Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas at home

There are things I remember about Christmas as a kid: Bing Crosby singing about his dreams of a White Christmas, my mom's pride about her Jell-O salad, playing games and playing with our new toys, a fire blazing in the fireplace, frost outside in the morning, and my mom busy in the kitchen churning out yummy things for us to eat.

We spent Christmas in Moraga this year and it was fantastic. And it was just as it has always been. This year it was just the three of us, my mom and brother.

Yes, my mom made a wonderful Jell-O salad, Rocky and I played at least 10 games of Scrabble and Rocky and Kevin played Go, Lucas played busily with all his new toys, we saw the frost outside on the lawn and on the rooftops, and we all ate more than our share of good food and sweets. We even threw our environmental standards out the door and Kevin rustled up a great fire in my mom's fireplace.

Lucas was so excited about all his gifts, especially all his toys. And he remembered what he wrote on his list to Santa and mentally checked off that Santa gave him everything he asked for (and much much more). At night and during self-imposed breaks during the day, he took some time off from his toys and picked up his books for a change of pace.

It was a really nice Christmas. More than anything, it really reinforced the great memories of what Christmas is like at my mom's house.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Little mountain bikers

Lucas' good friend from school, Jack, is also an advanced cyclist. So we took the boys up to Tilden Park for an off-road adventure. We were armed with fruit, water, string cheese and peppermint chocolate bark. We don't yet have a bike rack for our car, so I hoofed it along side Lucas, Jack and Jack's mom.

The weather was crisp and gorgeous. I would have taken a photo, but I still don't have a camera.

It was a wide dirt path, I guess it's what you call a fire road. There were some long gentle hills, which the boys had a blast riding down. Again, I would have taken a photo, but I still don't have a camera. We stopped probably six times during the 1 hour bike ride for water and snacks.

We biked down to Jewel Lake, then pretty much turned around and came back. Going back up the hill was not quite so fun as the downhill ride. There was some whining going on, but overall, the boys did great.

Next stop, Mount Tam. Hopefully, I'll have received a replacement camera by then.

Friday, December 21, 2007

What I learned this Christmas shopping season

Thankfully, I didn't have to go to a mall, but I did go to actual stores for my Xmas shopping this year. Here are some things to remember for next year's Christmas shopping spree:

1. Be safe, wear a helmet - The first two stores I went to did not have the parking garage that Lucas requested from Santa. So I went to another store where I saw the damn thing on Saturday. As I entered the doorway, I saw just one on the highest shelf. I sprinted over, past two people who were looking at the display, jumped up and pulled it down off the shelf. It hit me in the head. The two more patient people looked at me like I was a freak (which I was), and the salesperson rushed over and said, "Are you okay? Next time, just ask and I'll get it for you." After I bought it and got to my car, I noticed a slight red abrasion on my forehead in the mirror.

2. Go "sans enfant" - I started out with my friend and her baby in the stroller. The store aisles are so crowded this time of year, but a stroller really slows you down. Once we went our separate ways, I got a lot more shopping done in less time (sorry!).

3. Don't drive around - People drive like imbeciles on the 2nd to last weekend before Christmas. There was a lot of road raging going on. Probably another good reason why it's good to wear a helmet.

I have one more thing to buy, but luckily I can buy it online. Happy shopping!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The moments you want to remember

Lucas woke up at 3am Wednesday morning. I went in and snuggled with him in his bed. I told him how much I love him, and he said, "I love you all the way from the moon to your nose."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lower than low

We just realized this morning that the a******* who stole our stuff also stole Lucas' coin bank.

He was really into that coin bank, which he got last Christmas. He has been putting all his coins for a year. Around Halloween, he hit $100! It was a big moment for him.

I can't believe those jerks who stole our stuff would steal what was clearly a child's coin bank. That's the worst thing they could have done.

Luckily, I found an identical bank on Amazon. I ordered it express delivery and we'll fill it back up with coins for him.

Maybe I'm being too protective, but it was jarring enough for Lucas to know that someone broke into our house, and he seems to be over it. I don't want to re-open that can of worms and tell him that they also stole his coin bank.

Robbers really really suck.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Walk much?

Why walk? When you can skip, run, hop or some weird combination of those three to get you from here to there?

I can count on one hand the number of times Lucas has walked calmly down the street. He's always throwing in some little jumps or kicks to liven things up.

No, the cops didn't find any of our stuff. But without a camera I'm going to have to resort to older photos or my own sophisticated illustrations. (This is my drawing, not Lucas'.)

Scenes from a more successful photo shoot

After our visit with Santa and numerous rides on the merry-go-round, we went to Saul's for a family dinner.

My mom was able to wrangle the kids for some photos.

Photo 1: Kid wrangling
Photo 2: Getting their attention. Someone put Milan's stuffed animal over my head as I took this one. Lucas feels good about getting his photo taken.Photo 3: Someone took Milan's stuffed animal away. Lucas is getting cozy with Grammy.

A visit with Santa

Last weekend we visited Santa at the Christmas merry-go-round at Tilden Park. Of course, we wanted to get a nice photo of Lucas and Milan gleefully posing with Santa.

This is what we got instead:
Suggested thought bubbles:

Joe: Milan, just one photo, please.
Milan: AHHHHHHH! WTF! Who is this freaky guy??
Lucas: What's happening here? Why is Milan crying? Is Santa a bad guy?
Santa: Okay, this isn't going to work. NEXT!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Robbers suck!

I worked from home most of Monday, but left the house at 1:30 to go to the office. Between then and when I got home with Lucas at about 5pm, someone kicked down our door, ransacked our place, and stole some of our stuff.

Luckily we don't have much to take and this guy was dumber than your average robber because he only took things (iPod and iPod player, 2 digital cameras, one laptop), and it doesn't seem like he stole anything that had our identity on it (social security cards, checkbooks, etc.) We're still taking precautions by changing our account numbers. The inside of the door jamb is pretty much ruined, but Kevin fixed it so at least it locks securely now. I would take a photo, but the jerk stole my camera too.

The cops said that six other houses in the neighborhood were also hit that same day. They said it was probably the same guy since they found the same bootprint on the doors.

Now we're going to have to deal with insurance and all of that baloney. The worst is that they took my camera, which I used frequently, especially for my blog postings.

Hopefully, Santa will remember how good I've been this year.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"Now YOU read the book."

On Sunday Lucas picked up "Pat the Bunny" and read it to me. I definitely got teary-eyed as he went through every page, trying to sound out all the words.

He's been sounding out words for a while now, but this was the first time he got through a whole book. Pretty darn awesome!

We kept some of Lucas' board books around for when Milan comes to our house. Frankly, I never really cared for Pat the Bunny. I know it's an old book, but the weird little kids and references to "Mummy" always seemed a little off to me, kind of Stepford-ish. But now, I'll always remember this funny little book.

I have to find some small books he can read himself. And I have to find a book for me that can teach me how to help him. Anyone have suggestions?

Monday, December 03, 2007

What happens when a compulsive shopper marries someone with borderline OCD?

You might come home one day and find something like this in your closet.

On Sunday while I was out getting pampered at the Claremont, Kevin was multi-tasking: playing with Lucas and getting us organized.

Why do we have so many toiletries? I tend to buy extras, especially when I'm at Elephant Pharmacy. I'm not intentionally stocking up. It's either I think we may be running out of something or I'm not sure where it is (who wants to be without deodorant or shampoo? not me!) Then I get home and find that indeed, we have lots of sunscreen or lip balm (two of my favorite purchases).

Here's a quick inventory:
- sunscreen - 8 (this doesn't include the three that are in our car)
- dental floss - 8
- lip balm - 5 (this doesn't include the 4 or 5 others that are stashed in my various backpacks and purses)
- shampoo and conditioner - 7
- travel size lotions and shampoos - 20 I think

I applaud Kevin for getting me organized, and in a way that truly speaks to me. Now, if I feel the need to shop, I can just go to my very local little pharmacy.

Thanks Kev!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The mute slave baby

Lucas is really into role playing. Usually it goes something like this, "I'll be the brave knight, mommy's the princess, and daddy's the evil troll," or this, "I'll be Lightning McQueen, you be The King..." etc.

But the other morning while he was eating breakfast, he asked me to play the baby and he would be the daddy. He said I could be 2 so I could talk. I told him I had to make his lunch for school, so I would be using a knife. He said that would be okay.

So as he sat there eating his oatmeal, I started to engage in some toddler-inspired discussion with him.

"No, you can't talk. You can just work and make my lunch."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lucas' Hollywood ending

Lucas' bed time routine consists of two books, one made-up story which we tell, and one song.

For the made-up story, Lucas has special requests, to make sure we set the stage for the story. Here is the type of preamble I get before I tell him a story:

"Tell the story about how me and Jack (his new BFF at school) go to the end of the street and there's a spooky old house. And we go in and see a creepy old troll with purple skin and black teeth. Then we try to open the door again but it's locked. So we shine a flashlight in his eyes and he melts so we get away. Tell me that story."

At times like this, I say to him, "Wow, you practically told the whole story, can you finish it?" He flatly refuses and makes me re-tell it, yet often corrects me when I get a detail wrong.

On many occasions, we fall asleep in his room during the storytelling session. I try and hold it together, but honestly, sometimes I can't help but doze off. I know I start mumbling about things that happened during the day, like, "...and then I was on hold for 10 minutes with the DMV...". Lucas will shake me and say, "Mommy, that's not the way the story goes. I don't know what you're talking about." Neither do I.

This happened on Wednesday night. I was telling him a story about something (see I don't even remember now) and fell asleep. Lucas woke me up and this was the conversation as I remember it.

Lucas: Finish telling the story mommy
Me: Can you tell me what the story was about?
Lucas: Can you just finish the story? (clearly exasperated with his lame story-telling mom)
Me: I forget what it's about.
Lucas: Mommy just say this, "Then we all went back to Grandma Kay's and had a party with cupcakes with blue frosting and blue sprinkles. The End." Can you just say that for the ending?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Flashback weekend!

We went to LA for the long Turkey weekend. Aside from enjoying all the food and gluttony that accompanies the usual Thanksgiving festivities, I took advantage of this long weekend to catch up with old friends.

Running with the Arvidsons - Lucas and I met up with my friend Sunday and her four beautiful daughters (three 5-year-olds, and one 2-year-old) at this picturesque park in San Marino.Lucas met the triplets a few times in his early years.

THEN (2003 in Manhattan Beach)

THEN (2004, roadtrip to LA)

How times have changed! Needless to say, Lucas loved getting outside and playing with kids his age. They all ran around, played in big piles of leaves, and had a great time!

NOW (last weekend in San Marino)

With everyone now being more self-sufficient, without needing so much parental supervision, Sunday and I had a chance to catch up in person. We've been close friends since we first met sophomore year in college. I tried to do the math, but take my word for it, it's been a long long time (note the massive shoulder pads in the photo below).
WAY BACK THEN (circa early 1990s, roadtrip to SF)

We were roommates, fellow partygoers and survived a lot of roadtrips and weekenders together. We hadn't seen each other since our girls' weekend to Palm Springs, about a year and a half ago. But we talk on the phone about once a week, so it was hard for me to believe it had been that long since our last meeting.

FAQ - When I tell people that Sunday has four kids, people are astonished and always ask me "How does she do it?" I admit, when Sunday told me she was going to have triplets, I was a little anxious for her. In college, she was notorious for losing things: keys, jackets, cameras, etc. But from spending time with them at the park, seeing them a few times over the years, and talking to her weekly, I'm constantly amazed and impressed at how awesome she is with her kids.

The Friskes - Sunday morning I went solo and drove into LA. My first stop was at the Friskes. Ali and I have been friends since we met freshman year in the dorms. We spring break-ed (broke?) together in Waikiki and had our share of college dorm antics.
WAY BACK THEN (1989, Hana Bay, Waikiki)

Instead of talking about dollar beer joints and fraternity parties, we talked potty training and private schools. Again, we tried to piece together a timeline of the last few times we had seen each other, but it's been a while: Ali's had two adorable kids since we last met.

Me and Jeanne - I left the Friskes and headed straight over to West LA to see Jeanne. Jeanne and I have been close friends since high school. Unfortunately, this is the earliest pic I could find of the two of us. Can you guess what decade this is? (Hint: the halfshirt and acid-washed jeans)
WAY BACK THEN (1988, USC/Stanford Weekender)

We strolled around Santa Monica: Main Street, the awesome farmer's market there, then down to 3rd Street Promenade. I walked away without buying a single thing. But it felt so indulgent to just window shop with a good friend and not be in any kind of rush.

Long lost relatives - Alex and Graham were two of the groomsmen in our wedding. The four of us hung out so much when we lived in LA: dinner parties, running charades, movie nights, dim sum outings, movie making - we used to do so much with them. Alex and I used to pretend that we were cousins, or was is siblings? I can't even remember anymore.

WAY BACK WHEN - 1988 in LA's Chinatown

We were trying to figure out the last time we had all seen each other and sadly surmised that it was at our wedding, or shortly thereafter -- NINE YEARS AGO! And we really haven't been good about keeping in touch, not even with email.

They came over Sunday night and we hung out so they could meet Lucas. Then we went out for dinner. The awesome thing was that once we started talking, it felt like no time had passed at all since our last meeting. That being said, we agreed on mutual visits in 2008.

(NOW - last weekend at Kevin's parents' house)

Kevin and I talked later about how much fun it was to spend time with Alex and Graham. I'm not sure what happened these last nine years and why we never picked up the phone on one of our visits down there, or sent more emails. But we aren't going to let that happen again.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Zen and the Art of Bathroom Maintenance

Everyone in Lucas' classroom has a job. I think they keep the same job for a week or two. Some of Lucas' past include:
  • Calendar helper - putting the new dates in the calendar during circle time
  • Shelf duster - dusting shelves
  • Mat monitor - making sure that the mats are rolled up tightly
Here is my exclusive interview with Lucas, the current bathroom monitor of the Pre-K classroom:

Me: What exactly do you do, as bathroom monitor?
Lucas: When we all go to the bathroom, I make sure that everyone flushes the toilet and washes their hands. Then I make sure that all the paper towels go into the trash can.
Me: Do you like this job?
Lucas: Yeah, I think so.
Me: What is your favorite job?
Lucas: Bathroom monitor.
Me: Really? Why is it your favorite?
Lucas: Because it's my job right now.

Friday, November 16, 2007

More than a name

Lucas has come a long way since earlier this year when he interpreted the term "Native Americans" as the "Knights of America".

Lucas' class is currently studying Native Americans. The class went on a field trip last week to the Oakland Museum of California. Lucas told me that they lived in "pointy houses called tipis" and that they ate a lot of corn. He also told me that people moved onto the land of the Native Americans, and made them move away, even though they were there first.

Everyone in his class received a Native American name. Lucas' is "Fast Running Tiger". His friends have names like Red Eagle, Fire Cheetah, and Tall Snowy Mountain. Lucas named me Mountain Lion Mama and Kevin is Big Fluffy Monster (?).

Lucas informed me that Native Americans want to be called Native Americans, not Indians. He told me that his teacher Shereen is from the country India, so she is Indian, and different from the people who live in tipis.

This prompted me to do some research. I saw that the YMCA Indian Guides and Indian Princesses programs only just recently (2003) shed these terms for the less controversial monikers "Adventure Guides" and "Explorers". Sounds like some of the parents were not in favor of these name changes. Maybe Fast Running Tiger should have a talk with them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Walk: Part 3 - Sunny Gets Her Just Desserts

After the walk, I made the trek to Orange County so I could spend some time with my friend Venita.
Venita and I were sorority sisters, roommates in college, and also roommates after college. We even got jobs at the same place right after college. We also were dating two guys, who were also roommates. Venita and I shared a lot of the same interests: getting up early to roller blade along the boardwalk along the beaches, eating raw chocolate chip cookie dough, eating desserts, going out to parties, shopping, walking, eating raw chocolate chip cookie dough, watching good movies and bad movies, and did I mention that we both enjoyed eating raw chocolate chip cookie dough?

On my ride up to her house, I called Venita from the road, she said, "Do you hear this?" It was the sweet sound of the hand mixer, mixing what I could only believe was chocolate chip cookie dough.

I spent Sunday night at Venita's house. I slept in a comfy bed, was able to use a real toilet (not just a port-a-potty), washed my hands with real running water and soap (not Purell), and got to play with her two adorable little kids. And of course, I got to eat cookie dough, cookies, other assorted desserts, and spend time with one of my best friends. It was a great way to end my trip.

Lucas and Kevin had a great time when I was gone. I came back to a lot of artwork inspired by, well, me. Here is one of me as a vampire with a spiral of "I love mom" and "I love dad". (Not sure how a child psychologist would interpret that one.)I guess that's how he worked out some of his angst for me being gone for so long.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Walk: Part 2 - The Pink Factor and Life in the Bottom Quartile

When you look at the 3-day web site, you get the feeling that there will be a lot of pink at this event. You have no idea.Lindsey, Jeanne, and I looked like the goth kids compared to the other 4,497 peppy and perky people decked out in pink. For some reason, the three teachers in our group were the ones who sported the pink clothes and additional pink "flair"(Jennifer, second from the right, and Isabelle and Amy, not pictured).There were the crazy costumes and accessories - pink cowboy hats, pink tutus, pink boas, pink pumps, and everything else in between (there was also the Southern California factor, so people were really decked out, made-up, and tan!)

Here's a photo of us at one of the pit stops. They had all sorts of stuff to dress up in for a photo. But seriously, many people wore stuff like this when they walked. Plus, people really played up the word "breast" and all of its nicknames with logos on shirts and signs. Here are some of my favorites:
  • I'm a breast man - seen on the shirt of a very old (probably 90-year-old) man who cheered us on along the route.
  • Save the Tatas
  • The Tittee Committee
  • Mammo-Glam
  • Big or Small...Save Them All
  • Boobs on the Move
  • Chicas for Chi-Chis
  • Happy Hooters
  • Jammin' for Jugs
  • Saving Second Base
I must say that this was one well-oiled pink machine. There were vans always driving by, to pick up anyone who needed a lift. These people would receive a button saying, "Sagged and Proud".

Most of the pit stops were themed. My favorite was the 80s "Hard Walk Cafe". They blasted my favorite 80s music and staff and volunteers were dressed in mini-skirts, double belts and some sported mullets.There was a lot of preambling going on at the opening ceremonies, and while I appreciate a good speech, what I saw along the walk was much more moving: the woman walking with the sign on her back that said, "85 year old walker, 2-time cancer survivor", the dad with two young kids with a sign saying, "We miss you Mom", the current cancer patient standing on the side of the road with the sign, "Thank you for walking for me". Those were the things that moved me along, plus the fact that my bladder was always in search of the next bathroom. (I was very close to having my own slogan that said, "I peed in my pants for breast cancer.")

Oh, and the food. Almost every supporter on the side of the route had bowls full of, what I can only imagine to be, left over Halloween candy. Aside from candy, people also handed out donut holes, popsicles, chips and salsa, and all sorts of other stuff. My favorites were the guy who had two buckets, one labeled "Milk Chocolate" and the other "Dark Chocolate" (by Day 3, he only had Milk Chocolate left) and the one guy who had freshly caught mahi mahi on crackers with mango chutney. I actually gained weight from this walk, if you can believe it.

We slept in tents. Yes, even me. Luckily they were set up for us already and Lindsey, my tentmate, is an experienced camper. She brought the tarps and the tarp clips, and camp light. If it wasn't for Lindsey, I would have been wet and miserable (thanks Lindsey!).

With a team that included alumni from competitive schools like Harvard, Stanford, UCLA and USC, we were somewhat dismayed to find ourselves in the bottom quartile of walkers. No matter what time we left in the morning, we were consistently among the last 25%. (This didn't sit well with my competitive side, but I had to keep reminding myself that this was not a race.) But we had a great time talking as we strolled. Amy brought a set of "conversation cards", with deep and thought-provoking questions we could ponder and discuss, like "What was the worst hairstyle you ever had?" and "What part of the world has the sexiest men?".

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I spent lots of good quality time with my friends and I hobbled away with only three blisters and some mild soreness in my legs.

Thanks to all my wonderful friends and family, I met my goal of raising $2200 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The event in San Diego raised more than $10 million - pretty impressive for a lot of people dressed up in pink. And if you're wondering, yes, you can still donate if you haven't already.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Walk: Part I - Road trip and Last-Minute Preparation

A few months back I signed up with some friends to walk 60 miles for the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It was this past weekend. Here's part one. If you just want to know how it went, it went great.

Jennifer picked me up early on Thursday morning. We decided to drive to San Diego for a little road trip to make the most of our break from our daily family obligations. So of course, we spent the entire drive chatting about our families.

We made great time on I-5 and landed in Santa Monica right around noon. We had some time to kill as hotel check-in in San Diego wasn't until 4pm so we snuck in one last "training" walk down Montana Avenue, which was one of my favorite streets to stroll when I lived in LaLa Land.

With 60 miles of walking in our near future, we shopped for the basic essentials. We hit the Blue Jean Bar and tried on many pairs of tight, pricey jeans. I ended up with two pairs from the Lucky store down the street. We noshed on fancy salads at the Marmalade Cafe, one of my favorite lunch spots on Montana. As we were heading to the car we both realized we needed more undies for the walk. As luck would have it, the only place that had undies was a cute boutique which had bras priced at $250! But we needed underwear and didn't have time to find the nearest REI. With no other alternatives at that point, I sucked it up and bought some expensive pima cotton panties.

Feeling not-too-guilty about our purchases, we drove the rest of the way down to San Diego. On the drive, we conducted a small chocolate tasting. (Green & Blacks Maya Gold won out over the Dagoba Xocolatl).

At the hotel, where we would spend the night before walking 60 miles and sleeping in tents for two nights, I reduced the amount of stuff I would need for the walk and campsite by at least 30% and put the excess stuff in Jennifer's car.

Then it was time to merchandise the Clif Bar products, donated by my friend who works for Clif. All those years of setting up packaging displays at various software and toy companies really paid off, check out my handiwork.After Lindsey arrived we went out for a carb-loading sushi dinner and then a last-last minute shopping trip to the CVS Pharmacy and drug store. Then our 4th hotel roommate Jeanne arrived. We carefully selected our Clif products for the next few days, packed up, readied ourselves for the upcoming event, and went to bed.

Despite the fact that some obnoxious drunk guys were yelling obscenities like "Shave my a**hole!" in the adjacent parking lot at 3am, I had a good night's sleep.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Art appreciation

Saturday morning Lucas was busy at the art table. He said he was making a surprise for me.
Then he showed me this.
In case you still need coaching on how to read Lucas' writing, it says, "I dumped my water out on a leaf." (I dup mi wodrl ot on u lef). He told me that the yellow part of the drawing was water.

I was amazed! The leaf was so much more real-looking than his other drawings. Plus, his interpretation of water on the leaf was more conceptual than his other drawings.

I told him what I liked about his drawing, then we hung it up on the wall.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Candy experiment - results

Well, the results were mixed and not quite what I had hoped for.

Lucas has such a sweet tooth. He loved waking up and feeding his sweet tooth every morning. Of course, I would also fix him breakfast, which he would eat, but then, right back to the candy. And once we got home from school, he would make a bee-line for his candy.

On Thursday afternoon he ate about 8 pieces of candy. He walked around doubled over for a bit before dinner, saying, "My tummy hurts." I asked him if he thought it was from all the candy. Of course, he said no. After surprising me by eating a healthy meal of chicken spinach salad and some good crusty bread, he went right back to inhale more candy. I was secretly hoping that he would have recognized his evil ways and said "no" to candy.

Friday morning, I reminded him that he would be giving up his candy at the end of the day. He ate his candy with a slight look of desperation in his eyes. I also reminded him that the "sugar fairy" would leave him something in place of all his candy.

Saturday morning he was a little upset that his candy was gone. He couldn't believe it was true. Then I asked him if he checked to see if the sugar fairy left him anything. We opened the front door and his eyes went immediately to a shiny stack of coins on the porch(about $1.50). He grabbed the coins and started putting them into his coin bank and never mentioned his candy again.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween and the great candy experiment

Earlier this month, Lucas had a check-up with Dr. Bob, the awesome pediatric dentist.

Dr. Bob had a flyer about how to dispense candy for Halloween. Basically, you let them eat as much as they want, whenever they want, for three days, beginning the night of Halloween. Then you throw the rest away (or the parents eat it, whatever).

The reasoning: If you let kids have a piece of candy every day over a longer period of time, the bacteria will accumulate and there's much higher chance that they'll get cavities. Over three days, the sugar doesn't have time to get build up and wreak havoc on teeth. Plus, letting kids self-regulate removes the taboo off of candy. They may get sick of it (or get sick) and just not want to eat anymore.

So earlier this week I told Lucas about this plan. He seemed super excited. We'll see what happens between now and Friday. Should be interesting.(Kevin went out there trick-or-treating with Lucas, while I sat at home handing out Bit O Honey, Almond Joy, and Tootsie Rolls. Yes, these are at the bottom of the list in terms of desirable candy, but I only buy stuff that I won't eat. The little kids didn't seem to mind, but I heard some snarky comments from the bigger kids: "Ewww, Almond Joy!", "What is that?". I know I had those same types of things when I was younger, I just didn't say them within earshot of the lame grownup who was handing them out.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lucas rits hiz furst sentins

Lucas was busy this afternoon at his arts and crafts table. I peeked over to see what he was doing, but was told not to look because it was a surprise.

After about 15 minutes, he showed me this.What is it? It's the first time he wrote out a complete sentence on his own.
What does it say? Once he told me, it all made perfect sense

Line 1: Pupcen
Line 2: Jaclatrn

The sentence is written off in the right margin and down below: Des es Lucas pectr uv u pupcen (hint he pronounces "th" more like a "d" or "t")

Priddee dam kul, donchu tenk?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Another hot chocolate update, if anyone cares...

My last cocoa update left things a bit up in the air, for those of you who care. Since then, I've tried out new places and revisited some old ones.

1. Sketch - Contrary to what their sign said, they didn't re-open on 10/21, or any time that week. I ran into Eric, one of the owners on 4th Street, he said it was taking longer than expected, but most likely tomorrow. I'll call before I go over there.

2. Semifreddis
I've gone there more recently since Sketch has been closed for remodeling. It's been as good as usual, but I was pretty spoiled with Sketch. However, today, I pulled up across the street and wrote some text messages. Then when I walked in and asked for my hot cocoa, she said, "I already made it for you. I saw you pull up." Such a nice surprise! And the cocoa was perfect and still hot.

3. Ciao Bella's Bella Gelato
On Saturday after Lucas' soccer game, we went to the Epicurious Garden for some sushi. Then we made a stop at Ciao Bella Gelato. I had tried their Bella Cocoa before, and it's very intense, not rich, but really dark, a bit too intense for me. However, this time I tried a Bella Gelato, a hot cocoa with a scoop of mocha chip -- it was sublime. But it's kind of cheating, since it's not really a true hot cocoa, I mean you can put gelato in any of the contenders, and it would improve it tenfold, but it sure was good so definitely worth a mention.

4. The Pub
Haven't had there hot chocolate in quite a while, but I went the other night for a deadly game of Scrabble. I love that place, if it weren't for the lingering smell of cigars. But I have fond memories of their hot chocolate. I'll need to make another trip for Scrabble and cocoa.

5. The Cheeseboard
I visited the Cheeseboard in North Berkeley for the first time in quite a while. I went there with a friend who loves their lattes. I figured if they have a stellar latte, I should at least give their hot chocolate a try.

The first was amazing. The guy put in extra chocolate for me and it was perfect. They use a brand called Schokinag, which coincidentally, they also use at my favorite cupcake place, Love at First Bite.

However, since then, I've been there twice and it has not been as good. Maybe they switched chocolates? I was going to ask the last time, but I didn't want to be seen as some kind of psychotic hot chocolate freak. But to be fair, I should go back and ask. Or maybe I just wait around for the white-haired guy to make my cocoa.

Guerilla fell out of the top five, though I love their breakfast and lunch. I went back for their regular hot chocolate, but it lacked the intensity and chocolate-ness that I look for in a hot chocolate. And I appreciate that they use Dagoba chocolate, but at $3.50 a pop, I don't even get a homemade marshmallow.

Playing the field

Last Saturday, Lucas made his debut on the soccer field with his full team. Honestly I would have been happy had he just stood there, but he was going for the ball, running and having a great time.

Here he is with his mini-team. They are in deep discussions about what to name their team. I believe the "final" decision was the Blue Lightning Bolts and Pink Blue and Black Butterflies.

Today soccer went well too. With the exception of a planned visit from my brother. I think Lucas felt some anxiety because it meant another set of eyes on him. After the initial melt-down, he ran back on the field and played for the rest of the time.

Again, we went out for lunch and topped off the morning with some gelato.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

In his dreams

My mom is in Korea now. She's been there since September 15th and will return on November 15th. There are many reasons why she is missed when she's out of town: Choi get-togethers in Moraga, accompanying delicious Korean and other meals, willing and eager babysitter, and just her, as she is - happy and mellow, but very wise.

Kevin: Do you miss Grandma Kay?
Lucas: Nope.
Kevin: You don't?
Lucas: No, because I see her in my dreams every night.

Annual obligatory pumpkin patch photo shoot

Lucas' school had its annual visit to the pumpkin patch on Friday. After a week of rain, the weather cooperated and it was a gorgeous day.

We gave a ride to one of Lucas' friends. The boys cooperated too. We all had a great time.

A numbers guy

Lucas is still on his numbers and counting kick, so Kevin thought of a good way to combine his passion for writing numbers and counting things.
Yep, there's nothing like a good old-fashioned spreadsheet. This one he used to track the cards with different variables of colors and shapes.

It was time to get ready for bed, but Lucas pleaded, "Can I just do one more, pleeeasseee??" How do you say no to a 4-year old with a penchant for spreadsheets?

We're looking forward to the day when he can manage our family budget spreadsheet.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Just for the record

The other night, Kevin and I were discussing the balance of labor around the house. The discussion became somewhat heated, and I left to go for a walk.

I came back to find a note from him. If I wasn't so humble (ha), I'd frame it and hang it in the kitchen. But instead, I thought I'd take a more modest approach and post it here to immortalize his words.

"I really appreciate everything you do for Lucas and I and I know it is a whole lot. I love you and appreciate you more than you will ever know."

Just for the record, here it's right here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Being a good team player

Even though Lucas has a great time running and dribbling the ball up and down every field but the one his team is practicing on, I've been talking to him all last week about soccer as a team sport (meaning, it's more than me and him) and that he needs to try and play a little bit with his team.

Saturday morning we drove over to the soccer field. Lucas said, "I'm really going to try today with my team mommy." Everything seemed to be pointing toward a successful day on the soccer field. Even after two days of TONS of rain, the skies were clear and blue.

But then we get there and there was only one other kid and his dad on the field. No coaches, no soccer goals, nothing else. We went out there anyway and Lucas and Kevin started kicking around the ball. I checked my phone, there was a message from Noel that included, "You probably know that soccer got canceled today..." I thought, "How am I going to tell Lucas that soccer is canceled after I had hyped it up with him all week?"

I looked out on the field. Lucas was having a great time kicking the ball around, he and he and Kevin were playing a little with the other kid/dad. I see another mom with her son, outfitted in the team uniform walking up the path.

Within about 10 minutes there were about 10 kids, obviously who had lame parents like me, who didn't bother to call the hotline to see if soccer was on or off because of the field conditions. At this point, even though soccer was officially canceled, there were enough kids and parents out there to have some fun.

One of the dads took the reins and acted as the coach. He had the kids running up and down the field and doing other various soccer drills. They dribbled, shot goals, tried to get the ball away from each other, and did all the other things that they do during soccer practice, and Lucas was right in the thick of things having a blast.

I was so relieved! It was great to see him out there having so much fun, playing soccer as a team sport.

Later that night as I was tucking Lucas into bed, we relived the soccer experience. He said he had so much fun, but then asked why the real coaches weren't there. I told him that maybe they thought no one would go because of the muddy field. Then he said, "You know when I grow up I'm going to be a soccer coach so I can help kids learn to play soccer, even if it's muddy."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Adding up the toothpicks...and other ways to save the environment

Lucas' pre-k class is studying "ecology and the environment". We are supposed to use only reusable items to pack their lunches. I like that his school is introducing good environmental practices at an early age.

Last week I was chastised by Lucas for putting a toothpick in his lunch box for him to eat the cut-up melon. "Mommy, toothpicks are not reusable so I brought it home for you." (Just what I need, a gnawed on wooden toothpick).

I know that wooden toothpicks are not reusable, but I guess I didn't think about it and I should. It's the little things that count and all those toothpicks add up. I tried to find something online about how many toothpicks equal a tree, but I couldn't find any info on that.

I did see that China plans to impose a 5% tax on disposable wooden chopsticks. And South Korean companies (go Korea!) have invented an edible toothpick made from sweet potatoes. And I also found a billion and one craft ideas using toothpicks.

I also searched Sur La Table and found some fun reusable picks. I think I'll pick up these today, I think Lucas will like them.I was appalled to learn from a friend in Orange County that her city doesn't pick up recycling, so she doesn't recycle. I guess we're lucky in the Bay Area that the city picks up recycling and that I can put my food compost into my green waste.

I also read on the Rookie Moms blog, thirteen tips to be greener. Aside from the upcoming addition of my reusable picks, here are my own 13 things I do to lessen my impact on the environment:

1) Use recycled scrap paper instead of printing something out - We haven't had a printer at home for years. If we map quest directions, I write the directions out on the back of a used envelope or some other piece of paper in the recycling. Printers are superbad for your home environment too.

2) Don't buy a lot of stuff - Don't get sucked into the marketing for the latest gizmo that has XX times more memory than your current gizmo, which already has more memory than you'll need.

3) Don't use plastic bags for your produce if you can help it - Just have those apples rolling around loose in your reusable shopping bag. They're bound to get out anyway.

4) Host a bookswap - I'm going to host one later this month and I'll invite all 3 of you!

5) Use recyclable containers for bulk food items - I admit, I've only done this a couple of times. But it's a great idea. Instead of using plastic bags all the time when purchasing from the dry bulk items (raisins, rice, nuts), bring one of your containers from home and use that. They're easier to store stuff in your cupboard than a bunch of plastic bags.

6) Walk, bike, run, skip - It's better for the environment and better for you.

7) Use resuable utensils - Your office probably has reusable utensils for you to eat your lunch. And if they don't, buy some or bring them from home. They probably don't have reusable toothpicks, so improvise and use a fork!

8) Minimize your incoming catalogs. Call the 800 number on the catalog and take yourself off the lists. Shop online instead!

9) Shop with your own bag - When you shop for clothes, bring a cute tote bag along. Just like grocery shopping, you can put it in your own bag instead.

10) Unplug - That Cuisinart on your counter that you use once a year, unplug it when you're not using it. I read somewhere that having a computer plugged in overnight sucks up more energy than all the other things in your house combined.

11) Reusable water bottles - Bring your own reusable water bottle to work. Have a smaller one for your purse that you can use when you're out and about.

12) Grow your own food and share - My friend lives in a rental, but has planted a ton of food in her own little yard - lettuces, herbs and an apple tree. She comes to our house and picks as many lemons as she wants and brings over her apples for us. We had zucchinis and strawberries. We always have lemons, basil and rosemary.

13) Bundle up - It's getting cold but don't crank the heat. Bundle up with layers. We keep our heat in the low 60s.

That's it for now. Save a toothpick, save the world!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A future in numbers

Lucas' recent obsession with reading numbers has opened up some new career options for him.

- Store clerk - In the grocery store, he reads all the prices of things as we walk by. "Apples for $3.99, strawberries for $4.99." And he extended his services to some of the other customers as well. To someone standing in front of the crackers, he informed them, "Those crackers are four dollars and twenty-nine cents". The man just nodded and walked away, as you would when a crazy street person tells you that he was just saw Jesus Christ walk by with a panda bear.

- Traffic cop - Even on the shortest of drives around town, Lucas keeps me honest by constantly checking with me on how fast I'm driving. He will see a speed limit sign and say, "Mommy, do you know how fast you're driving? The speed limit here is 25. I think you're going faster than that."

I guess my mom has to wait a little longer for Lucas to figure out he wants to be a surgeon.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Cocoa update

It's been a while since I gave a hot chocolate update. There's a new #1 in town, some very bad news, and a new front runner.

The new #1 hot chocolate: Since I've been working on 4th Street in Berkeley, Sketch Ice Cream has become my new favorite hot chocolate spot. Yes, surpassing Semis. Also, contrary to what I posted way back when, it's not too decadent to have more than just once in a while. I probably have been having two a week.

Some more about Sketch's fabulous hot chocolate - They melt the chocolate and blend it with the milk fresh for each order. I forget the type of chocolate they use, but it's awesome. And then, this is the best part, they dunk one of their homemade marshmallows into the finished drink. I normally don't like marshmallows, except for s'mores. But Sketch's marshmallows are perfect little confections. I love them.

The bad news?
Eric and Ruthie, the owners of Sketch, gave me notice last week that they would be closed for three weeks to remodel in October.

To commemorate the last day before their 3-week hiatus, Lucas, Kevin and I went down there yesterday to indulge. They were out of milk, so instead I got some of their delicious ice cream. Lucas and Kevin got ice cream too. And Kevin surprised us with one of their amazing little chocolate pudding cakes. It was a nice day to be out enjoying some really really good goods.

I'm not sure what I'll do during the 2-3pm time frame when everyone goes on their coffee runs to Peet's. Maybe I'll just stand in front of Sketch in hopes that there doors will magically open and I'll be greeted by one of their hot chocolates. I've tried all the other hot chocolates on the block, but no one else can come close.

The new front runner: The other day I went to Guerilla Cafe in North Berkeley. They have great little breakfasts. As I was leaving I looked at their drink menu and saw that they have hot chocolate for $3.50. That's a lot for cocoa, so I figured it must be special. So the next time I was in the neighborhood, I went in for one of their hot chocolates. They use Dagoba chocolate, which is a good thing. However I opted for the spicy variety, and though it was really good, it was a tad spicy for me. I will be back though to try their regular hot chocolate.

Latest ratings: This is how hot chocolates rank today, in my opinion.
1. Sketch
2. Semifreddis
3. The Pub
4. Guerilla Cafe (could be a tie with The Pub, I need to try out their regular non-spicy cocoa)
5. ??

Sunday, September 30, 2007


I just went through a purge of sorts. Every week we get probably 5 pounds worth of catalogs (I'm not exaggerating), every week! Our recycling bin is always way more full than our garbage bin, due to the influx of catalogs and other junk mail.

So I kept a bunch of the recent ones and knocked them off one at a time. I just called and asked to be taken off the list.I got all these catalogs within one week. And they're the heavy holiday catalogs too.

For some of them, I had to go through some pretty complex phone trees to talk with a human and get off the lists. LL Bean, to their credit, had an actual human being answer straight off the bat.

The worst offender, Restoration Hardware. After pressing lots of different buttons to get my name off their mailing list, I heard a recording that the mailbox was full.

I was also peeved with Pottery Barn. As the other people told me that I may receive another catalog or two over the next six weeks, Pottery Barn said that I would receive catalogs for the next six months, as the mail lists have already gone out. This made me mad. I feel like it's a marketing trick. Plus, I probably get the most catalogs from PB and PB Kids.

You can bet your favorite catalog that I'm going to make some phone calls and have a talk with Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn.

Inching toward the goal

Soccer season has begun. Lucas was very excited to start soccer. Thanks to my brother, Lucas was practically born with a soccer ball at his feet. "Ball" was one of his first words. And he loves kicking the ball around at the park.

The first soccer practice, a few weeks ago, was looked forward to with much anticipation. Lucas told everyone the days leading up to soccer that he was going to play soccer soon. My mom drove out to see Lucas' big debut on the field. However, as what happens many times with 4-year olds, things don't turn out quite like you expect. Lucas spent the 75-minutes clinging onto my hand or my leg.We're not sure what happened: preschooler stage fright, too much chaos, or just the need to hold onto a warm body and watch? Probably all of the above. We stayed until the end and then went home. Lucas napped, probably from all the exertion it took to hang onto another person for dear life.

We missed the 2nd soccer practice, but went out on the field again yesterday. I didn't have high hopes (in fact, I felt lucky that he didn't kick up a fuss when I told him to suit up for soccer), but I told Lucas that even if he didn't want to play, we needed to go out there to watch and support his team. I assured him that it was okay if he didn't want to play.

We got out to the field a half hour earlier than his team. I figured it would be less intimidating if we got there early. We brought a ball from home and we kicked it around (yes, Lucas actually made contact with a soccer ball). Then his buddy Matteo got there and he and Lucas took turns shooting for and protecting the goal (another big step for Lucas). However when more kids showed up, Lucas pleaded with me to sit on the bench, which was far away from the soccer field. I convinced him that the bench was just for old people to sit on and we needed to at least be by the field to watch his team.

So we watched for a little bit. But mostly we dribbled the ball on the adjoining field, we kicked the ball into the goal, we did all the things you do when you play soccer. Every once in a while I would kick the ball over to the other field and we'd play over there for a little.
We had a great time. And even after I stopped playing with Lucas, he continued to run up and down the field, dribbling the ball. He worked up a good sweat.
After the team was done, he continued to dribble and one of the kids from his preschool class came up and they dribbled the ball together. Lucas asked if he could have a soccer play date with this kid.

I finally coerced Lucas away from the soccer field with a promise of pizza and strawberry lemonade for lunch. We went with Sydney and her mom Noel (from my mom's group) to Gioia Pizzeria.

Sydney and Lucas sat together and had a nice post-soccer pizza date. It was a nice ending to Lucas' first real day of soccer.