Friday, February 27, 2009

Time Out


I'm taking a short time out from Boy Wonder due to a badly sprained wrist and fingers. I'm waiting until the story of how this happened starts to be a little humorous before posting the story! In the meantime, typing with one hand is frustratingly slow. Probably the worst type of injury for a writer! I'll be back soon!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Grandpa with the motorcycle!

Today is my Dad's birthday and despite how far away they live, I actually got to see both my parents this morning while they were down in this area for their tax appointment. Nothing like spending your birthday at the accountant's office, huh? Sadly, they had to hit the road to get home before the boys got out of school. However, they did leave Nathan and Benjamin a fun creative toy they've been begging for, so they are happy kids.
Happy Birthday Grandpa! We love you!
Ben's first trip to my parent's house. He is one month old, Nathan is two and a half.

Nathan and the motorcycle from which Grandpa with the motorcycle gets his name.
Baby Ben on the motorcycle. You can tell Grandpa really loves these boys, no one, and I do mean no one, is allowed to touch his Harley! And here are my sticky, slimy children sitting on it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recycle

We came home from an outing on Saturday to find a basketball hoop in our driveway! Michael lowered the hoop about 18 inches so that Ben could actually make a basket every now and then. We picked up a youth sized basketball (we only have a couple of soccer balls) and now they can't get enough! I keep hearing, "Mom, the ball went across the street again," so I've been teaching them that while one shoots, the other has to "guard" the street. Neither Michael nor I are sports fans or players, so our poor boys won't be getting any pointers from us, but they seem to be doing just fine!

It turns out some nice folks down the street recently sent their youngest off to college and wanted the hoop out. They asked their neighbor for a recommendation of what to do with it, and they mentioned that we have two boys. Together they rolled it down the street. What a nice surprise, sure to bring hours of fun and exercise for the whole family!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Breadmakers

With all the home cooking going on around here, we've found it necessary to do some rearranging of the kitchen cupboards. We have one that is very deep, and in the furthest reach of the back I saw a large appliance that I didn't recognize. I got down on my hands and knees and pulled it out... a brand new, never before used bread maker! The boys jumped up and down cheering at the revelation that we had an appliance that can create bread with the touch of a button. I laughed at their delight until tears were streaming down my face, and then we went to go get some ingredients to put together the "easy" loaf of white bread that the directions said would be a great place to start.


I followed the directions very carefully, beginning with the first step. Unfortunately, there was a step before the first step that I didn't catch until everything was already in the pan. So we had to do a crazy move to get the ingredients out without the yeast touching the water so we could put the mixing paddle in (oops). I debated on whether to just dump it all and start over or to just continue. The directions are so exact! No room for error! The tiniest mistake can result in catastrophe! Never one to back away from catastrophe, we decided to just continue to see what would happen.

The bread machine has a window in the top, and you would think it was a brand new episode of Phineas and Ferb the way the boys were glued to the "screen"!

We watched it rise up as it baked, beautiful and golden. The house had the overwhelming smell of the yeast, so instead of bakery goodness it smelled a bit like a brewery. After it was done baking, the entire top collapsed, which made the boys laugh.


I wish I had a photo of Nathan and Benjamin eating the fruit of our labor... but alas, despite its questionable appearance, they tore into it and inhaled it before any such photo could be taken!

We're going to give it another try with a new recipe, making sure the mixing paddle is in place before we start! Oh, and a belated thank you to my Mom and Dad, who bought us the bread maker back in 2005...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ghost of Valentine's Past

I was going through old photos and it would appear that I didn't always have the Bah-Humbugs toward Valentine greetings. Nathan's first Valentine's Day was celebrated in Japan where we found it to be a little different from the U.S. celebrations. On February 14th, ladies give their sweethearts chocolate treats. Then a month later on White Day, March 14th, the men return the favor and shower the ladies with chocolate. I think we were just buried in being brand new parents and adjusting to a new home in a foreign country and didn't do anything for either day! But starting the year after that, I took photos of the kids and either mailed or emailed them out to our loved ones. So let's take a stroll back all the way to 2003 when Nathan was 15 months old...
2003 - He's so little! Look at that string of pearls that were his baby teeth! That was my favorite shirt on Nathan because it made his eyes look electric blue. Well that and because green is my very favorite color.

2004 - This one cracks me up because Ben looks so desperate... please be my Valentine?

2005 - Ahhh! Brotherly love!

2006 - Look at those curls! Where did they go? I would like them back, pretty please!

2007 - I guess the Bowl Haircut was really big that year...

2008 - Wow, I can't believe this was just a year ago! They've grown so much...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chase Family Circus

When I say that my life is a circus, I mean it!
Just look at these clowns!

Much Mirth

We lived on the east side of the San Francisco Bay for a couple of years after moving to the U.S. from Japan. Benjamin was born there and has the distinction of being the only non-native Southern Californian in our little family. Here we are at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont.

Mike was snapping photos of two year old Nathan chasing the Canadian Geese who stop at the lake during migration, and caught me in his lens. He called out, "turn sideways so I can see your pregnant belly," which as you can see, I did. Later that night we were looking through the photos and noticed Nathan in the background, also turned sideways and showing us his belly. It makes me laugh every time I see it!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

100th Day of School

For reasons I don't quite understand, elementary schools make a HUGE deal out of the 100th Day of School. This year the entire school dressed up in their finest Western gear.
Both boys are wearing actual cowboy boots and fine felt cowboy hats, thanks to my Mom and Dad who are genuine "cow folk."

They both had to bring in 100 of something to share. Ben brought in 100 multicolored bow tie pasta pieces, which he counted out himself.

Nathan created a sculpture of Lego using 100 bricks, creatively forming the number 100.
Maybe the 100th Day of School is how the teachers secretly celebrate being over halfway to summer?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quantity Time

Nathan had his second guitar recital, and earned another "belt". He continues to amaze and impress us. I believe a major reason for his success is the hour of practice each night that Daddy and Nathan put into it. Nathan's favorite part is when Daddy gets out his guitar and they jam together. It is a huge commitment of time in an already packed schedule, but it reminds me that if you give child a choice between "quality" and "quantity" time, most likely they will pick quantity. Ask your average five or eight year old if they would prefer a single scoop of Häagen-Dazs Premium or all-they-can-eat from the Thrifty's ice cream counter, and I'm sure the all-you-can-eat option will be the one they pick. Daddy may not be made out of ice cream, but to our little boys he is just about the only thing better than ice cream. What incredibly lucky little boys we have! Thank you Michael, for all you do!
The songs they played at the recital are on the board. My favorite was Wild Thing.

He's so intense!
Practicing even on vacation at Grandma and Grandpa's house... You can tell he's pretty good because Tank (the dog) didn't get up and leave!
And this is just too cute not to post. Daddy changing his guitar strings while Benjamin, age 1, "helps". Sweet!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Detour

All good things must come to an end, and our three day weekend ended in a flurry... of snow! The Grapevine was closed due to snow and ice, so we took the much longer, but far more scenic, coastal route home to Los Angeles. In any other part of the Nation a bit of snow on the highway wouldn't close it down, but California drivers can barely handle the tiniest sprinkle of rain. Snow is out of the question!
It was fun to drive down the state along the edge of the Pacific Ocean. And I use the term "fun" very loosely! I haven't driven that route since college when my little red pick-up was on it's last legs (wheels?) and I couldn't make it safely up the steep incline of the Grapevine. So it did bring back memories of listening to tapes (tapes!) and singing at the top of my lungs to stay awake on the drive home. This time we had a different kind of soundtrack: Nathan and Ben! And they only had one volume setting: High!


They fell asleep about 30 minutes before we got home. Bliss!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Postcards from Benjamin

What could be better than a weekend at the Grandparents? Where I don't have to cook (not even allowed in the kitchen!), do laundry (no sooner do we have our clothes off our bodies before my Mom snatches them up, wash, dries, folds, and returns them to our room), or get up early with the kids (we just shoo them out of the room, roll over and sleep at least until double digits on the clock... every parent's dream!). And it isn't just Michael and I who benefit. The grandparents get to spend hours listening to Nathan's ideas or being led around the property by Benjamin. And the boys get to explore acres of dirt (or mud as it was this weekend), climb on farm equipment, chase chickens, and get chased by the overgrown puppy, Mack. It's a win-win situation for all of us. On Sunday Benjamin brought me my shoes and asked me to come with him and "picture him" around the property. So I did, and this is what we ended up with.

Here's Ben with the Massey Ferguson tractor. When I first heard the name "Massey Ferguson", I wished it was my name. I was disappointed to find that it's just two last names of the founders of the tractor company, with roots back in 1847. This tractor is LOUD! Nathan won't go anywhere near it!



Ben on the Model AA Ford truck, with beautiful blond puppy Mack.

Ben on top of the Model AA, to get away from puppy Mack's kisses.

Ben inside puppy Mack's pen, while Mack patiently waits for him to come out to play.

Checking the chicken coop to see if the girls left any eggs for our breakfast. No, they did not.

Benjamin on HIS tractor. Last year he declared emphatically to my Dad that this was HIS. Of course, Grandpa lets him drive it all over the property. Lucky little five year old, I didn't get to drive a tractor until I was 11!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Fish n' Chips Day!


We simply don't "do" Valentine's Day. It just seems so over-the-top embarrassingly commercialized. Why just have one day of the year where we tell our loved ones that we love them? And I don't really care for pink, or hearts, or flying naked babies with bows and arrows. And neither do my boys. Although they would probably go for the bows and arrows.

The first Valentine's Day I spent with Michael wasn't really spent with him at all. He had proposed to me a week before and then left on a touring production. Our second Valentine's Day was a few months before our wedding, and we decided together to have a low key evening. We jokingly brainstormed over what would be the least romantic place to go for dinner. Together we came up with going out for fish and chips. We laughed that no one would choose to take their sweeties there, with the fishy-fryer smell and the resulting malt vinegar breath... what a spectacularly bad place for a date! So we went! And we laughed and had incredible amounts of fun! Instead of a long wait to be seated, we were the only two people in the place. We laughed, and then we did it again the next year. And the next year, and the year after that. Even when the kids came along and we were broke and couldn't afford a baby sitter, we still went out. No one cares if you have a crying baby if you're the only customers there! Now the kids look forward to our tradition. It helps that it's the only time we ever get fish and chips.

This year, however, we went to my Mom and Dad's house, square in the middle of no where land. At least an hour away from the nearest restaurant. But my Dad went out of his way to make it special anyway, by preparing his mouth watering made from scratch tacos (which I beg him to make each year for my birthday). And then the kids went crazy opening their valentine treats from their classmates, consuming their yearly sugar quota in conversation hearts, chocolate, and lollies in record time. Better them than me, and better there (where there are acres and acres of land to run off the sugar high) than here. It was fun. And we'll be back to our regularly scheduled fish n' chips next year!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

One Hundred

Please allow me to brag for a moment about my five year old son Benjamin, who wrote the numbers one to one hundred, all by himself. The only person more proud than I would be Ben himself. He requested that I photograph it and place it here for the world to see. So here you are world! Benjamin, my boy wonder!

Be Mine


Valentine season is upon us. This year the teachers requested that students hand address all their own valentines for the big exchange on Friday. There was much grumbling about this (from the boys and from me) because it's so much easier to do a quick mail merge of the class list and simply print labels, which they could then just stick on...
Is there an equivalent to "Bah Humbug" that goes with Valentine's Day?
We have our own unique way of celebrating each year on February 14th, but you'll have to wait until the 14th to hear about it!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pity Party of Four

Mondays are never easy for us. Today may have been Tuesday, but with Monday a school holiday, today bore the brunt of the normal Monday hassles. And then some! Everyone was a little off.
Ben started crying when I picked him up from school, great gobs of tears for no specific reason. Nathan missed two words on his spelling test that we worked on for hours last week until he could write them backwards, forwards, and with his eyes closed without error (technology & machine), and therefore forfeited the monetary reward I'd offered for a 100% score. Michael was delayed and didn't make it home in time for Nathan's guitar lesson, causing chaos in me trying to get to school to exchange Nat's backpack for his guitar case. I ended my three days of laying in bed sick to go for a simple trip to the book store, which left me feeling like I'd competed in an Ironman-qualifying triathlon, completely wiped out. Trying to get the boys to do homework and address 40 Valentines for their classmates brought more tears from both boys, and the realization that dinner hour was upon us and nothing was prepared brought tears to my eyes!
So we grabbed a buy-one-get-free coupon for a local eatery and headed out the door. It was a huge mistake. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches would have been better! It took over thirty minutes for our food to arrive and then it was overdone. Forget refills on beverages, they never came. We were very polite to the waitress who was trying to stay calm when she explained they had a new cook and that we were really nice for not yelling at her. After a total time investment of nearly two hours, the manager took care of the bill and gave us pie, which we took to go. If we were hoping that this was going to bring us relief from the typical Monday Madness (on Tuesday), we were out of luck.
Our 2009 resolution to eat at home more often is quite a bit easier than I'd expected. Between the boys and their over-the-top love of my cooking, Mike's willingness to happily do ALL of the dishes (yes ladies, I married Mr. Wonderful), and our miserable recent experiences when we actually do go out... it sorta makes sense to never eat out again! Okay, so it's not really realistic, but it does help with our other resolution of getting rid of our financial obligations. And the added time spent reading with the boys instead of waiting for the check is a nice bonus too. Don't we seem like the picture-perfect all-American family?

Oh my. Someone please help me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hail

Today the boys got about a year's worth of their normal television diet, all in one sitting. Mike went to work but the boys had the day off school, and I'm nowhere near 100%. Disney Channel to the rescue!

We had rain most of the day with plenty of wind. At one point it started hailing, a phenomenon the kids have never seen. They were jumping around and yelling with great joy about the rocks falling from the sky, all from the comfort of our warm living room.

It brought me back to 1994 when my friend Michael Richards and I drove to the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda and waited in line for seven or eight hours for the public viewing of the late President Nixon's casket. Normally it would have been a memorable way to spend the day with an awesome friend, but it was pouring icy cold rain and giant chunks of hail the entire time we waited. Outside. Without an umbrella. In a wool coat (me) and a flannel shirt (him). I tried to explain the experience to the boys about how cold and miserable it was, but they just thought it was completely cool. My poor native Californian boys, who have only experienced the California sunshine or the subtropical warmth of Japan and Hong Kong. They are so sheltered!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sick Day

Benjamin shared his germs with Daddy.
Daddy shared his germs with me.
Both Ben and Daddy feel just dandy.
But for me, misery abounds.

Michael took the boys to the park, and Benjamin experienced flight when he slipped off the swings at the highest point and came crashing down to earth with a great deal of "sand rash". When they returned, he put Ben in the bathtub, to calm both Ben and Ben's angry red skin. Nathan, our water-child, couldn't bear to see Ben covered in bubbles all by himself, so together they ended up playing in the tub for over an hour while Mike read a book in the bathroom. So even though they didn't get wet from the rain, they spent plenty of time in the water!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rainy Day Schedule

The last two days have brought plenty of rain. More rain is forecast for the three day weekend. I'm leery of the rain here, because it always seems that when the tiniest precipitation hits the ground, all L.A. drivers completely loose both their minds and their ability to drive. It would be funny if it wasn't so frightening!

Yesterday the morning dawned bright and warm, and the boys dressed appropriately in shorts and tees. I heard rain was on the way, but judging by the blue skies dismissed it as a meteorologist fantasy. By 11:00 a.m. the sky was dark with threatening clouds. By noon the skies had opened. Knowing that Ben got out at 2:00, I drove over to the school at 1:00 and got the prime parking spot right in front of his class. I spent the hour catching up on writing while I enjoyed the rain's sweet serenade. Come 2:00, Ben stood out among his far warmer classmates with their long pants, sweaters and jackets. We ran into the van and Ben climbed around the seats, snapping photos on my phone and telling me funny stories while we waited for Nathan to get out at 3:15.

Close to 3:00 the streets were flooding with water and cars desperate for a place to park. As the rain fell faster and harder, I gave myself a pat on the back for being so wise in coming early. A woman ran up and pounded on my window, demanding I move my minivan forward. The car previously parked in front of me had left, leaving another prime parking spot for a lucky parent. I told the woman to just park in front of me. She got very irritated and loudly insisted that I move forward so she could park behind me. I looked back and saw her enormous SUV and (rightly) assumed that she didn't know how to parallel park her beast. Since Ben was in the car with me, I simply moved the van rather than yell what I really wanted to say: If you can't handle it, you shouldn't be driving it! Ben's comment made me come out the winner, though: How rude! She didn't even say thank you!

Today I was scheduled to volunteer in Ben's kindergarten class as I do each Friday. Michael has been sick for a week and he evidently shared his germs, as I woke up feeling horrible. I thought about calling in sick and staying home. Then I felt guilty and thought I'd just go in and check the homework and then come home. But when I walked into the classroom from the pouring rain to find 21 hyper kindergartners and a teacher who looked like she was going to pull her hair out (if it didn't fall out first), I decided to suck it up and stay for my normal three hours. I don't know how teachers do it even on the best days, day after day, month after month, year after year. Toss in the rainy day schedule of no break and I'd quit on the spot. I'm just glad that we only get rain a handful of times each year. I can't imagine the nightmare caused by regions where it snows!

This afternoon the rain stopped and a little sun slipped in to dry things up. We all walked home from school and the boys were dejected over the lack of puddles to jump in and the loss of an opportunity to use their bright yellow umbrellas. According to the news they'll have plenty of chances for that over the next three days!