Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Adjustment period

   I'm soooo tired! It's amazing what getting up 30 minutes earlier can do to a person over a 5 day period...you wouldn't think it would be that difficult. I guess it didn't help that I was up with Oliven from 12-12:30am because, well, to be honest, I'm not sure exactly why except that he was crying hysterically. Vander was also up several times last night- you'd have to ask Justin what that was all about. I know you are thinking, "you should go to bed earlier." Great idea, except we already go to bed at 9pm and I'm usually asleep by around 9:30pm. The day just got sooo much longer. We used to leisurely get up and eat breakfast, watch a cartoon and get dressed by around 9am. Now we are all up, dressed, teeth brushed and ready for the day at 7:30am. More time to entertain Ollie with nobody to help entertain him. Hmmm... we will have some figuring out to do.We also have to get used to the idea that from pulling out of the driveway to pick Vander up to pulling back in, it takes an hour. I'll need to stock the car with activities for Oliven and myself while we wait in the carpool line.
  Oliven has had to be woken up to go get Vander from school 4 out of 5 days. I feel bad about that, but again...it's hard to get down for a nap earlier since he already goes down around 12:45pm and he will have preschool until noon and need to eat lunch. He will just have to get used to it I guess. Preschool starts next week and that will be a whole new adjustment.
  As for Vander, he is LOVING Kindergarten. Yay! He told Ollie this morning, "I'm glad you are having a play date. I wish I could go to the park too, but I am going to have even more fun in Kindergarten." Other than making himself sick (not too sick to go to school) he's doing great. He loves to tell me exactly what he ate out of his lunch when he gets home. I think he eats so slow that he gets cut off by the end of lunch vs actually being done and full. He'll learn. He has also been sharing his new songs with me. He is really liking Spanish and art time. He loves that he gets two recesses a day and enjoys spending time with his good friend Bella.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A special day

  Justin was able to get two tickets to the Circus from work. I thought Vander would really enjoy it. I wanted to go as a family, but Justin wasn't too keen on the idea, but when you get free tickets there is less to complain about. Anyway, Justin took Vander to the Circus. Vander really enjoyed the black and white poodles and all their antics. Justin liked the crazy skilled trampoline jumpers. It was a really late night and not surprisingly Vander is now showing signs of a runny nose and sneezing. Oy!
  Because Vander was getting some special daddy time, he thought it only fair to have some special time with Oliven, so he took Ollie to go see Planes at the Eastridge movie theater. Oliven had a really good time and enjoyed his time with his daddy. He really liked the main character, Dusty.

Friday, August 23, 2013

My little chef

 Vander has really embraced being a chef lately. He's getting pretty good too. He stirs without spilling, cracks eggs with the best of them, chops things up (with a butter knife), loves to turn the food processor on and off, enjoyed picking out recipes (mostly from his Highlights magazines), watches to see when things boil (from a safe distance), turns on the microwave. He loves to help cook and really takes ownership of the meals. He loves making sweets and baking as well. He is big into waiting patiently for a "taster". 
He is still working on not tasting things when
they get on his hands- so we do lots of extra hand washing, but it's a work in progress and I am so proud of him. He is going to be a great chef one day. He already cooks better than a lot of people. He pours his own cereal and milk in the morning and loves to spread his own peanut butter. Oliven likes to help out too, but he doesn't have as long of an attention span as Vander does. I also love that they both like to wear the aprons that Carrie helped me make for them. They are super cute and really add to the chef feel. This is Vander's recipe for asparagus with hardboiled egg. I was his Sew chef. It was actually pretty delicious too. The boys made Grammy walnut and cocoa covered truffles for her birthday this year.


Kindergarten!

  Holy Moly! They say "time flies", but wow...the days are slow, but
the years are fast. How did my little premature colicky baby become a 5 year old boy in Kindergarten?!? I can't believe how grown up he is. I am truly proud of him. He was a little nervous about the idea of Kindergarten, but also really excited. He has started a brand new adventure and phase in his life. When we were talking about Vander going to Kindergarten he told me, "5 days is too much. I think I'll go 3 days and I want to make sure one of the days I stay home is with you and Ollie while daddy's working so we can do some fun things. The other days I want daddy to be home too so we can do things as a family." I love that he thought that school could be negotiated.
    Two days before school started their was an orientation for the Kinders so they could see the school and their classroom, meet the teacher and feel comfortable with what was ahead. We also showed them the lunch room so they knew where they would be eating. Vander enjoyed this for three reasons: 1. it eased his anxiety about what was ahead. 2. He got to play on the playground. 3. They gave him a yummy snack. Give Vander sugar and you will win his heart. ;)
  On the first day of school, I wanted it to be really special for Vander so I made him a special breakfast (dippers- his current favorite), let him pick out a lunch (whole grain crackers with tuna and cheese, lettuce, strawberries, walnuts and a home made granola bar with chocolate chips), and he picked out a special dinner (corn chowder -- a recipe Van got from a Highlights magazine,-- and chicken wings like we had at Pok Pok). Grammy and Pops took us all out for ice cream at Baskin Robbins to celebrate.
Vander was VERY excited. He thanked us profusely for making it such a super duper special day. When I picked him up from school he told me that he ate lunch with Bella (his friends since they were babies), he had a older buddy (who is either 7 or in 7th grade), he had 3, 4, 5, no 10 recesses, he forgot to drink any water, he ran out of time to finish lunch, he got to draw pictures during quiet time, he learned a new song about smashing a peanut into peanut butter, and best of all: he couldn't wait until school the next day!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

11 days and 10 nights: our first family road trip...

  We took the boys on our first real road trip vacation. Destination: Seattle and beyond.
  We started our trip at 6:30am August 2nd. We were on our way to Lake Shasta for a tour of the
Shasta Caverns. The tour of the caverns included a boat ride across the lake, which the boys really enjoyed, a bumpy bus ride up a large hill, and a tour of  the caverns. They were amazing. Super large spacious rooms with lots of stalactites and stalagmites and other underground formations. There were tons of stairs. Vander really enjoyed it all, Ollie got a big bored at the end of the tour, but overall it was really interesting and fun being inside of a mountain.
  Then, we headed into Oregon and stopped for a treat of berry turnovers at Four and Twenty Blackbirds.Yum. From there the boys and I walked over to the Ashland Science Works Museum. We saw a fence of locks and keys on the way- we don't know why, but we thought that and the stained glass ground were interesting. We had
an hour at the Science Museum and it was super cool. It impressed me very much. There were so many things to see and do including balls, bubbles, lights, music, a chair lift, and mirrors.
  Day 2 we headed to Crater Lake and it was gorgeous. Much less scary than I remembered it being (thank goodness). We drove around the Lake and stopped for a 1 1/2 mile hike up the watchman trail for a better view. The boys were troopers and really enjoyed the hike and we all loved the view. The water was a beautiful color blue and Vander really enjoyed learning about how it used to be a volcano. After a nap in the car the boys were ready and raring to go to the Science Factory Children's Museum in Eugene, OR.
We only had an hour, but they made the most of their time. When the fun colored museum closed we took the boys to Skinner Butte Park. They scootered quite a ways down the path to find the park. We decided it was too long round trip so I ran back to grab the car and met the boys at the park. They found the structure and despite Vander telling us he was bored because he had already done every single thing at the park (which he had not), they both told us they had a great time later that evening. We went to the Fisherman's Market for dinner (Justin had even printed out a Restaurants.com coupon beforehand). The fish was so fresh that some of them and the crabs were still swimming around.
Day 3 started out with a trip to the Sea Lion Caves in Florence, OR. It was a chilly and overcast day, so after we got our warm gear on, we were ready to go down the long elevator shaft to the Sea Lion
cave. There happened to be only one Sea Lion inside and one outside (last time I went there were 200+). You can't control what the Sea Lions are up to...the boys favorite part of the trip was finding another banana slug (they found one when we were camping). Justin got to see a momma bird feed it's baby bird, so he really enjoyed that. We were all glad we went and we liked learning about the Sea Lions and seeing their cave. After a bit more driving we went to a the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR. Justin really enjoyed the Earth Quake/Tsunami recreation machine using Legos as the homes that need to be protected.
Later that day was what Justin was looking forward to the most- the Tillamook cheese factory. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday so the machinery was mostly off, but they did have one conveyor belt running, so we watched that for a bit. We of course had several cheese samples on their cheese sample line, had grilled cheese sandwiches, and ice cream. We ate the best grilled cheeses ever! This was a very delicious stop for sure and a great way to spend the afternoon. The factory did not disappoint.
Day 4 was in Portland, Oregon. We started out the day at the Portland Rose Test Garden. The smell there was of course delightful. We
had to wait a little while for the pesticides they had sprayed to settle, but the boys were fine with that because they were busy eating "vacation cereal" (we let them eat sugar cereals, but only on vacation, not at home). We walked around the rose garden for a while taking in the beauty of all the roses. They boys liked the fountains - especially the one that overflowed and started flooding one area of the garden. Our next stop was the Powell's book store in Portland that is an block long. It was gigantic. The boys enjoyed having us read some books to them and while they liked the idea of the huge bookstore they didn't have a very long attention span for it except to see that each room had
a different color associated with it and figuring out which color room had a bathroom. That lead us into our lunch stop - Lardo. Known for bacon sandwiches and bacon fries. I got a Ban Mi and it was not to my taste, but the boys LOVED the bacon fries. Justin was very happy with his sandwich (PBLT - Pork Belly with Arugula minus the tomato). You can't have lunch without having one of the world famous Blue Star doughnuts for a dessert. We each had a very unique and delicious doughnut. Mine was key lime pie, Ollie's was banana pudding with caramel on top, Van's was chocolate cream filled with chocolate balls and Justin's was Marion berry dusted with peanut butter.
We were full and ready for an adventure. We took the very long and scenic  route (unintentionally) to
Multnomah Falls. It was a big beautiful waterfall. Wow! We decided to hike up the the top of the first waterfall and then the boys got ambitious and decided we should hike up to the top of the second waterfall. I didn't think we would actually make it since it was 1 1/4 miles up and it was pretty steep, but they did great. It was well worth it. The view was amazing. The boys put their hands in the water at the top and enjoyed looking down at the falls. I was really proud of my hikers! I love hiking, and I think I'm going to have some hiking buddies!!! We found a millipede on the way up to the falls. It was pretty fascinating watching all of it's little legs working together. The boys got a certificate for making it all the way to the top. They held our hands the entire way up and down (as they are prone to falling - especially Vander - and the sides of the trail were quite steep
and not super wide) and really enjoyed the views. We planned to go back to the hotel to shower before dinner, but the construction in downtown made getting to the hotel very confusing. We ended up getting back on the freeway accidentally for a 25 minute detour and decided we should just go to dinner. We went to a really nice place called Pok Pok. It's a Thai restaurant with a James Beard award. The food was really delectable - a bit spicy for me. Vander loved the chicken wings. I liked the infused water. The ambiance was nice as well. Ollie didn't eat much that night. I guess it was a bit too exotic for him. The plan was to get ice cream afterwards, but the ice cream place was a dirt field, so we were out of luck on that front. Luckily the hotel was serving complimentary desserts so the boys liked that very much. They had lemon squares and 12 layer coconut and chocolate bites.
The next day, Day 5 we went to Seattle, Washington. After parking we walked over to see the Space Needle, which the boys were quite impressed by. We found some huge mazes on the ground that we all enjoyed running through.We were scheduled to go ride the ducks, but had an hour to play first.
We watched the fountain and ate some popcorn  and a shishkaberry while enjoying down town. We went to see the whole city of Seattle in a Ride the Ducks. They show you the city and the vehicle also drives into the water and becomes a motor boat. We all really enjoyed the whole tour, but especially our time on the water. After the tour we headed to Kenmore,
WA to stay with our friends Erin and Drew Hiller and meet their kids: Sam, Cole, and Eliza. Sam and Cole are the same ages (only like a month younger) as Vander and Oliven. They got along very well. They fell asleep on the way there, so they were groggy when we got there, but it didn't take them long to warm up to each other and have a great time being boys playing with toys and running around in the back yard pretending to be different animals. Erin made us all a delicious home cooked meal of pulled pork sandwiches. And, the next morning, Day 6, we headed back into Seattle for the the early bird parking special. We started the morning with a latte from Ladro's (Erin raved about
 their coffee so I had to try it). It was the best coffee that I have ever tasted! So yummy and addicting, but alas I don't think they exist in San Jose. We then made our way to Pike's Place market to watch them throw a fish. While waiting they had set up a fish with a sign that says, "come closer, I'm still alive." It's on ice, so clearly it's not alive, but they hooked a pulley up to the back of it and when they touch it the fish comes out and closes it's mouth. Vander and I both jumped for sure. After checking out the market we leisurely made our way to the ferris wheel and went for a ride. Oliven's favorite part of the ride was counting the buoys, Van liked seeing the birds that he thought were statues on top of the buildings. We continued on our way and stopped at Ivar's so Justin could get a bread bowl full of clam chowder.
Several statues, a couple waterfalls, and LOTs of venders later we got to Safeco Park for the Mariners baseball game. We bought $10 tickets from a scalper on the way there - what a great deal! I really liked our "seats" - Justin found us a place to sit a little lower than our tickets - and they were in the shade, which was nice. A couple innings into the game the boys and I were getting hungry. I asked Ollie if he wanted to come with me to get him a hot dog. He said he didn't because he didn't want to miss any of the game. I was not expecting that response from a 3 year old at his first baseball game. The boys were all enthralled. It was a high scoring affair and the Mariners avoided a sweep by the Blue Jays (there were a ton of Blue Jay fans there with brooms). Vander was telling the baseball team what to do and
they were doing what he said, like, "hit the ball!" and so he really liked that. After the game we hit horrible traffic. It took us about 1 1/2 hours instead of 1/2 hour to get back to the Hiller house. They had to eat dinner without us. We had some dinner when we got back and the boys got into bed. We stayed up and chatted with the Drew and Erin for a bit and caught up. We really enjoyed our stay with them. It was great to see them and it was nice that the boys got along.
   The next day, Day 7, we had one more stop further north - Vancouver. Getting over the border was a bit of a challenge...apparently the birth certificate "copy" didn't mean photo copy, it meant certificated copy. We clearly didn't know that, but it does make sense in retrospect. We got reprimanded by the border patrol on the way in and out of
Canada. After navigating a detour with no GPS capabilities (we were not about to pay international phone fees), we took the boys to the Capilano Suspension Bridge. What great views! There was a cliff walk around the cliff over the gorge below that was stunning and then the boys favorite part...they called it "The Wobbly Bridge." This was Ollie's favorite part of our whole trip. The boys both loved running across the bridge. It shook back and forth and was like 10,000 feet in the air. I have to admit, it was pretty fun. There were lots of people afraid of heights trying to go across and you could tell they were holding on for dear life. On the other side of the bridge there were "tree top adventures"
which were pretty cool bridges from tree to tree pretty high up. We ate a very expensive lunch - way over priced, but we were pretty hungry, and shared some ice cream. Even though we were pretty tired we decided to go down to Granville Island and walk around at the Farmers Market and see what else was around. It was difficult to navigate without GPS, but we found it and walked around for a while. By the time we got there most stuff was about to close, but we shared Chinese and Indian food for dinner, and enjoyed the views of the water. Most of the shops and kid areas were closing up so we headed back to our hotel room to crash. I was so tired I fell right to sleep around 8:00pm when we all went to bed since we were sharing a one room hotel room. We had 3 suites on the trip and 3 shared room hotel rooms.
 In the morning of Day 8 after breakfast we headed over to Tim Horton's for a doughnut. I know it
doesn't make sense to eat a doughnut right after breakfast, but you can't not go to Tim Horton's when you are in Canada! The boys gave a few Canadian coins to a very friendly and polite homeless person. We then spent the rest of the day in the car ... we hit about 4 hours worth of traffic. We were in stop and go traffic in Seattle (reasonable) and also from north Tacoma through Olympia (unreasonable for a fender bender) and the border wait was about 1 1/2 hours. Oliven and I got out of the car and walked around at the border and enjoyed the grassy areas and looking at the marshes nearby. The boys were really very good on the driving day. It helped that we let them play on the Kindle Fire and the phones most of the time, but still the drive was long for
Justin and I so we know it was really long for them. We ate snacks in the car for lunch and stopped at Subway for dinner when we were out of gas. The boys love Subway, so they were thrilled. When we finally got to Salem it was already bed time. We decided the boys needed something fun to do first, so we took them swimming at the hotel pool. They loved swimming and both of them enjoyed the hot tub. After they went to bed Justin stopped by Denny's and grabbed brownie and apple crumble for dessert. They boys said they didn't want a dessert because they weren't hungry.
 Day 9 we drove to the Winston Wildlife Safari park. It was so cool! The wild animals from all over the world are just wandering around doing their thing and the cars drive around on a path at 10 miles an hour looking at all the animals. There were probably about 50 different species of animals and then there is also a village area where we had lunch, saw lots of other animals, played at the park, and best of all the boys got to ride a camel! How fun is that? Ollie was a little hesitant, but they let them ride together, so he liked that. When we had gone through twice and seen pretty much every animal, we headed out to
Vicki and Brad's house (Vicki is Grandma Gretchen's half sister). We stayed with them for the night. It was really nice to see them again. After about an hour Brandon (Vicki's oldest son) and Lisa showed up to hang out and a few hours later Blake (Vicki's youngest son) and Sarah and their kids Will (age 10) and Sophie (age 4) came to play and have dinner with us. There 8 year-old daughter Lilly was at a bday party. We had a great time getting to know each other and the kids had a blast. Too much wildness for Justin's taste - hitting things with bats in the living room. We had to quell there fun many times. Vander ended up playing with the dog, Tracker, a lot and rubbing his eyes. He was also playing with one of the plants. He ended up having an allergic reaction and needing a shower and benedryl while everyone was still over at the house. After the benedryl kicked in the kids watched Aqua Man and Brandon and Lisa stayed to watch. Oliven turned to Vicki and said, "you are going to spend the night here right? Because I need you make me breakfast in the morning." This elicited a good laugh from all of the adults.
 In the morning of Day 10 we had breakfast - that Vicki made - and headed out to the Turtle Bay
Aquarium in Redding, CA. We grabbed a pizza from Westside Pizza on the
way and had a picnic lunch. The bridge and the legos were the big hits of this exploration area. I thought the tree with the roots under the clear floor was super cool. The boys liked the amazing lego display and making their own lego creations for display. When we had our fill of fun at the Aquarium we ran across the bridge and back. We got  back in the car and headed to Gary (Justin's dad, Larry's brother) and Jerrie's  house in Chico. On the way there we had emergency pee situations, the kind you can't do anything about cause their is no bathroom anywhere near so you do what you have too ... stop on the side of the road. When we got to Gary and Jerrie's house the boys were very excited to see that they had a pool. The boys went for a swim and afterwards we had a yummy rib dinner. The boys really loved seeing Jerrie's backyard with all the plants and a fountain. It was really a fun visit. Justin and I got to play some pool with Gary and Jerrie after the boys went to bed. I am terrible, but somehow Justin managed to pull off the win when I was on his team (pure luck). He lost to Jerrie twice on his own. In the morning, Day 11, we had breakfast and headed home. It was a great trip ... a very successful first road trip as a family. We got to visit with family and friends, meet new people, go lots of fun places, and spend quality time together.  Justin made us a super organized and awesome binder for the trip. He also was able to get all of our hotels on Marriott points, so we didn't have to pay for any of them. The Happy Hallow pass that Colby bought us for Christmas/birthday got us in free and reduced to 5 attractions. We ended up spending about $1200 on the whole trip and saving $1500 on hotels, attractions and breakfast. Justin also made us a special trip c.d. that we listened to on our trip. The boys got to add 2 states and 1 country to their list of places visited. That gives them a tally of 5 states and 2 countries.