Thursday, March 8, 2018

J is 4!

Sweet little J. We cannot believe that you’re 4! It’s been a blink since we rushed from Home Depot and you sped into this world and yet, it’s impossible to remember life before you either.

This last year you’ve grown into a girl. It’s hard to imagine how much personality your little frame contains! These are just a few things that bubble to the top of the mind when we think of you...

Your hugs are seriously the best ever. And you already instinctively know when someone needs one. It’s an empathy that’s powerful and beautiful.

You’re a dog person to your core. Seeing you with Bailey is heart melting. And how you can almost feed him all by yourself is so cool. And how he’s the only surefire bet to calm you down if you’re upset.

Your silliness and sweetness is infectious. “Lean closer,” you say. “Let me tell you a secret.” And when we do, you give a big puff right in the canal. “Blew your mind!” You giggle as you say, “Lean closer again...” and we’re suckers because we’re powerless to that grin.

You’re already such a little planner. It’s cute to see the project management skills budding in your head — assessing the order of operations, gathering input of stakeholders, and the utter frustration when reality interferes with your plans.

You’ve got some decision making skills and endurance. You’re never going to be described as wishy-washy. For example, two years ago you decided that you don’t like raw fruit and from that point on you’ve stuck to your conviction and diligence of never letting a molecule of the stuff touch your lips.

You’re relationship with E is amazing and beyond the tiny squabbles, your being best friends is the best thing ever for us to watch. You play hockey and cars with him, he does Barbie camping and helps take care of your dollies.

You’re a smart cookie and a hard worker. The fact that we have to copy E’s weekly homework for you to complete boggles the mind. Almost as much as the fact that one of your favorite pastimes is cleaning the bathrooms or doing the laundry.

You’re fearless: Zip lines. Thunder Mountain Railroad. Shots at the doctor’s office. We’ve yet to find something that phases you and you fit right in.  Well, something other than fruit.

So little J, we cannot wait to see what being four has in store...but it's bound to be sweet, sassy, and bursting into our lives. We love you SOOOO much! Happy Birthday! 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Good Blur!

So if there's any question to how busy life is after you realize how I've gone from a post every few weeks or couple of months to this cadence of trying to capture chunks of a year, then I'll quickly answer you: things are extremely busy.

All-in-all, it's a good blur of life. Everyone is healthy and generally happy. Work is demanding. Chores are too. The kids schedules are...well, I know we shouldn't complain because it's only going to get worse (?!), but it is crazy!  It's hard to imagine what we used to do with all of the free time!

For our 10th anniversary, the g-parents watched the kiddos so that Lisa & I could take an amazing long weekend to Puerto Vallarta. We stayed at the adult-only, all-inclusive Hotel Mousai and lived the life of modern royalty for a few days. Somehow, we managed to leave the infinity pool situated 14 floors above the jungle and overlooking the Pacific for a few runs, a hike, and a kayak trip. The food was amazing (oddly, I had the best sushi I've ever had). The room was amazing, too -- wrap around balcony, hammock, personal gilted hot tub -- Gawd, even writing this paragraph makes me long to go back. Most of all though, it was SO nice to have time to just spend together. Having some space to breathe & talk makes you realize how taxing the day-to-day really can be sometimes, and how we lose ourselves in the hustle. By no means am I trying to overstate our first-world problems, which are filled with more love and luxuries than anyone can hope for -- it's just nice to have a moment away from the blur to appreciate all that complex beauty and remember that we're more than the next work trip, t-ball game, or family bout with a virus.

Besides our Lake Powell trip, we took a couple camping trips this past summer up to the redwoods and loved every second of it. Once with the families to Big Basin and another with some school families to Mt. Madonna (which was on a scorcher of a weekend -- 108 high in Santa Clara -- we were so glad to be in the forest where it only hit 98).

Additionally, Lisa stayed with the kids for 5 nights which allowed me and a buddy from back east to check something off the ole' bucket list: Backpacking the Lost Coast Trail. We drove 7-8 hours north and then hiked 30-35 miles along the rugged coastline where we only saw a dozen people the entire time. It was amazing.

Since the last significant post, E has been on the same trajectory of awesome. He had a lot of fun with t-ball and finishing out pre-K. He continues to love baseball, racing, space, building things, and went from being nervous about riding a bike with no training wheels, to cruising around like it ain't-no-thing. One highlight: Papa, E and I took a long weekend and went down to watch the Perelli World Challenge race at Laguna Seca Raceway -- it was a blast of a "guy weekend" and we even got to see some tricked out Honda Fits racing. E and Papa joke all the time now about buying decals for Papa's lil' red Fit and taking it on the circuit.

E continues to have this sweet streak as well...always trying to make J feel better if she's having trouble. They tell us that at school that he's incredibly respectful and always helps keep the lunch boxes in order. And he gets SO upset when he discovers someone is disappointed in him. He's careful with his Kindergarten homework (which is something I definitely didn't have back in the day) -- rocking the math and really starting to get the hang of reading. His handwriting is...getting better (hey, it's becoming less important in the world anyhow, and it's not like mine is winning any handwriting awards. Wait, I don't think there are any of those anyway. See, how important can something be if they don't even really have awards around it?!)

We tried to sign E up for this new thing in Boy Scouts called Lion Scouts, but he was the only one, so they cancelled it. Not to be deterred, we made our own (and it allows J to join too)! On Sunday afternoons, me & the kids have been doing "Lion / Princess Scouts." We've gone through our Halloween candy & selected a good % to donate to less lucky kids. We frequently bake or do nature savager hunts on local greenbelts. 

What can I tell you about J? Oh man. I can't believe all that personality can be wrapped up in such a little frame. Broad brushstrokes: she's a little girl who loves little girl things -- dolls, babies, horses, princesses, pink & purple, etc. She LOVES Bailey and her brother...and would follow them to the end of the Earth. Well, maybe that's not 100% true...maybe it's more like, she'd follow them to the end of the Earth as long as they were taking her pre-selected route. Yeah, she has a bit of a project manager streak to her (and considering that's where Lisa & I both wound up, I'm not surprised). She's really enjoying Pre-School and gets glowing remarks from the teacher. In order to keep her occupied while E does his homework, we started making copies for her to do the worksheets as well, and guess what -- she's doing really well with them.

Thanksgiving was awesome. Nana & Papa hosted and we were there to "help" with the kiddos. Beyond the food and family, we'll cherish the 16 placemats that the kids made for each guest -- an idea proposed by them. E did a good number, but HOLY TURKEY, J was a little craft factory. Also, I snuck away for an early morning spin class with Angelina...though she did fail to mention that it was a 75 min class (normal ones are 30-50m max). I earned my meal that day!

We're now in the full Xmas ramp up: shopping, decorating, baking, and wrapping (which is an activity that the kids are really taking a liking to -- definitely Lisa's DNA at work there).

Oh and I'm going to really try and stay more on top of this blog, if not for you, then for me. I want to remember some bits and pieces of this blur with a bit more resolution.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Mucky Dreams, Fat Man's Misery, and Dead Rat Bands!

So, I know it's been a million years (+ or - a century) since the last post. Other than the fact that we've been racing at faster than light, there's not much excuse. I am planning on someday (soon) to just post some pictures & highlights on what's been going from April to now (?!). Apologies -- to you and myself -- aside, I did want to put up some pics, a quick slide show, and a handful of bright points from our recent trip to Lake Powell on my parents' boat.

For those of you who don't know where or what Lake Powell is -- LP if you're into super cool lingo -- it spans the Utah & Arizona border north of the Grand Canyon...and is very much like what it would be like if they filled that wonder up with water. It's majestic with 200-500 foot red sandstone cliffs. Countless miles of serpentine canyons. Stars upon stars upon stars at night. A place that I've been going to for most of my life...and if you couldn't tell, a place that is very special to me.

In fact, I remember distinctly walking to the car in the hospital parking lot the day that we were taking E home from the hospital and thinking, I've got a son now. I cannot wait to take him on all the adventures someday. Jeeping in Colorado. Backpacking the Desolation Wilderness. Camping the redwoods. Skiing Taos. Costa Rica -- all of it. Scuba in Monterey. Slot canyoning at Powell...[you get the idea].

Anyhow, on this trip I got to do that slot canyoning with him. Three times we hopped on the zodiac and snaked as far back into a canyon as the water allowed and then took off on our own through the twisting, sunset colored walls. One time, in Anasazi Canyon, Lisa came too and we moved among the cattails (E kept picking the reeds, breaking them, and inspecting 'the structure' -- he might become an engineer :) and searched for tadpoles & polliwogs along the shallow stream. Another time, Papa came, but forgot his shoes and so he couldn't join us on the climb over the floor of Secret Canyon which was covered in river rocks of tans to burgundy. My personal favorite though, was Cathedral Canyon on a tiny off-shoot that's unofficially dubbed Fat Man's Misery (there are parts where, in the past, I've had to squeeze through sideways, with my chest on one wall and back on the other...and the sliver of sky 200 feet overhead). Of course, E and I didn't get that far...when it got too tight for him to fit through with a lifejacket, we turned around. Those memories are more precious than I can put into words. I'm teary-eyed just thinking about it. Now, we just have to get J a couple years older...

Actually, we did try to go with her and the dogs on one. However, sometimes in the very back of those canyons the water can get...ummmm...swamp-y? Bog-like? It's the backwash of rains and so there are a lot of tiny sticks and driftwood that just sort of sit there. Sometimes a dead fish gets caught (or a long time ago, we found a dead bat) and in combination with the dead vegetation and higher heats...well, it has a "distinct odor." Most of the time, the hike on the other side is well worth it. And most the time, it's a short jaunt and you're through it. THIS time, however, we had life-jacketed kids + swimming dogs + it got very, very narrow[single-file] + there was a little climb (ok, little for us...big if you're 3 and trapped in muck and it's your first time) = low probability of success.

Picture it: We were at the bottle neck, trying to figure out a way forward in the stinking gunk. Both kids are crying. Dogs hanging onto a sandstone ledge by their front paws. The grown ups are in a heated discussion on if there is anyway to safely move on AND if what's ahead is even worth it. J is yelling, "Turn around. Right. This. Second." E is saying, "I wish this was a dream. A bad dream." After a couple of quick, good ole' Ballous-don't-back-down-from-Adventure tries, we turned around and J was quickly consoled with a Jelly Bean. Lisa & I decided we'd go on our own, and then out-of-nowhere, E decided that he wanted to visit the dream again and joined. In fact, that ended up being the hike with the reeds & tadpoles.

Besides eating, sleeping, getting ice/gas/ice cream at the marina, and adventures, there's not a lot of structure to the days. We loved reading the kids their first chapter books, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL (again, many memories from way back). The kids were so inspired by WAYSIDE SCHOOL, there was a running joke about dead the level that they even invented a band they called "Dead Rat Band."

Also, we somehow managed to spill wine every night. Well, technically Nana spilled beet juice getting a salad ready, but it's a pretty good equivalent.

Ok, I could go on and on and on about this trip. It's such a special place because it's so cut off from time. There could be thousands of people on the lake on a given day and with it's size and all the canyons, you see a dozen other people beyond those with you. There's approximately 6 spots on the lake where there's cell coverage...and a few of those are only good for texting or getting email. What it does is that it forces you to just be with the people and landscape around you. To make these memories of 'dead rat head' and Fat Man's Misery. In my life, I've spent 100s of days on those waters and even now, still tan from our last trip, I'm dreaming up our trip next summer.