Thursday, August 31, 2017

Summer Reading and Sharks

Once again, we were excited to join the SF Library and their Summer Reading Program. William has been participating every summer of his whole life, making this his 4th one. We took it slow in filling up our reading chart with stickers but that's just because I wanted to drag it out as long as I could. Otherwise it would have only taken a few weeks to read 20 hours to this one. Aunt Shannon spent a week with us and spent hours and hours reading too! It helps that William likes longer books now.

He turned in his reading chart and took home a really nice canvas bag, reading-ranger badge and the biggest smile. We read so many great books this summer. My favorites included "My Father's Dragon "and "Elmer and the Dragon." Chris has been reading the Chronicles of Narnia at bedtime and William loves that too. We read the Mercy Watson series and a lot of Fly Guy books. It was also the summer of discovering "Tiny Titans," a comic books series of kid-sized side-kicks.

Mid-way through the program William's name was drawn and he won a ticket to the Aquarium at the Bay! It was just one adult pass but both kids got in free. I'd been waiting until the school year started in hopes of not having to deal with crowds.

We finally got to use the pass the last week. We all had colds and runny noses and couldn't be with our friends. It was a chilly day and not a great one to be outdoors so we packed up the car and drove across town in the morning commuter traffic and got there right as they opened. Not a crowd to speak of!

It's a pretty small aquarium (if you compare it to something like Monterey Bay!) but had an amazing tunnel below the tank to walk through and see tons of sharks, large fish and even schools of tiny ones. The boys also really enjoyed the otters. I should say, William enjoyed the otters a lot. Stephen preferred to play with the emergency exit, the handicap door opener and the opening to the otter habitat. I was able to watch the otters for a few seconds!

Outside the aquarium are the famous sea lions of Pier 39 which of course we had to stop and watch for a while. I haven't seen them in nearly 5 years I think. (I never make it over to the pier obviously!) The boys loved them and it might have been the highlight of the whole morning.

One the way back to the car, we stopped for one last photo with the sea lion statue. Of course, neither child looks like they had any fun at all but honestly, William was crying that very moment about leaving. All he wanted was to go back! "Can we come back after naps?" "Can we come back tomorrow?" "When will we come back?" It was really enough to make me say "Never!" But I knew the morning would be challenging and tried to calm him down with reassurance that we will come back some day. (Is that ever a reassuring thing for a child?!)

What about Stephen's reading chart you ask? Well, Stephen is very different from his brother and not interested in books very much. I tried all summer to get him to sit with me for even the shortest books and it just didn't happen. I'm happy to say he is more interested now than he was in June but we weren't able to complete the program with Stephen. Hopefully next summer he will be ready--and excite--for it! Stephen's favorite books right now are all about trucks! Actually, just pictures of trucks.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Road Trip to Washington: The Family Vacation Part

We arrived at our friends Rob and Mariza's home on Friday evening, just before dinner. The kids were exhausted but also hyper. We took some time to catch up with our friends, get situated in their spare bedroom and eat together before tackling bedtime. The four of us were in one room (a giant room, not like the spare rooms seen in SF!)

Saturday morning we all drove into Portland to get breakfast. We left at 8:30, arrived at 9 and stood in line at Screen Door for 90 minutes to be seated. Just like in Portlandia! My husband is excellent at entertaining the kids while we have long waits; I am not. They were having a blast playing with the sign near the entrance and I didn't think anything of it until I overheard a parent of a toddler say something about how dirty/unsafe it was. I didn't say anything at the time but I noticed that her sweet, silent, 17 month old girl didn't talk, move around or play anything during their entire wait and I just realized that we have different children. Very different children. 

Okay, but as I type this, I am realizing that none of the other children in the restaurant behaved like ours . . . so maybe this is an issue?!

The area of Portland we were in was beautiful. Big trees, wide streets and quiet. It was lovely. The food at this place was excellent too. Known for their fried chicken I got a fried chicken sandwich called a "cat head" because it was that big and it was covered in sausage in gravy. It was awesome. William ate a few bites of his "short stack" of pancakes (3 six-inch pancakes . . .) and Stephen ate some oatmeal. William spent some time laying on the floor under the table. I decided not to worry about it. I was on vacation and enjoying my breakfast. We were thankful that after this long wait the kids did as well as they did!

Our original thought was to walk downtown with the kids but after breakfast and seeing how tired the boys were, we decided to head home for naps. I even fell asleep on the couch!

We started Sunday morning at Bridgetown church. I've heard this church compared to Reality SF (a church in San Francisco that I have never been to), had a younger audience, modern/alternative music and a pastor in a white t-shirt and jeans. The message was all about loving your enemies (Sermon on the Mount in Matthew) and seemed very culturally appropriate. I really enjoyed it the whole experience. The kids had fun in their children's church/daycare.

After lunch/naps that afternoon we headed to the park to get some time outdoors. It was comfortable weather, not really hot and not cold. Perfect, really. There was a softball tournament going on and William loved watching it and shouting "I can run fast. I'm the fastest" and running back and forth along the fence. He joined some other kids playing softball (with a toy bat/ball set) but really didn't understand the concept of throwing the ball back to the pitcher. We'll have to do some work!

Sunday night, our friends stayed in with the kids so we could go out on a date! We headed to downtown Portland which we were surprised to find that on a Sunday night was absolutely deserted--except for the two restaurants we were recommended - they each had a 90 minute wait! So, we wandered around the closed shops and quiet streets until our time came to get some dinner. It was nearly 9:30p.m. when we got our food! I think that is the latest date on record for the two of us! The restaurant was called Tasty 'n Alder and was delicious. I were so hungry that we ordered twice as much as we needed. (See the size of that doggy bag below?!) But lunch the next day was covered and oh, so very tasty!

As is the usual with our boys, when we stay out too late, they wake up too early (and too often). We all had a rough night but put on our happy faces and special sun glasses to see the eclipse on Monday morning. 

We went back to the park we had been to the previous day and found a great open green area. The skies were clear which was a gift because they had been very hazy the past two days and we had a clear view of the solar eclipse. William loved wearing the glasses and looking up. He loved talking about it and narrating the movements of the moon.  

It was really interesting to watch - amazing really. It didn't get as dark as I had anticipated but it sure got cold! If you see the color difference in the pictures above/below, you can see how the light did change. It was the most bizarre feeling. Everything became very flat and dark but not black. It was a little eerie. 

I'm hoping William remembers this experience! If he doesn't, Chris has some great video to show him!

Monday afternoon Chris took the boys to the mall to play in their children's area and look at the pet store. I rested and read a book. That night we got packed up and went to bed anticipating the long trip home. Our boys were also a bit anxious it seemed since Stephen woke up at 3 a.m. and wouldn't really go back to sleep. William wasn't able to calm back down either. We decided to pack up and head out early.

And if you are interested in knowing more about the road part of our road-trip, you can read it all right here.

It was really great to reconnect with our friends Rob and Mariza and hang out with their 10-month old daughter Eve. They had been part of our church community for a number of years before their recent move. Sadly we weren't as connected as we would have liked once we had kids which made spending four days with them extra awesome. Thanks friends!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Road Trip to Washington: The Road Part

Last Thursday I loaded our single stroller with a 1 year old, a diaper bag, a bag full of books, toys and snacks and a third bag filled with last minute things that didn't make into the suitcase that was already loaded into the car (like the baby monitors, sleep sacks, and lovies) and requested my almost 4 year old walk by my side to the car parked two blocks away. We made it! Whew!

Then we drove to my husband's office and picked him up for what would be our first road trip with two kids. We were taking this in two chunks. Four hours on Thursday night and hopefully only 6-7 hours on Friday morning.

The traffic in San Francisco was terrible. It took us an hour to get onto the Oakland Bay Bridge .  . . which is less than a 2 mile drive. After that we didn't hit any traffic and were able to make it to our resting place in Redding CA around 8 p.m. (so it had been 5 hours instead of 4, but we stopped for dinner on the way).

Redding was HOT. We stepped out of the car and were shocked as the heat hit our faces and made me feel like my jeans were going to melt to my skin. It was only 95 degrees, but my summers are usually around 68 it so really did catch me off guard. The boys were in love with the hotel room and explored every corner of it. It took at least an hour to calm them down and get them in bed. And since it was just one room we all went to bed at the same time.

The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast at Lumberjacks cafe which was pretty good. Stephen refused to sit and eat and William only had ate a quarter of his plate-sized Mickey Mouse pancake. This is totally what we expected but even by 8 a.m. I was ready for a break from the chaos.

The drive was uneventful. Very little traffic until we reached Portland, Oregon. Stephen fussed and cried off and on and took one little nap. William refused to nap but was content listening to his audiobooks of Winnie the Pooh, looking at his comic books and doing some sticker projects I had packed.

We arrived in Vancouver, Washington a little before 6 p.m. on Friday. (With a few stops along the way it ended up being a total of 9 hours the second day.) Whew, we made it for real!

What did we do there? Read here!

On Monday night we decided that we would just do the drive home in one day instead of spending the money to get a hotel room. That night Stephen woke up around 3 and had a hard time going back to sleep. We ended up getting everyone up and packed to leave at 5 a.m. but didn't actually get out the door until 6 a.m. Our poor hosts had to hear Stephen scream for such a long time before we actually left. We thought if we could just get out the door and drive he would surely fall asleep and it would be okay.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. We were so entirely wrong.

Stephen cried and screamed for what seemed like forever. Finally we pulled off the freeway to grab breakfast (William and Stephen had already eaten at 5 a.m.). That seemed to settle everyone down momentarily. I tried to give Stephen his nap-time bottle and sing his songs and cover him with a blanket and after 90 minutes of trying he finally closed his eyes as I held his hand (doing a side-back bend maneuver from the front seat that messed up my back).

It was a good nap. A solid 90 minutes. And then we had some calm play time with books and songs and snacks. Followed by, you guessed it, more screaming. Earlier on the trip Chris had noticed how hot Stephen got in his seat so he purchased a fan to blow on him from the back seat. It helped him from over heating but this little guy hated feeling it on his hands and face. We tried everything to help him be more comfortable but nothing worked. Finally after our last stop for dinner we were able to get him to calm down again for a short nap by me holding his hand again. (If I could have fit in the back middle seat, trust me I would have gladly sat there the whole time.)

Once we got on the Bay Bridge he had woken up but was only softly whining/crying, not really screaming. Total time spent on the road that day: 13.5 hours. Total naps/quiet time by Stephen: 3 hours. Chris handled it all really well while he did all the driving. Where as I was super stressed out and feeling helpless, a little angry and mostly worried that Stephen cried so much and so hard.

We made it home! So ready for bed. So ready for normalcy. So thankful that William handled it all like a champ (other than throwing a fit anytime we asked him to turn off his audio book to eat, go to the bathroom or take a nap).

Where to next? I don't know, but we'll be flying!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Stocking #4: Complete

Last month I finished a project that has been on my to-do list for over a year. I finished sewing Stephen's Christmas stocking! I remember when I was sewing William's (two years late) that I should just make a fourth one just in case. But I just didn't have the capacity for it at the time.

The only reason I got around to it when I did was because Stephen was on the cusp of dropping his morning nap and William was starting a summer school program so I had a few mornings of uninterrupted time. And I mean literally. Stephen hasn't taken a morning nap since I finished this project!

I had a few hiccups along the way - mostly with my iron meeting the wrong side of my fusible fleece. Both ended up being victims. I have a few seams that look bunchy and the cording along the cuff is not nearly as precise as I had hoped, but it will do just fine the way it is.

Merry Christmas a little early.  I can't wait to hang it up with the others!