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Friday, February 24, 2012

Bike Ridin' Kid

It's been a very nice winter break -- BJ had the week off, and we decided to keep BB in preschool for her usual T/Th schedule, so I got some really nice one-on-one time with him. That happens rarely these days!

Yesterday, the two of us spent most of the day together at home. We read together for a while, played "his" version of the Launch Pad game he gave as a birthday gift to S, and just hung out and relaxed. He played some computer games on Kids Astronomy while I practiced guitar for a bit. I was making a conscious effort to let him guide our time together, and he seemed to enjoy that very much. I should do that more often.

During the afternoon, he decided he wanted to work on riding his bike. After he successfully coasted without his pedals for quite a distance, he decided he wanted to put the pedals on. I did that for him, gave him a bit of a boost to get started, and it was like everything clicked!

I missed getting the very first one on video, but here he is right after, pretty danged proud of himself.


And here's the next try:


So exciting for him! Great job, BJ!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Birthday S -- The Big Four Oh!

Hard to believe, but my darling S turns 40 years old today -- Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

(Perhaps even harder to believe: we've been together for half that time! We don't have an official "first date" anniversary, but we fell for each other about this time of the year, 20 years ago. Wow.)

S had insisted he didn't want his birthday to be a big deal, and I took him at his word, but of course we wanted to recognize the day at least a little bit. In his usual flexible style, S decided to celebrate most of his birthday yesterday, since that would be easiest for the family. He didn't have to teach class, thanks to the holiday, and we didn't have kids' classes to worry about in the evening as we do on Tuesdays. During the day, we went for a very gentle "hike" over at Baylands park.
BB was enchanted by the ladybug she found:

After the walk, the kids played a bit at the playground, which is always fun.
As we were leaving, we got to see an enormous blue heron. Very cool!
In the evening, we went to Buco di Beppo for dinner.

S was very good natured about the fact that I'd told the it was his birthday -- though we probably wouldn't have been able to keep it a secret for long even if I hadn't, since as soon as we got there BB said to the waitress: "I have a question... are you going to sing to my dad?"

(Yes, of course! But I'll be good and not post the video I took of them singing to him.)

On his "actual birthday," S took some time for himself to go wander the used bookstores and Rasputin music, always a favorite past time. He opened his gifts in the evening. Dreamblade miniatures from BB:

A new game from BJ, called Launch Pad. (The kids picked out their gifts to him, with a little help and guidance.)

I gave him the new Gillian Welch CD, and the 3rd and final episodes of The Tudors on DVD, along with the promise I'd watch them with him.

Ice cream cake for dessert! He asked if we could do a candle per decade, instead of a blazing 40.

Hope you had a great day, my dear! When I look at you, I still see that blond 20 year old California guy. Here's to more decades to come!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Learning to Ride

This past weekend, both kids decided they wanted to learn how to ride their bikes without training wheels. Exciting milestone!

So on Saturday afternoon, we got out the kids' bikes and gave it a go. Unfortunately, it turned out that BJ's bike had a flat tire. BB and I worked together while S tried to patch the tire. She really caught on quickly!

She was a little nervous about falling and getting hurt -- you know it's serious when BB consents to wear JEANS to do something; I'd told her that she definitely needed to wear pants, not a dress, and that jeans would probably protect her better. This is the first time she's worn jeans in years! (Last time was before she could speak to tell me that she didn't like them!)

I managed to get a little video as well -- first, while S was working on BJ's bike. Then S came over to help with documenting things.




It turned out that the patch on BJ's tire didn't take, and by the time we figured this out, it ended up being too late to take it to the shop and get it repaired. He was a little disappointed, understandably. So I told him he could work on balancing by practicing with his scooter, and he zipped around for a bit while BB and I worked on her riding.

On Sunday, S brought in BJ's bike to get the flat repaired, and he also talked with the folks at the bike shop about teaching a kid to ride. They ended up removing the pedals on BJ's bike so that he could practice coasting first. I think this will be a really good thing for him. Here is S helping him get up enough speed to coast.

It worked really well for him not to be tripping over the pedals. (Actually, they recommend never using training wheels at all -- go for a balance bike first, then add pedals. But we weren't that good.)

Interesting to see the different learning styles and to see how things go with BB and her pedals versus BJ and his coasting. I'm so proud of both of them!

We didn't manage to get any video for BJ, so I'll be trying for that next time we practice. Probably today!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

BJ's Field Trip to the Marine Science Institute

Last week, I was a driver for BJ's field trip to the Marine Science Institute. Best field trip I've been on so far -- and I think BJ thought so too! There were lots of hands-on activities. The kids started off with seine fishing, hauling a net out of the bay. Hard work!

The parents stepped in to help about halfway through (I suspect the class photographer got a shot or two of me hauling my fair share). According to the two young women who were running the field trip, we caught the largest top smelt they've ever seen! (But maybe they say that to all the kids.) After the catch, they had the kids transfer the creatures to buckets of water so they could get a closer look. Here's BJ examining that top smelt. It was almost a foot long!
Checking out another bucket with ocean wildlife:

At that point, alas, the batteries on my camera ran out. So I missed pictures of petting the leopard sharks (!) and sifting through the mud they scooped out from the bottom of the bay. Also missed the pic of when they invited the kids to join the "Mud Club" (which BJ didn't want to do) complete with marking mud on nose and chin and cheeks. Very entertaining for most of the kids. (Looking forward to seeing what our class photographer got, though!)

Memorable moment of the day: they were asking kids to identify creatures they'd found in the mud, and our leader held up an example. "What's this little one?" she asked. BJ exclaimed, "A bivalve!" She choked back a chuckle and said, "Wow! That's absolutely right! It is a bivalve. A bivalve called a clam." She'd clearly thought somebody would just say, "a clam." Later, when I thanking her for the great experience of the field trip, she asked which kid was mine. I pointed to BJ and she laughed, "Oh! The bivalve guy! That's awesome!"

Turns out they do science camps here during the summer, so we're considering doing that with BJ. Will involve driving up during rush hour, so I'm not entirely sure if we're up for it, but we'll see. I am sure he'd love it!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Catching Up -- BJ's School Play

Playing catch up with the posts that didn't happen while we were dealing with the household contagion -- BJ's school play happened while my parents were in town, and he did a great job with all the performances! (Thanks, Dad, for the fantastic picture!) The play was "My Son Pinocchio," and BJ was part of the pre-show. He remembered his lines, did the singing with a smile, mostly (they performed " Somebody Come and Play" and "You've Got A Friend in Me") and did a very good job with the dancing. Here he is with his dance partner, E:
They ask for no photos or videos during the performance, so I don't have those to share (we'll have them later thanks to the professional ones that are taken by the school). But here we are waiting for the performance to begin! Thankfully, we all managed to be healthy enough to go to the last performance.

Good job, BJ!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


This one's for you, Mom and Dad: something new at the blog!

I dropped my folks off at the airport this morning. They were finally escaping the household contagion after enduring more than a week of sick kids heading back home after a visit that was much appreciated.

I don't know how we would have made it through last week without them! Because S is teaching three classes this quarter (all with different preps) he is super busy and less able to be home to help with things like sick kids. But thanks to my parents, even with BB home sick all last week I was able to meet my obligations (volunteering in BJ's class, helping out with the box office for the school play, getting the kittens to the vet for their 3 month old shots...) Alas, both of them (as well as I) caught something towards the end of the week. Might not be the same awful crud the kids had, but yucky enough. Certainly not the way I would have chosen the trip to go; not the kind of souvenir I wanted them to take home.

My mom and I had made plans for lots of fun while they were here, including a visit to FabMo and a pedicure. No way those were happening this time around. In truth, the visit was a lot of hanging around the house. Happily, this meant a lot of time with the kittens. (Kittens make everything better, right?)

(Think they are relaxed and comfortable with us?)
Mom had an app on her iPad that was for the cats, much to the delight of the kids (and the mild interest of Shelly and Stormy).

We did manage to do a few of the things we'd hoped during their visit. Dad was a huge help in lending his photographic expertise (and much nicer camera) so that I could get some new product photography. I'm excited to get some new things listed in the shop! (Just need to find the time to tinker with the pics and get the listings written!) We made it out to dinner at Aqui's to celebrate my dad's birthday (a little early). BB wanted to be sure she looked nice -- since she got sick the next day, I was really glad we'd gotten this out of the way. Here she is with my dad before we headed out for dinner.

I was happy that I found time to rework Mom's nest pendant to include an additional egg for my niece. I was very relieved that in spite of coughing and sniffles, we were all able to make it to the performance of BJ's play. (As always, with my dad around we had lots of great pics of the life events... thanks, Dad, for the photography! All the shots in this post are his!)

And, very exciting for me, I got to pick up my grandfather's Gibson guitar from the repair shop!
Turns out its a 1933 L50 Gibson, in quite good shape for its age and history. It sounds really good and is so much more suited to my size. I was very happy to be able to play a little bit with my beginner fingers for my parents. (And it was fun to compare the sound between the Gibson and my Dad's Harmony that I'd been using!)
Now I've got good motivation to practice -- I'm looking forward to when everybody is healthy again and the household settles down a bit, so that such things are more possible. Lots of catch-up to do, including several blog posts I'd hoped to write during the past few weeks... we had a running joke while my parents were here; they'd check my blog frequently, sometimes looking for something new to be posted when I'd been sitting with them the entire time! I teased that I was going to schedule something in advance to post in order to surprise them, but I never managed to do it. I'll put that with the pedicure and crafting plans on the list of Things To Do Next Time Mom and Dad Visit. Looking forward to it already!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Best Laid Plans

I suppose it's a good thing that Valentine's Day isn't particularly dear to our hearts around here. Neither S nor I have ever done a whole lot to celebrate the holiday. (It feels more than a little commercialized to both of us.) But since my parents were in town, we'd thought we might take the opportunity to go out to celebrate, just the two of us.

Three weeks ago, we lined up reservations at Tee Nee Thai, one of our favorite local restaurants. (We'd looked into going dancing somewhere, but all the places we could find were either Not Our Scene or up in SF, too far for a Tuesday night.) We were promised a very "special table," since we were their first reservations for Valentine's Day, and we were excited to try their special holiday menu. With pats on the back for planning ahead, we congratulated ourselves for not overdoing things but having something decided and settled.

Fast forward to last week, when we were driving by the restaurant and noticed the windows were boarded up. First we thought they'd moved recently, since we drive by there frequently and hadn't noticed the boards before. But why wouldn't they have mentioned that when we made the reservations? When I called them to see what might have happened, there was no answer. Thank you Google for the sad information that they'd had a fire.... and so our Valentine's dinner out was not meant to be. By the time we figured it all out, it was really too late to line up another reservation elsewhere. And given that the kids are still not 100% healthy and now my parents and I seem to be sick as well, it's probably for the best.

So we settled for Valentine's at home with the family. I decided to make heart-shaped ginger cookies for a sweet treat (one of S's favorites). For dinner, baked ziti -- except I forgot to turn on the oven to bake it. Sigh. Microwaved ziti was a second-best but edible solution.

At least the kids were happy with their Valentine's Day. BJ and BB both enjoyed exchanging Valentines with their classmates, came home with candy and treats, were happy to see the chocolate assortments that we had bought for them, and were Very Excited by the gifts from Pop-Pop and Giki: for BB, two Angry Bird's stuffies.
I think she was a little jealous about the ones they'd given BJ at the start of their visit -- could be because he was SO very thrilled to have them.)

And for BJ, a set of Ramona books. He was pretty thrilled to have them, too.

Tears of joy upon receiving books as a gift? That's my boy. (He'd been asking for these books for weeks and weeks, ever since his teacher started reading them as the afternoon reading aloud choice. I think being home for a week and missing some of the books was harder on him than not being around his friends!)

He was up until 10:30 pm reading Beezus and Ramona (from start to finish, took him an hour and a half) just giggling the entire time. I didn't have the heart to insist that he put down the book and go to sleep! I suppose since my own Valentine's day hadn't been what I hoped, I was happy to help make his something to remember.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Feature -- Scene Not Herd

This week's Friday Feature is Holly, a fellow SF Etsy member who is the creative force behind Scene Not Herd. I love the whimsical jewelry in her shop, and the hand stamped personal touches really add a unique element. I particularly like her "Shine" lantern necklace. She says it's "reminiscent of that old thing your dad busted out on camping trips" -- spot on!
Enjoy the interview!

1. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?

My jewelry is a collection of what I like to wear, girly but simple. Many of the pieces feature hand stamped tags that make them personalized and a bit more special. I love giving gifts so many of the pieces are inspired by friends and what I know they would love to wear. I took a simple jewelry making class at a local adult ed program and learned the basics a few years ago. Since, its all been experimentation until something works!

2. Tell us two other interesting things about you.

I am also an algebra and science teacher to middle schoolers in Oakland. I originally started making my own jewelry because I often noticed I was wearing the same stuff from the mall as my middle school students. Yikes!

My husband and I are in the process of adopting two little children from the Democratic Republic of Congo! My Etsy shop is helping to offset the crazy adoption costs. I'm also hoping to raise awareness for what's going on in DRC. I would love to be able to take a huge stash of formula and baby supplies when we visit the orphanage to bring our little ones home.

3. What is your favorite item in your shop? Why is it your favorite?

I'm partial to my "Oh Snap!" necklace. My students say it all the time and it never ceases to make me laugh.

4. If you had a gift certificate to Etsy for any one item you wanted, what would you buy?

I have an unhealthy love for succulents, so I'd get this.

5. What crafting skill do you wish you had or hope to learn someday?

I would love to knit, I've tried but I'm too impatient.

6. If you had to live out the rest of your life as a famous fictional character, who would you be and why?

Anne Shirley...there would be no shortage of adventure. And let's be honest, who doesn't love them some Gilbert Blythe? (He's as close to my real husband as fiction can get!)

7. If your life was a book, what would be the title and how would your story end?

"Second Hand Heart" The end is the beginning of a new day, full of hope and promise.

8. What is the craziest gift you have ever received?
Some friends gave us a $5000 check to help out with the adoption costs. They aren't wealthy, it just seemed like the right thing to do to them. I've never been so overwhelmed.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Good News; Bad News

It's been a rough week -- just as BJ was getting over the crud that had him home from school almost all last week, BB started showing symptoms. She's been down with fever and cough since Tuesday, poor boo. 102.6 yesterday! Down to 100 today, but still feeling really yucky. Sigh.

Thank goodness my parents are here visiting and able to help out! With S teaching 3 classes this quarter, it's pretty crazy around here at the moment. I don't know what we would have done without them! (Well, I do -- either S would have had to stay home, or I would have been scrambling at the last minute for a substitute for my classroom hours on Tuesday; Wednesday would have been really challenging with getting BJ to his play rehearsal and field trip; this morning I'd have to be on the phone trying to line up somebody to fill in for me in the box office after school to sell play tickets!) I wish they weren't having to spend their precious visit time in what my mom has taken to calling "Ward X" (and with all the coughing and hacking around here, she has a point!) -- right now I'm just praying this nasty cold doesn't get them next....

The good news is that BJ was well enough to make it to the opening of his play last weekend! He was still feeling a little puny, but his fever had been gone for a full day and he managed not to cough while he was on stage. He was pretty danged cute in his teddy bear costume.

He was so happy to be able to be there. We got there a little early so that his drama teacher could take him on stage ahead of time to review things with him. So kind of her. He remembered his lines, smiled through most of the performance, and had a good time. Can't ask for more than that!

The last two performances are this weekend. It will be really fun to have my parents there to see them as well. Sure hope BB is well enough to join us by then!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Meeting Up with other South Bay SF Etsy Folks!

Today I managed to escape the Family Plague Ship for a few hours this morning to meet up with some other SF Etsy folks at TechShop San Jose! (Big thanks to S for watching the boy while he was home sick again from school.)

It was so nice to meet other crafty, creative folks! Always energizing, and especially so when I'd been cooped up with sick kids for several days. (Did I mention how much I appreciate that S was able to be home in the morning so that I could go???)

Here we all are:

From left to right:

Valerie of Valerie Preston Jewelry
Ilana of The Golden Gear
Devika of Devika's Art
Kathryn of Splendid Colors
Ruhi of Live Decor
Kate of This Charming Candy
Jen (yours truly!) of Mama's Magic Studio
Suhita of Sketch Away

I don't want to be overly dramatic, but it's possible that this meeting could lead to some wonderful things for me. I've long dreamed of working seriously on art quilts, but I've been hampered by the lack of space in my "studio" (the corner of the bedroom) and also by the capabilities of my Janome sewing machine (which is a decent little machine and has done me well, but it's not really up to major quilting on a large scale). Every time I go someplace like Fab Mo, I start dreaming about the upcycled art I could make. But I've told myself to stay serious, keep it under control, put back that huge stack of velvet and brocade, it wasn't possible, maybe someday but not now...

Well, someday might be sooner than I thought. It turns out that Tech Shop San Jose has a gorgeous long arm quilting machine!

Next year, when BB heads to kindergarten, I could take classes to learn how to use this baby!

(Am I excited? Let's just say you should have heard that squee of joy when I saw this beautiful machine. It's bigger than my living room! And it's ten minutes away from my apartment! And I could use it if I were a Tech Shop member!!!)

Tech Shop is full of creative goodness and amazing supplies, tools, machines -- and from what I hear, talented and helpful teachers to let you learn how to do it all. Here's their Bin Wall of supplies for members:

They have a woodworking shop, a metalshop, a 3D printer... all sorts of amazing things.
If you're interested in more, you can check out the rest of the pics I took here on Flickr.

Now I'm seriously scheming for what impact this might have on next year's plans. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

BB's Five Year Checkup and the Family Plague Ship

On Monday, BB had her Five Year Checkup, and she was such a good kid at the doctor's office! She had vision and hearing tests (vision 20/25, hearing totally fine), all the usual prods and patience-testing doctor stuff, and then she had to have three shots and her TB test! She was so brave. She didn't flinch once. After the appointment, all day long she was telling me how brave she was. So proud of my girl! And she's getting so big: 47.4 pounds and 43 and 3/4 inches tall. Wow!'

On Tuesday, BB woke up feeling sick, so she stayed home from preschool. BJ also woke up with a bit of a cough and not feeling so well (after S had been down for the count all weekend -- even cancelled class on Friday, which is really unlike him!) but it was the day for the play's tech rehearsal, so he really wanted to try to go to school. S was feeling much better, and so he headed in for his turn to volunteer in BJ's classroom. Unfortunately, BJ got to feeling worse and worse, and so at noon when S was done volunteering, BJ came home from school early. Had to miss tech rehearsal.

BJ was home from school again today, bad cough and fever. Not much fun dragging them both to Kaiser to get BB's TB test checked -- the good news is she's totally clear for TB (not surprising) -- but happily they were both pretty patient. Other than our trip to Kaiser, we hunkered at home and watched movies and just tried to get through the day, because I got to feeling pretty lousy. I hate it when our household starts to resemble a plague ship!

Hopefully we'll all be healthy again very soon....