Monday, March 30, 2009

Father/Son Outing


Saturday evening Michael and the boys went to a beach bonfire at Dockweiler Beach. Famous for being the beach in the direct path of planes taking off from LAX, it's popular with beach volleyball enthusiasts and, of course, those who like to make s'mores at the seaside thanks to the fire rings. Though the plan was to play games on the sand, and not to swim, when it comes to my children if there is water, they will get wet. I spent a much needed quiet evening at home, curled up with a good book.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Chris!


Christopher is celebrating his birthday today!

Chris came into our lives several years ago. One thing about us, we are frequently the family who says things like, "if you ever need anything, call me. We have a spare room." And then we make sure we mean it by actually opening our home to quite a colorful cast of people throughout the years. Chris was in need of more than just a room, however. He really needed a family. We move frequently, all over the world. The one thing we are really good at is creating our own "family" units in far-flung places around the globe. So it really wasn't hard to absorb Chris into ours. The hardest thing was letting him go, off to join the U.S. Navy where he's currently studying nuclear engineering in South Carolina and figuring out how to be a good husband to his new bride, Alyssa. We miss him so much, especially my boys who were in the fortunate position to gain an older brother for a bit. Happy Birthday Chris! We love you!

Chris came home on leave for Christmas. This is his brother Tommy, his wife Alyssa, and Benjamin and Nathan.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mothosaurus

We took the kids to opening night of Monsters vs. Aliens, in 3-D, of course! A good time was had by all. In the movie there is a monster called Insectosaurus. Benjamin and I were whispering during the movie that we thought just maybe he might turn into a giant moth... We returned home to find our own giant moth hanging out by the front porch light. Big by our regional standards, the nail in the photo is just over three inches long to give you an idea of scale. The boys screamed like little girls as they ran into the house under the moth's watchful eyes. Yes, Nathan, monsters are real... Funny kids!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Morton


Have you ever eaten at a Morton's Steakhouse? We ate there once as a family in Hong Kong (it's not a family restaurant, but it's not like we had a nanny) for Father's Day in 2005. I can still easily recall it being one of the most delicious meals I've ever tasted. It was certainly the most expensive! And even though Benjamin wasn't quite two years old at the time, it apparently left an impression on him, too. Now age five, he's started writing his full name on all his papers, spelling it Benjamin Morton Chase. I barely have the heart to correct him and tell him that his middle name is actually spelled Martin, named for my father and brother. He's just so proud of the fact that he sounded it out and figured out how to spell it all on his own!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Trail Blazing


Today was the second trimester parent/teacher conference for both our children. It served as yet another (unnecessary) reminder that our boys are incredibly different!

Benjamin has the same kindergarten teacher Nathan had two years ago. We'd had Nathan's conference first, so we spent a few minutes discussing his progress with his old teacher. Her most profound statement was that instead of us blazing a trail with Nathan, which Ben will then follow, we are actually blazing two separate trails, in very different directions. I like her choice of words- blazing a trail feels exactly right, plus it feeds our adventurous nature!

I see exactly what she means every day when things we've used with great success with Nathan have absolutely no effect on Benjamin, forcing us to go back to the drawing board and creatively come up with new ideas on how to motivate our youngest child. There is absolutely no rest as we try to stay a step or two ahead of these guys! Although it frequently feels like they are leaving us in the dust, running ahead.

Which reminds me of when we climbed the Great Wall of China. Benjamin, at age two and with congenital heart disease that is particularly affected by being at high elevations, could not be convinced to stay at the slower pace which Mike, Nathan, Uncle Jeff, and I were forced to go at. Those giant uneven steps were wicked! Benjamin was gracious enough to occasionally sit down and call out impatiently to us Come on, Mama!


We did eventually catch up, and I'm praying every day that we do the same in our current child-rearing stage!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Riot

Riot of color, anyway.
One of the more depressing things about always renting would have to be the random restrictions placed on what you can and cannot do to the place you rent. What we love about our current home is that we've been able to paint the walls ("any color other than black," said the landlady) and get reimbursed for the price of the paint and supplies. Having lived with odious Rental White walls for 15 years, it's a very nice, very appreciated change of scenery.
The weird restriction about this place would be the yards. After living in a 27-story high rise building in Hong Kong, we knew that our next home needed some outdoor space. Here we have a big backyard, a big front yard, and even a couple of generously sized side yards. But the only thing we are allowed to do to them is water them! I'm all for gardens that look a bit wild rather than perfectly manicured. But what we get here (as seen in the photo above) is a springtime cacophony of color, with random items competing for space, smack in the middle of a sea of ugly white landscaping rocks. Right in the front of the house for all to see.
Possibly making things worse would be our lovely neighbor who is a gardening genius, with a greener thumb than the pros at Armstrong Garden Center. Her yard right now is a magazine worthy showplace. Come this time of year, I always feel like hiding.
The boys are getting past the playing-in-the-yard stage, moving into the riding-bikes-around-the-block stage. So maybe our next home ought to be a townhouse with some patios that call out for container gardening. Our years of experience living in apartments and townhouses have honed my skills for that segment of the home gardening world.
All I know is that in 45 days we'll have lived in this house for THREE years. An unheard of record for our nomadic souls. Maybe I'm getting a little itchy to move.
But then again, maybe I'm just confusing it with the itchiness from all the extra pollen in the spring air...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring BBQ

I love spring, but only because it gets us that much closer to summer! To celebrate the first weekend of the new season, we had ourselves a little bar-b-que for the extended family. I made a lemon-garlic marinade for the chicken and let it soak in the yummy goodness overnight. Sunday dawned wet and windy. But that has never stopped my grill loving husband before! I made some rice with fresh broccoli, my famous romaine salad with apple, sunflower seeds, Gorgonzola, and vinaigrette dressing, and then we ended the fun with a made-from-scratch apple cake, fresh from the oven topped with vanilla ice cream. What a fabulous way to chase away the cold, dark winter!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Tree Fell

Before:

After:

The tree in our neighborhood park where we took our most recent Christmas card photo was chopped down. I wasn't the only one who was stunned by it's removal. For the three days it took to get it down there was quite a crowd at all times.

My boys were sullen about it. I can't blame them. I spent at least a third of my own childhood in a tree in our front yard, and at our current house there are two trees the boys have staked out for themselves. But this old friend is a horrible loss- even Michael, who grew up in this neighborhood, climbed it as a child.

It was growing at an angle with some of the branches hanging over a concrete path. I can imagine that someone must have fallen, or perhaps the roots were interfering with something underground. When questioned, the city crew was non-committal. Whatever it was, this is one tree that will be missed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ben @ 100

Benjamin writes: When I am 100 years old, I will have many wrinkles.

Evidently he will also care a great deal for purple shirts and lipstick. At least he will still have his hair, though it will be fluffy and white.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Froggy


We awoke to a world of white as the marine layer crept onto the land and covered the city with fog. The boys ran into the back yard to dance around and sing its praises, Nathan shouting fog-a-lujah (as in hallelujah), and Benjamin declaring that he loves it when it's froggy outside! With an expected high of nearly 80 today, the fog is always a great way to start the morning off nice and cool!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Happy Birthday Josh!

Today is my cousin Josh's birthday! How lucky is that? When we lived in Japan, we paid for his older sister Elizabeth to come stay with us to help out for a couple of weeks. She was about to be a freshman in high school, and since I had travelled to Germany and the USSR at her age, Michael and I thought it would be a fabulous opportunity for her to experience international travel. It also gave me an extra set of hands while traveling on the subways and trying to shop with baby Nathan. Josh, two years younger than his sister, was quite disappointed that he couldn't come along. We told him that the next time we moved to a foreign country, we would fly him out. We had no idea that it would actually happen! But when we found out we were going to be moving to Hong Kong, we rang him up to share the good news. We cashed in Mike's airline mileage and Josh stayed with us for four weeks in 2005. The boys loved having another "boy" to climb on and play with. I loved being able to catch a much needed nap while Josh took them to the indoor playground! We all went on a day trip into China, he got to go into work one day with Mike to the not-yet-opened Hong Kong Disneyland, and Josh, the boys, and I all got to appear in a video for one of the shows. Pretty lucky, huh? Really we're the lucky ones, to be related to such a cool guy! Happy birthday Josh!

The blink-and-you'll-miss-us footage from the opening sequence of The Golden Mickey's in Hong Kong Disneyland. Josh and I are directly to Mickey's right.


In front of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China. That day everyone thought I was the exceptionally lucky mother of THREE boys, and ladies kept touching me to get some of my luck to rub off on them.


Hong Kong Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle with the sloping hillsides of Lantau Island in the background.



On the raft from Tom Sawyer's Island at Hong Kong Disneyland, which had views of our home on Hong Kong Island.

Hanging out in Victoria Harbour, on Hong Kong Island. You know, the set for Batman, The Dark Knight.

Green Day

St. Patrick's day has to be one of my favorite days of the year... everyone wears my favorite color, green!

I found a couple of Leprechauns lounging about in the lawn! Lucky me!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Raising a Reader

Right now the elementary school is doing a reading drive. They are trying to get all the students at the school to read a grand total of 5,000 books, school-wide. Nathan is certainly doing his part! I'm not sure that they have set up the guidelines very well. For this they've said a "book" is either a single picture book or 25 pages of a chapter book. Nathan reads a lot. He's always got a book (or two) in hand. He reads picture books, like Mo Willems' Knuffle Bunny over and over to his brother. With just a sentence or two per page, at 20 pages it doesn't really compare to 25 pages of Transformers, the junior novel, which has no pictures at all. Oh well. I can see that Nathan is taking this quite seriously. He finished a 217 page book during the week, and just today he started and completed a 134 page book. I remember when he was learning to read he would complain heartily. He loved us to read to him, but refused to read to himself, despite his obvious ability to do so. "This is lame! Why are you making me do this?", he would tell me. I calmly and consistently replied (over and over) that whatever else we may or may not be, we are a family who reads. There is no getting out of it. We may not be big on science or sports or cooking or camping, but we are big on reading. It clearly paid off, as just a few moments ago Nathan tossed me the book he just completed, telling a very impressed Ben, "Yep, we're just a reading kind of family, I guess".

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dysdera crocata

...otherwise known as a Woodlouse Spider. Which I found in our welcome mat. Not the kind of welcome I like! I photographed it so I could look up what it was. Thankfully our little guest is not poisonous to humans, but if you're a wood lice, you better watch out because you're dinner!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Paparazzi Parents


Nathan's class of second graders went on a walking field trip to the local farmer's market to reinforce a unit on products and where they come from. There were enough parents who volunteered to go that it was about a 2:1 kid/parent ratio. Which was fine with me. Our job was to help them buy items at the market ($5 limit) and make sure they knew how much change they were supposed to get, etc.
All the kids sat down near the market so the market manager could tell them a little about where the produce comes from (100% California). I was off to the side, laughing at the parents, who were snapping photos of the kids like it was a wedding, birthday party, or graduation or other once-in-a-lifetime event.
One especially zealous parent was running ahead as we walked, crouching down, and then rapidly snapping photos with a telephoto lens as we walked toward him. It was creeping me out and I found myself covering my face like the local celebs do when the paparazzi flash bulbs are popping around here.

Now this is the kind of photo worth taking! Or at least Nathan thought so. Yuck!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cooler in 3-D

The latest move these two do is to cock their heads to the side, point their fingers, and make a clicking sound with their tongues. Charming, huh? When we got our 3-D glasses as we prepared to board Toy Story Mania at Disney's California Adventure, they did it in tandem. Smooth!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

You're Invited to a Tea Party


I adore Alice in Wonderland. I have an enormous collection of Alice themed items, lots of books, including a couple over 100 years old, several old dolls, original art and prints, and various trinkets and rare items. People who love me send me interesting Alice items from all over the world. I thought for certain we would have a little girl, and her nursery would be Wonderland themed. Alas, we did not. So instead, our large dining room is my Alice showplace, the one girly spot in a house overrun with boy stuff. Not that Alice is strictly for girls- both the boys love the Disney version animated film and I've read them the book a handful of times. But, being the wild boys that they are, what they really love the most about Alice is the Mad Tea Party attraction at Disneyland. They really love it when Daddy makes it spin so fast that we are in danger of little Ben flying out! Wanna join us? Take your anti-nausea meds and then watch the video below!


Monday, March 9, 2009

Tinker Tooth Fairy

Disney's big theme this year is "Celebrate Today." We did just that, and took the boys to Disneyland in Anaheim. It was a huge surprise, and all day they exclaimed that it was the best day ever!
As the day drew to a close, we ended up having something to celebrate. Benjamin lost his second tooth, at the Magic Kingdom! We were pondering whether it would be the Tooth Fairy or Tinker Bell who would be making a visit to our house tonight!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

(non)Crazy Hair Day

I'm finding there are lots of things that my left hand used to do which are now quite difficult to accomplish. And not just typing, which has become so frustrating that I've been giving the computer wide berth. Everyday things like putting on a seat belt, pulling up the blanket in bed, or combing Nathan and Benjamin's hair are actually a huge challenge. This morning I told them they needed to go brush it themselves. This photo was taken after they went in and styled their own hair:

They were so proud of their handiwork! I mentioned that it wasn't "crazy hair day" at school, and Nathan replied, "I know, that is why we didn't make it crazy." Uh huh.

I have firmly resolved that hair will not be an area of conflict in our home (says the girl who changes hair color with the seasons), so off to school they went, pleased as punch with their lovely new do's!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Here is 14 month old Benjamin riding the Caro-Seuss-el in Seuss Landing at Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL. This is by far the coolest theme park on the planet (and I say this as someone who has experienced quite a few theme parks, all over the planet). If you get the chance, go.

In the meantime, you can celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss with some green eggs and ham and a rousing reading of If I Ran the Circus, which is crazy fun on the tongue!