realization that my kids had never been into a video rental store before and that they really had no idea what they were seeing. Both of them picked every kid movie that looked remotely familiar and we narrowed them down (narrowing them down further upon checkout because wow, kid movies tend to be scratched to hell) to the two Nanny McPhees (and then B added Paul and Year One to the pile).

Grocery store was fine, even though Max was tired and I had to Mama Llama him a couple of times. Max has entirely given up napping at home, so when we got back, I laid two sleeping bags on the floor and told them it was quiet time, which persisted until 4 (and through a tantrum from the young sir). Then the three of us went to the hot tub for a while and I regaled them with stories about Disneyland, telling them how Ava and Shane had just taken Griffin and Storm for their second visit, and telling them about every ride. Both of them were enthralled with the idea of the Haunted Mansion (likely because it would scare them silly) and we talked about it for a long time, considering the fact that I told them we weren’t going anytime soon. :)

After the hot tub, I made dinner while Brandon played Zingo with them (a board game). Then we played dentist (so I could do some teeth cleaning) and they played together quietly for an hour… which was really weird. Not a single fight, good imaginative play, and lots of laughing. It was awesome! Then they went to bed!


This morning no one asked for TV and they played games while eating breakfast. Let’s see how long the streak continues!

Pros: parents were more engaged overall, kid behavior was more manageable, kids entertained each other a lot.
Cons: totally behind on Facebook, didn’t get to alleviate frustrations at kidly behavior with a tv break. :P

batkid and jlk

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Today, San Francisco banded together to help make the dreams of a 5yo with leukemia (in remission) come true, by turning itself into Gotham City (the SF Chronicle even printed a special edition) and having the little guy in question solve crimes as BatKid. (Make A Wish foundation rocks!) In the meantime, the 6yo daughter of one of my friends, JLK, was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor on her birthday at the end of last month. Her mom has been talking to Make A Wish, too, since she was given 1-2 years. (cue my crying, just typing that)

I’m pretty sure that the universe is conspiring to turn me from a who-gives-a-crap (aka agnostic) to an atheist, because … really? At the same time, holy crap, we live a completely amazing part of the country and I’m so, so happy that so many people around me are capable of banding together for this guy to make his day super special.

Anyone who knows me knows I love kids to a ridiculous degree — my coworker, when she was going on maternity leave, said that I love babies more than anyone she knows. I LOVE BABIES in a non-threating but totally adoring way that would not make you feel worried at all if you happened to walk by me with a baby (but know that I will crane my head around to see that baby and compliment some part of said baby because babies are magic). I have the natural stupid parent tendency, now, that every other parent has: see child tragedy, IMMEDIATELY imagine said tragedy happening to whatever child of mine is closest in age to tragedy (or go back in time and imagine tragedy happening to both kids of mine back when they were that age), live quick-fast-forward-movie in my head of how we all handled it, become wracked with woe, and feel the need to drink. So, of course, I’ve been doing those things constantly recently, paired with some terrible news about another mom friend (breast cancer, mastectomy/treatment/remission, cancer comes back, has spread to her bones, fuck fuck fuck) which has left me going WHY IS IT that so much shit happens to so many people?

I’m starting to develop anxiety about things that never bothered me before. I think about the world and suddenly FREAK THE FUCK OUT that it’s going to be so irreparably harmed by the things that we do that our kids (the entire generation of preschoolers) will have nothing/will struggle. I’ve stopped eating meat as much as possible as a side-effect of this, because factory farming just completely disgusts me on literally every level. (If you give me humanely raised/slaughtered foods, I’ll eat them.) I worry about recycling, global warming, bullying, the situation of the economy, physical ailments, in ways that are much more keenly pointed now: not for me, but my kids. Is our house in a place where we’d be okay in an earthquake? Do we have enough in the pantry so they kids would be fed? Can we afford X if one of us loses our job? What about both of us? Blah blah blah, the worries are constant. It’s TIRING so I spend a lot of time shoving them all down as much as I can.

Since hearing about JLK last month, I’ve been slowing down a LOT with the kids and the hub. Watching the kids in class, keenly observing their faces when they talk to me, letting them do silly things when I might otherwise be in a rush; listening to Brandon and making sure I am present when we’re talking about anything, even if it’s small. It’s all a big crap shoot, and the worst anxiety that I have is that I’ll miss it if I don’t pay attention.

Halloween 2013

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Halloween was a mixed bag.

Getting the kids ready was fun; both of them were excited to go to school all decked out as their respective superheroes (Spider Girl and Iron Man). I also got all fancy, including false eyelashes and makeup/jewelry to compliment my victorian gothy garb and fangs. (Molding those things made me drool more than I ever have in my entire life, might I add, but thankfully, I only had to do it once!) Brandon was going as Dr. Horrible, and he looked great, too!

At work, I received many compliments on how creepy but pretty I looked, which was very flattering. Unfortunately, I didn’t win the costume contest — there were some pretty great costumes here, but the winners were our sales team, who dressed up as “Snow Brown, the 7 Dwarves, and the Evil Queen”, where “Snow Brown” was the sole guy on the team and the dwarves were all perverted versions of the original ones (“Cashful” instead of “Bashful”. “Drunky” for “Grumpy”, etc).

We got home early and prepped our outdoor decorations and candy, and Shane, Ava, Griffin and Storm all came over. We gobbled down pizza and then went on our way, leaving B behind to man the door.

In general, the kids were really great — they did most of the door approaches themselves, so I have no idea if they said “Trick or Treat” as they were expected to, but they all did keep trying to go into the houses of our neighbors. :) As they got more and more excited, they started running more, so it turned into a lot of reminders to not run and then holding a crying Katie, who ran and tripped. We ran into nearly all our neighbors with kids while we were out and ended up walking the streets as a huge gang o’ folk, which was nice.

The only downtime was near the end, when I think everyone was starting to get tired — an older kid started to lead everyone, who decided that it was no longer important to listen to their parents, and I got so fed up with how far ahead they ran without listening that I followed them all up to a door and YELLED at them. I told Katie that she had to finish T&Ting at the house and then talk to me after, and when she did, she walked up to me and immediately started sobbing. She then cried for the next 10 minutes, as we walked from house to house, telling me that she was upset that she made me mad, but that the older kid had said he was going to take care of them, etc. (I later found out that also, the woman at that house had made K ask to say “trick or treat” after she had already said it, which I think may have contributed to her feeling sensitive.) I felt sort of horrible that she was crying because she’d upset me, but at the same time, I didn’t feel badly that I’d told all of them that they had to start listening to their parents because they weren’t being safe :(

We saw a bunch of teenagers roaming the neighborhood while we were out, and found as we went that they were completely emptying the bowls of candy left out instead of just taking one (because the people we were with had left the bowls out, and when we would get to their houses, they’d say something to the effect of, “We had left an entire Costco-sized bag in this bowl…”). In fact, after we got home, hadn’t had T&Ters for an hour, and had turned out the lights and closed the gate, three teenage boys, sans costumes with skateboards, rang our doorbell. I said, “Dudes, lights are off, we’re done for the night. We have kids that are asleep.” They looked slightly embarrassed and I gave them candy anyway (to maintain good will and also to get rid of our f’ing candy ;) ) but GAH. TEENS.

Anyway. The night wound down with Max and Katie playing with their glowsticks, and then Max BITING his in bed (which I was alerted to by him saying, “Mommy! Owie owie owie!” as he tried to spit it out), and then Katie, an hour later and plagued by insomnia/pumped up on a KitKat, doing the exact same thing after having been explicitly told not to. My kids… I love the little folk :D

tahoe, or how i realized that there is no rest on vacation

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Brandon and Derek, his little brother, signed up for The Death Ride in Alpine Valley, a 130-mi tour of 5 alpine passes that happened on 7/13. So, we decided to do a Tahoe vacation around it, and got the idea to stay at Aston Lakeland Village, on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, from my hairdresser, who is getting married there later this year.

So, on Sunday, Brandon took off with his truck and our boat (with all our bikes/bike trailer/trail-a-bike in the back) while I tried to run the kids ragged at the school and inside. After about an hour, I piled them in the car and we headed east. At lunchtime, I found a McDonalds with a playplace inside and let them get a little more of their wiggles out, but by the time we actually ended up in Tahoe at our place (where B had thankfully already checked in), they were DONE. And they spent the rest of the night whining and being hellions, so we went to the market and were angry, and we ate dinner and were angry, and we watched a movie and were angry. We angrily checked out the marina and walked around being cranky and were just a generally unhappy people.

Let me also mention here that I literally was up at least three times every night on this trip and rarely slept in my own bed — each night would see 2-3 beds for me and Brandon. We’d go to bed in one, then go to a kid’s in the night, and then either end up back in our own or in the other kid’s. Thus: tired parents nearly all vacation (my best sleep was the first night back, hurray).

Monday, right when Max woke up, I took him out on “the bridge”, because he had been requesting it. Then we wandered about a bit on the beach and around the resorty place, and when we went back, I took Katie for a similar walk. We had breakfast and Brandon went for a brief ride, then we nearly immediately hit the pool for swimming. The rest of the day went: t-ball/play structure, more checking out the pier, lunch, and then we decided to rent a paddleboat. This was nearly impossible to do because Katie was hanging on to the back (it was a four-seater) but Max was too small to do the same, so I had him in my lap as I was sitting in this weird position trying to pedal the boat. Katie hung onto my arm, and at one point got into the lake itself, which was adorable — she’s super brave. The kids were ogling the parasailers and the boats and in general enjoyed the experience. When we got back, we did some more pool + popsicles, and my parents and BIL/SIL/niece all showed up at 8:30pm, so the kids SPAZZED OUT and had a really, really hard time falling asleep. (It didn’t help that room 458 has an impossibly squeaky second floor so every time someone walked up there — which is where the main living area is — it woke the kids up underneath.)

Tuesday we had a huge family breakfast (eggs and stuff) and then did a walk adventure with Grammy and Grandpa before we decided to launch the boat at Tahoe Keys Marina. My dad and I, with the kids, tooled around the lake until we arrived at Ski Run Marina, where we met the water taxi and docked the boat at a buoy. My dad showed the kids how to identify a channel by the red/right/return channel marker idea, so they spent the entire time screaming out red and green channel markers. We ate lunch at the marina with Brandon (holy crap overpriced Riva, Batman) and then headed back to the hotel, where the kids had a nap and a movie while I went on a bike ride with Aubrey, my SIL (strava link). On the topic of Aubrey and Derek, before they arrived Katie would not stop talking about how excited she was to see her aunt and uncle (she declared Derek to be her favorite uncle before he arrived) — but minutes after they got there, Katie was no longer interested in them at all and instead became totally enamored/obsessed with her 6mo cousin, Elise, who she would barely leave her alone for 2 seconds. Elise (and Aubrey) took it well for the most part, but there were times when Katie was getting in her face and it was making her upset, for sure. On the good side, Katie was so incredibly loving and caring towards Elise, and I am so happy that my little girl behaving that way. (Also, B and Derek went for a ride together.)

Wednesday I started to really feel the lack of sleep that my children were gifting me. Also, we were supposed to go boating, but my dad and my husband combined to be SuperDoofusMan, without half a brain between them, which led me to have a rage breakdown at the pool where I was yelling into my cell phone at them. (Story: they were supposed to get the boat and then fill it with gas. Somehow it took them oer TWO FUCKING HOURS even though I had told them the kids were ready to go, because they decided to a) go to Nevada to attempt to get gas instead of actually going to the marina right next to Ski Run (as directed), but there were no gas stations there so they had to go back but they got lost and then b) somehow Brandon decided, because he was heat/drug addled, that I was going to go to a store and get ice? Even though I had just told him that the kids were ready to go? (When I told my mom this she also looked at him like he was on some sort of foreign substance.) So I decided, after trying to manage them freaking out for those two hours that they wanted to go NOW, that we were going to go swimming instead, because Elise was going swimming with her parents and it was ridiculous that we were still waiting for them. Eventually my dad and Brandon showed up and at some point I decided to start talking to them again, but HOLY CRAP was I angry. We did more of that nap/movie thing after lunch and then I was saved from being a pissy human being by having dinner with Carolyn (bluepoof — who blogged about her day and our meal), who was taking a solo bike trip through the area. I love me some ‘poof.

Thursday was more boating, but this time we took Derek, Aubrey, and Elise with us. Katie and Max are very interesting on the boat — Max tends to want to cuddle/pass out but Katie is somewhat unnerved by the whole thing and would be happy to spend it hiding on me. (I actually like this because it means I get to cuddle either of them — and in both cases it’s on terms I enjoy, where Max isn’t trying to poke/pick at me and Katie isn’t wiggling. Win!) On the other hand, the minute that Grandpa offered either of them the opportunity to drive, they were all over it, and enjoyed being “in charge”. We drove around for quite a while before we decided to head back for lunch, and then did the normal swimming/hanging out for a nap thing. My parents went out for dinner together and Aubrey and Derek had a date, so we spent time trying to babysit Elise, who got successively fussier and fussier with me until she was wailing, while Katie did her darnedest to help me soothe her until B and Max returned with pizzas for us. The minute that Brandon held her, she calmed, which I assume is because he is enough like his brother that she felt comforted (although we can pretend that he is a superior parent ;) ). Eventually they returned and we did a little more swimming; I think I probably took Katie out to the play structure somewhere here, too.

Friday, Brandon, Derek, Aubrey, and Elise all went to Alpine Valley to pick up their race packets while I took the kids to the pool. I believe at this point I was ready to stab someone in the face for the excessive amount of alone time I was spending with the kids, even though my mom was heroically hanging out with us as well. When they returned, I went with my mom to the store for some supplies (and Starbucks, of course), then came back and took a long bike ride alone (strava link). Brandon and I went out for dinner together at Base Camp Pizza and I think my dad took the kids out (I know at some point he also took Katie kite flying). $5 says that we did some swimming that day. Brandon and Derek prepped for their early morning departure for the Death Ride the next day (I think they got up at 3:30 or something ridic) so I had a relatively horrid night of flip-flopping between kid beds and waking up when the guys did (being a mom makes me a super ridiculously light sleeper, apparently), and then at 5, when I was sleeping with Katie, Max had a bad dream and when I went to his bed and Katie had a crazy tantrum and OUR DAY WAS STARTED!!! WOO!!!

Saturday… was an mash-up of stuff. Katie went to the kids’ club at the resort to do PIRATE DAY!!!! from 9-12, so we (my parents, Aubrey/Elise) took Max on a walk and played on the play structure with him, generally enjoying some kiddo alone time until we went to pick her up (she was building a sandcastle and totally uninterested in stopping). I showed Max the army guys that B had bought him and he spent a huge amount of time playing “stand up the guys and knock them down” while I talked to a German lady I met who lives in Mountain View. We also went kite flying and did more swimming and some sandcastle building, and it was generally chill and wonderfully laid back, and when the guys finally contacted us to tell us that they were alive and had been successful at finishing the ride, we got a bunch of the leftovers of food together for a meal and started packing up.

Sunday consisted of: packing the cars, getting in the boat with my dad and kids and trying to find the entrance to the Tahoe Keys marina (we failed twice), and then driving back through the crappy traffic going back to the Bay Area. We stopped for a late lunch with B at another McDonald’s Play Place, and otherwise tried to get back as soon as we could and I listened to a lot of radio about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin trial. I got back to the house to find that the maids, who had come on Monday, had left the front door unlocked! All week! At least they set the alarm, though?

Some funny conversations:
Katie: Mommy, I want to marry Max when I grow up.
Me: You know, sweetie, one day you might change your mind about that.
K: I love him so much!
Me: I know, but one day you may meet someone you love just as much as you love Max, but in a different way, and you’ll want to marry them.
K: I don’t want to love anyone as much as I love him!

(This morning I was relaying this conversation to Caroline while driving the kids to school and Max stated, “I DON’T WANNA GET MARRIED!” and Katie tried to explain to Max that he had to get married one day or he’d have to live alone [I corrected that] or that one day he could marry a girl or a boy that he loved very much.)

Over the trip Max’s speaking ability improved remarkably — he is annunciating much more clearly and using even more complicated sentence structure. He also attaches to toys very strongly (he wanted to keep Elise’s bath toys and sleep with them, and they had little conversations between each other, and later attached to the pool rocket toys). Katie’s tantrums were at a minimum but her sass/talkback also has started spiking. I’ve noticed that of the two of them, Max is generally more responsive, while Katie gets much more immersed into things (like imaginative play/television), making her seem less responsive. Both of them were very excited about swimming (especially with us) but when I didn’t want to swim anymore, Katie was able to do the entire circumference of the pool alone, using the side when she needed to stop and breathe. She also loved the hot tub and was fascinated by women in bikinis (“Mommy, will you get me a Barbie that’s naked but with a milkie holder and the bottoms?”), and very observant of how people at the pool laid out (she told my dad that to relax, men put their arms behind their heads and women put them down by their sides).

All in all, it was awesome (but not restful) to spend so much time with my peeps. :D

the weekend, and my longest ride

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

This weekend started earlyish — Katie was sick at the end of the day at school on Thursday, but well enough that she needed something to do on Friday, so my dad came down and the three of us went to see Monsters University. She was great, but extremely lethargic (and additionally, it was HOT) and not as communicative with Grandpa as I think any of us would have liked. We had frozen yogurt after the movie, and stopped by Pier One to buy kites for the summer (K: butterfly, and then she picked a dragon for M). She was well enough to still attend Parent’s Night Out, so we dropped her back at school with Max and then went and had the most amazing dinner at John Bentley’s in Redwood City. (GO THERE.) Everything we ate/drank was delicious and we both stuffed ourselves, had a great waiter, and met the chef himself.


Saturday was ridiculously hot, so after gymnastics (where Max had a meltdown and wouldn’t really DO gymnastics until halfway through, preferring to be my little barnacle), we headed home and immediately brought out all the water-related toys/pools. Ava/Shane and their little monkeys showed up and we all just hung out while the kids played in the water and we eventually ate bbq and had lots of popsicles. After lunch, they left, and Max napped while I hung outside with Katie, where I accidentally fell asleep with her in the hammock — total heaven. I woke up because I ended up sunburning my foot, took her inside, and realized I’d sunburnt my shoulders, too. We ate dinner and then went out for frozen-yogurt-in-jammies. The day was essentially fantastic.

Sunday morning, we started out by meeting our new babysitter Tara, and then headed out for a bike ride sans kids. We started out by driving to La Honda via the twisties, which left me slightly nauseated (per my usual). I needed to go change some of my biking gear, so I walked up to the general store and greeted the dogs at the front door. The guy who worked there told me their names and I asked him if I could use his facilities, which he declined and pointed me at a restaurant down the road, so I responded, “Oh, I just wanted to change, I’ll go do it in the car — I’m not THAT shy.” His reply? “Well, if you’re not that shy, maybe I can help you.” External response: “Aww.” Internal response: “Ew.”

I hadn’t eaten anything at this point, and pretty much four miles into the ride I was complaining of hunger to Brandon and expressing the wish that I could somehow reach into my pack and pull out the bear claw I had there. Instead, I decided to try drafting — which funnily I’ve done before without realizing, I just thought that the person in front of me was suddenly slowing down when I got close which is why riding was so much easier. Brandon was obviously holding back so I could keep up, and when we got to San Gregorio market I nearly threw my backpack off to attack my pastry. (I had been drinking some Cytomax water to try to stave off the hunger but that didn’t do much.) At the market we ran into our neighbor, who owns a local cycling shop, and his son and their riding group, and they seemed excited that I was going to try go to up Stage Road — a cat 4 hill (I don’t normally ride hills with ratings).

It was on this hill that I realized that it’s extremely different for me, riding alone vs riding with someone. Usually I listen to a podcast and focus on a fixed point in front of me and space out while I do any “work”. In this case, I was concentrating on my own riding, where Brandon was in comparison to me (we had to work on this — I’ll describe later), Brandon talking to me, the people passing me (including neighbor guy), and the feeling I had that B was holding back. I was breathing pretty hard by the time we got to the top but not feeling awful.

We headed down the coast, where I could tell that that last hill had hit me hard, and that I was probably not having a “peak physical” day, because nearly every rolly hill felt harder than I felt it should have. We stopped to take some pics together, and Brandon was complimenting me on how well I was doing. Then he said something very… interesting: “I’m so glad I could do this with you and take a rest day!” Seriously? Seriously, sir? I’m busting my ass and you’re cycling circles around me and then you want to go and rub it in by making a comment about how easy this is for you?

Seriously, my husband, folks. Sometimes he’s not the brightest. ;P

So we did this loop down the coast and back up to Pescadero, where we had lunch. We talked to a bunch of folk there and this one girl was telling me about how she didn’t want to ride up Stage Road and I was thinking, all smart-like, “Oh hey, I already did that, HA! Hard part is DONE!”

Except it wasn’t, and going up Stage Road’s longer second cat 4 was long and torturous, and when I get tired I tend to ride swervy, and Brandon kept riding to the left of my back tire, so on top of the mental work I was doing already, I was getting really frustrated because I felt like I had to do more work to avoid hitting him (in reality there was no chance I was going to hit him, he would have easily moved). So — I asked him to move either ahead of or behind me, and that helped a great deal. :) We were passed by a ton of motorcyclists, and I had to stop at one point because he started talking to me and I couldn’t hear him well so I just stopped. I gave myself a minute to compose and hit the top of the hill with no problem.

Coming down the other side, we nearly careened into a truck that turned across both lanes as it came onto the road; I braked hard and my back tire skidded around a bit, and B flew by me and then off the road a little but neither of us crashed into each other or the truck, which was awesome. We made it back to the main road and I started at this point to stress seriously because I knew what time it was, and when we had to be home by (we’d already called the babysitter for an extension), so finally, as we headed on back up towards La Honda, I yelled at B to stop waiting for me and to just hit it and get to the truck and get his stuff loaded.

I would then classify the rest of this ride as “ow ow ow ow ow”. My back hurt because I have terrible posture while riding. My hips hurt because they don’t often do this sort of work. My shoulder hurt because I do a lot of pulling on my handlebars when I ride. I was happy that I’d already made this my longest ride ever, but I was continually surprised that I wasn’t there yet, and then suddenly I came to the intersection of La Honda Road and 84 and I didn’t know which way to go and then suddenly B was there! So I crossed the street and gave him my bike and fell into the truck and was too tired to do anything, even get carsick.

We got home and I talked to the babysitter for a bit about how the kids behaved (Katie told her that she was going to tell me that she couldn’t babysit for us anymore when the babysitter made her pick up trash she’d thrown on the floor and put it into the trash can — gasp!); they had spent their day in the hot tub, the kiddie pool, and trying to be cool indoors. I helped prepare the kids to go out to the block party with B, then threw myself in the shower and got my tush down there. I LIVE IN THE BEST NEIGHBORHOOD. We had a taco truck, bounce house, and people brought drinks and desserts; there were water tables and normal tables and TONS of kids and then the fire department showed up with two different rigs (a big truck and a smaller one) for the kids to climb over. (The firemen there had literally just come from putting out a brush fire. And, they were the most patient and understanding people, giving into Katie’s assorted requests for the lights and siren, etc.) It was pretty nice because I could space out and be tired and the kids were occupied and running around — most miraculously Max, because he hadn’t had a nap (and he made it through to bedtime, when he fell asleep on Brandon on the sofa). Katie had some “interactions” with neighborhood kids which led to a meltdown (I attribute this to being overtired and extremely hot) but she recovered.

Anyway. This weekend was hot as heck but really awesome. Yay! I especially liked all the quality family time, and the husbandly/wifely time.

Here’s Brandon’s post, including lots of pics of me making faces and slouching.