Thursday, December 05, 2013

Celebrating a half birthday at Chuck E Cheese

Our little boy is 18 months old today! It's hard to believe that he'll be closer to two years old than one year old from now on.

Mom, why am I on this Jeep?
Lachlan's latest trick is putting two words together. He began with 'mo chee' (more cheese) and 'mo gaba' (more garbage cans). Today it was 'bye horsey' and 'bye truck' when we left Chuck E Cheese. I think he's also beginning to learn commands. He's listened to me tell him what to do for 18 months and now he's practicing giving out orders, too. I thought I heard him say 'Mom here' yesterday.

We went to Chuck E Cheese this morning not necessarily to celebrate this half birthday, but because a couple of mom's group folks were going. Fortunately at 10am on a Thursday, the Chuck E Cheese in Cupertino was mostly deserted. Lachlan took a mild interest in the toddler zone, but quickly wandered out. We spent our tokens on a photo booth that prints your picture onto a make believe ID card, a Whack A Mole type game and a couple of moving rides that Lachlan wasn't sure he wanted to be on.

It was amusing when Lachie's little buddy Albert tried to put the award ticket back in the machine. The tickets that are so precious to bigger kids mean nothing to 18 month olds. We donated ours to a kid who looked about four who delightedly accepted them.

I hadn't visited a Chuck E Cheese since I was a kid and the one in Cupertino is only slightly different than the one in my memory. I remember Chuck E Cheese being a very dark place, lit primarily by the flashing lights of the games, but Cupertino's has a lot of natural sunlight. I remember exchanging quarters for tokens and that each game cost about one. It's funny how that's still the same today. I guess arcade prices have remained flat. Unlike the CEC of memory, this one didn't have a ball pit or a huge cast of animatronic characters who sing every 15 minutes. And perhaps for the sake of Lachlan's immunity and sense of security, that's a good thing.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Book Advent

One of the best parts about having a toddler around at the holidays is starting new family holiday traditions. We decided that in lieu of a traditional advent calendar involving little windows or small gifts or chocolates, we would give Lachlan a Christmas/winter book for each day of December leading up to Christmas Day. We enjoy reading as a family and picture books provide a gentle introduction to the idea of Christmas.
Day 4 of the Christmas book advent - Dinosaur Vs Santa

My mom took charge of the idea and added up the number of old holiday books we already had from Lachlan's last Christmas and years ago. Then she bought some new books and then I bought some new books from Scholastic... and then her friends bought some books. Anyway, we now have more than 25 Christmas books and we're making a game of giving them to Lachlan each morning.

Auntie Paulette generously decorated each gift bag with a numbered stocking and vehicle stickers (non-Christmas-y, I know, but Lachlan's into trucks). We encourage him to find the bag by following a purple ribbon that we string from the top of the stairs to the bag's location.

It's day four of our book advent and I'd love to say that Lachlan is thrilled with the new tradition, but, as with most things, it's taking him a while to get accustomed to the idea. He doesn't yet totally get the concept of following the ribbon, but we prod him along. He enjoys the Christmas books, especially one about a baby called Fa La La, but he doesn't request them on repeat the way he does with other favorites. Still, he doesn't often take to books immediately; instead, he warms to them over time and goes through phases where he's especially interested in one book.

His favorite parts of Fa La La are when the baby smashes a gingerbread house that his Dad has very painstakingly constructed and when the baby finds a choo choo under his Christmas tree on Christmas morning. Perhaps Lachlan is hinting that he would also like a choo choo under his tree.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

First Ever Field Trip

Lachlan and I went with his preschool this morning to Hidden Villa Farm in Los Altos. We'd been there twice before as a family, but never on a tour without our stroller!
All bundled up at the farm

Teacher Diane advised us to dress warmly because mornings are chilly on the farm. Rain was in the forecast, too, but we stayed dry. I was worried that Lachlan wouldn't tolerate his hat, but he didn't mind when he noticed that all of his classmates were also wearing warm hats. He was particularly interested in Matthew's hand-knitted Thomas the Tank Engine hat.

Our teacher also mentioned that we should leave everything in the car and foolishly I left my stroller in the trunk. Lachlan is difficult to corral these days and doesn't really follow me when we're walking somewhere. I and the other parents got a workout carrying our 18 month olds around the farm.

He was nervous around Cleo the cow and didn't want me to get too close. By the time we saw the goats, though, he had warmed up and enthusiastically petted two kids called Pancake and Waffles. He kept saying, "nice, nice!" because I had assured him that the goats were nice. Lachlan's confidence with the animals led him to chase chickens into their coop all the while saying, "nice, nice." I tried to explain that the chickens were nice, too, but they would run away before he could catch them.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Swim Class at the YMCA

Lachlan started swim lessons when he was just four months old at the Cook and Phillip Pool in Sydney. I use the word 'lesson' loosely here because four month olds cannot learn how to swim, but they can get better acquainted with the water, a small stepping stone on the path to actual swimming.
Big boy rash guard and trunks.

We had taken a break from swim classes while we moved overseas and got ourselves settled here in Mountain View. Now that we belong to the Y and summer was coming to an end, we decided to give swim classes another go.

We were the only family enrolled in the 9:15am class and I suppose that meant we were technically entitled to a private lesson when we had in fact paid for a group lesson. Because we were the only family, though, the instructor didn't take the class very seriously and told us to 'swim around' and 'do whatever you want.' We switched to a 10am class so that Lachlan could enjoy the company of other little swimmers, but even in a group setting, our instructor's abilities are a bit underwhelming. We miss the professionalism of the Cook and Phillip Pool staff and their indoor, perfectly-heated facilities.

Still, we're doing our best to make the most of swim class. I demonstrate blowing bubbles to Lachlan over and over though he'd rather lap the water with his tongue. In my most enthusiastic voice, I encourage him to kick and splash his way across the pool, but the toy ducks and frogs serve as his only real motivation.

There's a 19 month old boy in our class who annoyingly already knows how to swim. He goes underwater, jumps in the pool from the edge and splashes/paddles and kicks his way to the edge. I overheard the mom say to the instructor that they have a pool at home. 'Why are they even here then if he already knows everything? Showoffs,' I thought to myself ungenerously.

I remind myself that every child is different and that Lachlan will be a fantastic swimmer in years to come. For now we'll count not crying during back floating time and cracking a smile during hokey pokey as swimming victories.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga... Choo Choo!

Love this one of my sweethearts watching the forest go by.
Prior to moving overseas, I had lived in the bay area (Berkeley, Oakland and San Jose) for about six years. I thought that moving back here would be easy because I already know the area, but it turns out that I knew little about the peninsula and almost nothing about what it has to offer kids/families.

Big trees indeed.
It's funny how being a parent provides one with a new lens through which to view the world. As an adult without children, I was focused on great places to eat and drink with friends. These days we explore public parks and rank them according to which ones are closest, least crowded, have the most redwoods and afternoon shade, cleanest sand, best play structures for little tykes, etc. I could probably do an entire post on our favorite parks in the area, but I'm sure other bay area parents have already done that online, probably in great detail and perhaps with metrics and colored graphs.

One of the kiddie destinations that we took Lachlan to recently was the Roaring Camp Railroad in the Santa Cruz mountains. We rode an actual, open-topped steam train through the redwoods on a gorgeous day. Lachlan is just starting to get into trains, (he likes to make the 'woo woo' whistle noise) and so we thought it might be fun for him. He enjoyed looking at the forest and especially loved observing the other children in our train car, but staying seated for an hour and fifteen minutes while the train was moving was a challenge for him. Perhaps we'll take him again just before he turns two; he may have more patience and will still get in for free.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

This Summer Was Made Possible by Nani

When Nani had to return to her job teaching high school English, we had to bid her a sad farewell on Monday morning. It was hard to say goodbye because we spent the summer having way too much fun together while furnishing the house and establishing our new lives as a bay area family. Here are a couple of highlights from a memorable summer.

Steven's Creek Trail
We kicked off the summer in style by celebrating Lachlan's first birthday with a luau at Nani's home in Upland. The occasion was all the more special because Lachlan's Dadi and Dadu and Uncle Nic and Auntie Kat flew from across the country to attend. Because the first birthday is a big one, it was easy to go overboard with decorations, balloons, a pinata, cake and a whole roasted pig. Putting it all together was a tremendous amount of work considering all of the help we had from eight different adults (Lachlan's parents, four grandparents and aunt and uncle) the weekend of the party. It was all worth while, though, because everyone had a good time and we got some colorful pictures out of it.

My birthday is less than two weeks after Lachlan's and I imagine it will be forever overshadowed (and that is totally fine with me). Still, Papa treated me to a lovely present - a new bike! We also got a bike trailer for Tiny, helmets and locks and everything else we need for our new hobby. We miss our walkable Sydney suburb, but are trying to take advantage of our new (mostly flat) home of Mountain View by biking. Mickey's been biking to work every day and we seem to be getting along fine with just the one car. Lachlan, Nani and I have biked to the library, Target, parks and on a trail, too. He isn't terribly fond of wearing his helmet, but he likes to say 'helmet.'
I felt special because Celine doesn't jump into just anyone's lap.

We enjoyed a couple of three-generation playdates with my friend Leah, her daughter Celine and her mother Marilyn. Lachlan and Celine love to observe each other and fight for toys, but cannot yet play together. I've heard that kids don't really play collaboratively until age three and that seems like a terribly long wait for playdates involving sharing and some sense of civility. Until then, I'll practice the art of diplomatically solving toy squabbles and teaching Lachlan that he needs to greet friends in ways other than poking their eyes and faces.
It's easier to wait for your meal when you have
cheddar bunnies.

One of the best parts about exploring our new neighborhood is finding new favorite eateries. I've always loved The Counter and was delighted when a brand new location opened up just a mile from us. Their menu suits both Nani's and my tricky diets (best GF bun, hands down) so it has become our go-to spot. When Mickey and I went out for a date evening last weekend, Nani took Lachlan to The Counter and I'm told that he behaved like a little gentleman. Nani said he enjoyed sitting at the front of the restaurant where he could observe diners (especially the little ones) coming in and finding a table. Also, he said 'hamburger' while Grandpa Tom was visiting and we now ask him to repeat it all of the time. It's amusing that Lachlan doesn't yet say 'I love you,' but confidently attempts three and four syllable mouthfuls like 'hamburger' and 'avocado.'

My major accomplishment of the summer was furnishing our new home. I thought that it would take the entire year and though the office and garage need work (whose don't, really?), it's nearly complete now. We have everything we need and then some and it's starting to feel like home. Of course, this would not have been possible without Nani. She did everything from care for Tiny while Mickey and I went out furniture shopping to offering decorating tips to hanging pictures to assembling our recliners. This is turning out to be the stylish, comfortable and practical home I had envisioned and I have Nani to thank.
Lachlan's nursery is one of my favorite rooms.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Baby Gym

A couple of weeks ago Lachlan and I went to My Gym, a Gymboree-esque baby gym in Palo Alto, for its 45 minute Little Waddlers class.

We had an absolute blast. The best thing about the place is that all of it is child-friendly, of course. Lachlan was free to climb on and grab anything. This setting is ideal for toddlers who otherwise live in a world of 'no:' don't rip the pages out of Mommy's magazine, Mommy's glasses belong on her face, get out of the dishwasher, etc. Lachie was a bit hesitant at first, but he loves approaching other children and watching what they do.
Lachlan is in green looking away from the camera

The structured 45 minute play program is timed with music: when the song changes, it's time to move on to a new activity. Some of the song choices were more obvious, such as a babyish welcome/warm up song, whereas other tunes were geared for the parents and carers. We stretched our limbs to Madonna's "Lucky Star" and explored hula hoops while we grooved to "Word Up" by Cameo. Bizarre, I know. Maybe My Gym figures us parents get our fill of "Wheels on the Bus" in the car. We sure do.

Toward the end of the session is "separation time." It means the parents need to back off and let the kids explore while guided by the instructors. Because I was standing behind him, I raced to the other side of the room so that Lachlan could see me when he looked up during separation time. I didn't want him to wonder where I was. They brought out a ball pit, though, and he didn't look up at all.

I realize that separation time is much more important for the parent than it is for the child. And isn't that the way with so much that we do as parents? We agonize over decisions and how our child will feel about a certain change, but they just pick up and move on.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Walkin' and Talkin'

** I intended to post a video of Tiny walking here, but the connection is just... too... slow **
He loves drinking water from his Superman cup

This little man is on the move. Our friend Shannon kindly let us borrow a sturdy wooden push walker that allows Lachlan to practice walking with support. At first he wasn't so keen on it and would ignore it unless we propped him up in front of it, but now he's much more eager. He likes to put things in the cart area and watch for our reactions when he walks.

His language skills are also coming around. Lachlan can say Mama, Dada, Nani, Wow, Gogo, Baby and now also Uh oh. He is just learning how to use each of these words. 'Mama' usually means me, but sometimes he's talking about eating a 'Mum Mum' (rice cracker) or sometimes he's just talking about eating in general.

There was a sweet moment yesterday when Mickey came home from work. Lachlan bolted for the front door when he heard Mickey's key in the lock. He crawled up to his feet and said, 'Da!' Usually, he's excited to see his Papa walk through the door, but he had yet to call him out by name.

Lachlan loves to say 'baby' when he sees a picture of himself or another baby. He'll also say 'baby' when he sees himself in the mirror. 'Uh oh' is really funny because he can usually just say 'uh' or 'oh', but not always both together.

Though it's not a word, Lachie can also make monkey noises, 'ooh ooh, aah aah.' He makes those noises and makes a game of prompting me to do the same. This morning I showed him youTube videos of monkeys, but I'm not sure that he made the connection.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Time Flies

I was sure that spending two months in Hawaii, with 24 hour support from Mickey with Lachlan, would allow me to catch up on my favorite hobbies such as reading, blogging or cooking. Instead, we spent our time in Hawaii taking a true vacation and doing very little. We often didn't get dressed until 11am and the biggest decisions of the day were deciding between lounging on the beach or simply hanging out at our rental house. When we arrived here in Palo Alto and Mickey returned to work (and 'real life' was meant to begin), I became caught up in the search for a new home and put off updating my blog a bit longer.
Love this boy

Now we found a rental home in Mountain View and bought a lovely car, too so I have no more excuses. I need to get back to documenting this exciting time for our family. Lachlan grows and changes quickly; I find myself speedily scribbling notes in his baby book about his physical and linguistic development so that I won't forget the milestones.

Though we're settling down now, the first part of the year was marked by tons of travelling. We've been a family of nomads, indeed. When we left Australia, we wanted to make the rounds with family so that everyone could meet Lachlan. In fact, on his second day in the United States, Lachlan met forty new friends and family members at my mom's house and bore the changes as best as can be expected. In the bay area he met some more friends and in Virginia, Ohio and a cruise in the western Caribbean he met still more. By the time we got to Hawaii in mid January, we were sick and exhausted. Fortunately, the sunshine, sea breezes and spirit of aloha (plus some antibiotics for Tiny), cured our ailments and we returned to real life refreshed.

Here are a couple of highlights from the last half year:

Lachlan met two of his grandfathers for the first time: Grandpa Jim on the left and Grandpa Tom in the middle.

The Thanksmas tradition continued! This time everyone except our Aussie mate Tim gathered across the sea at Mike and Laura's lovely home in San Francisco.

Lachlan met the Rennies, including his beloved Uncle Nic! I think my relatives were pleased that we chose a strong Scottish name for our little lad. They said my grandfather Poppie who was born in Scotland would have been proud and I'd love to think that's true. Uncle Nic and Auntie Kat and the Blanches spoiled our little guy with tons of lovely presents prior to Christmas. They wanted to teach him to walk and gave entertaining demonstrations, but at that point he could only barely sit up alone.

Lachlan met the Katarias and the Banks family, including his four gorgeous cousins and Auntie Bava and Uncle Shaun. We had a white Christmas and enjoyed spending the holiday with the people it's meant for: children! Lachie's cousins showed tremendous restraint in waiting to open presents until everyone was up, ready and had eaten breakfast. I remember my brother and I being pretty much done opening gifts by 7am.

We maintained our tradition of celebrating New Year in a different location each year. Here we are on New Year's Day with Auntie Tina and Grandpa Tom on Roatan Island, Honduras. Taking a baby on a cruise ship wasn't super easy, but we still had a ton of fun. We found the cabin to be bigger than we anticipated and found it to be a great way to spend time with family members (17 of us in total). Family trivia was especially fun.

This hike to Kaena Point on the western tip of Oahu was one of our favorites. A group of whales were swimming along the coastline as we walked - simply gorgeous. Tiny was content on this walk and that added to the overall serenity of the day.

We LOVED Ko Olina, the resort complex in which we stayed for nearly two months and this picture shows why. It had four of these extremely calm lagoons, perfect for children and families to wade, splash, swim and snorkel. I'll never forget spotting a sea turtle (honu) here while snorkeling near the entrance to the ocean.

This was another incredibly scenic hike that we did with my dear friend Danielle, a lawyer who now lives in Honolulu and has the insider scoop on all things Oahu. It was wonderful to spend time with her there on the island and get her suggestions on the best beaches, hikes, restaurants, etc. Makapu'u was stunning and we had the best poke (raw tuna) of our trip that day.

It was a huge treat to have both Mom and Tom and Mickey's parents come out to Oahu for a visit. We were all able to enjoy the sunshine and little Lachie together. Mickey's parents stayed for two weeks and were as always, incredibly helpful: taking Tiny for walks while we slept, cooking and helping support us during some hectic sleep training nights. Here we are at the Dole Pineapple Plantation, a spot that I visited with Mickey nine years ago. The pineapple express is still lots of fun.

Our trip to Kauai was our vacation within a vacation. Because we were there for "only" eight days, we went sightseeing everyday and got a great sense of the diversity of the island. Here we are at Waimea Canyon, a place of indescribable beauty. The wildlife on Kauai was spectacular; we saw whales every time we went to the ocean, an endangered Hawaiian monk seal, more honu (sea turtles), nene (Hawaiian state bird) and lots of other sea birds.
Our friends Steph and Lee made it out to Hawaii, too. Here we are in front of Aoki's Shave Ice in historic Haleiwa town. Shave Ice is like a snow cone and is a Hawaiian favorite, but I hate to admit, but it's too sugary for me.

Our dear friends Jennie and Thor also made the trip to Hawaii, a favorite destination for them, too. Mickey took some great sunset photos here at Electric Beach one evening. It was wonderful to spend a whole week with Jennie there.

Once back on the mainland, we had some great playdates with our friend Sarah's children Juliet and Claire. Here's Lachie lunging at Claire. She's so adorable, who wouldn't want to kiss her?!

Now that we're back in the bay area, we can catch up with friends here. This was taken at the Jones' house during James' third birthday party.