One of my favorite things to do in the fall/winter is to take a walk with the kids after dinner. It's just the three of us and since it gets dark so early we bring flashlights, look for spooky things, and try and catch the moon. It gets even better once the holiday lights start showing up. We got a delightful cold front yesterday so tonight's walk was FREEZING. Norah proclaimed it a Midnight Snow Walk and our best one yet (there's no snow). She's really into constellations right now and pretends she can point some of them out (she can't).
I refuse to fight with kids about weather appropriate clothing. My experience (especially with the tyrant) is that forcing a jacket on someone becomes a battle of the wills and totally ruins whatever adventure you are trying to have. Plus, when it's cold, it's cold and ten seconds outside and they are going to ask for a jacket. Problem solved. Norah was wearing mittens but Louie doesn't have any (because when in Texas would he ever need mittens?), so when he asked for his jacket ten seconds into the walk he also asked for mittens. Because Norah is the sweetest kid who ever lived she gave him one of her mittens and then held his other bare hand in her other mittened one. Be still my heart.
Then he sneezed and sprayed snot all over her.* See that stain on left leg of his pants? That's snot. Be still my heart.
*The kid is an absolute petri dish. He JUST got over a sinus infection and now he's got some horrible congestion and hacking cough. The nurse at school thought he had hand, foot, and mouth disease yesterday because he had some spots on his hand, but I think they are just bug bites. At least that's what we're going with for now.
At two-and-a-half, Lou is part monster, part cherub (I would say 90%/10%). Despite his energy and ahem, high spirited nature, every day I get to be around him is a better day for sure.
Here are some of my current favorites:
He has named each one of his 4,000 cars and trucks. His current faves are "Bigfoot," "Little Purple Car," "Trevor Green Tractor," "Sharky," and "Big Mama Cow Truck."
He likes to pretend to be Norah's pet dog.
He loves popcorn but insists upon calling it "Acorns."
He has a chronic whining problem but has been getting better since I have started telling him that "my ears close when you whine and don't open until you use your big boy voice." During one of his less gracious tantrums he marched to the bathroom drawer, grabbed a q-tip, and told me, "here, open your ears!"
When I wake him up on school mornings he will bury his head in my neck and ask, "is it honey sunshine time?" (the name of his favorite cereal)
He LOVES cows in all shapes and forms.
He would take a "relaxing bubble bath" all day every day if I let him.
His favorite books right now are "Monster Trucks" and "The Night Before Kindergarten.
One of my very favorite people in the whole wide world just turned the big 4-0. She had a party to celebrate the occasion and there was no way I was missing it. I knew it would be a quick weekend, but there was also no way I could go back to the Bay Area without taking Norah. I did the unthinkable (gasp!) and pulled her out of school for a day in order to make the trip. It was totally worth it.
We left at the crack of dawn on Friday. Literally the crack. It was very, very, very early. That's how much we like A. Norah is actually a great traveler, especially when it is just the two of us. She can entertain herself, she's not super needy, and we have great conversations. I took the ipad but never even took it out of the bag because we flew Jet Blue and they have DirectTV. Which means that she got to watch 3.5 hours straight of the Cartoon Network. Brain melt.
We got to SFO easy-peasy and rented a car. I forgot how annoying renting a car at SFO is. You basically trek the entire airport to take a train to the car rental counters, wait in a cray long line, and then wait again to get your car. All of this would be tiresome, but add in a tired five year old who is beyond over it and we could not get out of there fast enough (I actually give her a lot of credit. I was way grumpier than she was).
Grandpa Gene and Ms. Mary were kind enough to drive all the way across the bay to meet us for breakfast. I managed to not take a single picture of them with Norah, which really bums me out. We had a great meal with them. I have come to the conclusion that I am now completely indoctrinated by Texas living. It took us about 10 minutes to find a parking space and we walked about five blocks to the restaurant. Two years ago I would have thought that nothing short of a miracle. Now it just seems inconvenient. Nevertheless, Norah got some gluten free pancakes and some much appreciated grandparent attention, so it was all worth it.
By that time Norah was pretty much DYING to get her hands on Ruby. M texted me a photo of a forlorn Ruby waiting at the window, so we got there as quickly as we could. Now, since we moved we have seen Ruby a good handful of times. The girls also FaceTime and make their moms send photos and videos via text message regularly. So, they have a decent amount of contact with each other. Despite all of that I always have that moment before they see each other when I worry they will no longer have anything in common or won't enjoy each other's company.
My moment of worry was all in vain. It was an immediate love fest.
I think Ruby is taller every time we see her. Now Norah is by no means super tall, but she is definitely above average for girls her age. She is one of the tallest girls in her class. And Ruby TOWERS over her by a good foot. Ruby is a supermodel in the making.
After about 15 seconds they were off--playing kitchen and school and putting on plays about fairies who escape lava attacks and people who want to pin their wings. I love that they play in exactly the same way. Norah gets along with everyone, but she has yet to find someone else that she is as compatible with play-wise then she is with Ruby. They just really like all of the same stuff and are on the same wave length.
After a few hours we headed over to A's house and the dream hatched over five years ago finally came true--A, M, and I drank wine in the afternoon while the kids played outside together. With each other. Not us. It was glorious.
Norah and Ruby can sometimes exist in their own little world, but thankfully they were more than happy to let Ella, Caleb, and Lucas in. Caleb tolerates the girls, but Lucas is more than happy to actually play along with most of their demands. Ella definitely wants to play with the big kids but is also pretty content to do her own thing. I hadn't seen her since she was five months old (in TX) and now she is almost two. Despite my best efforts she had some (understandable) stranger danger, so I spent most of my time chasing her down.
The four "big" kids schooled us in how to best play "Plants vs. Zombies."
And then tore it up outside.
They all got filthy playing with dirt and chalk so they cleaned up in A's gigantic tub (Norah called it the "palace bathtub").
The girls got dressed in the matching nightgowns we brought.
Played some more.
Had gluten free mac and cheese for dinner.
Watched a show.
And did just one more project.
A had invited Norah and I to stay at her house for the night, but it soon became clear that there was no way Ruby was leaving to go home to her own house if Norah was staying. So Ruby stayed too. I was a little concerned they would want to stay up until all hours of the morning, but at about 8:30 (which was technically 10:30 our time), Norah asked if she and Ruby could please, please, please just go to bed already. Done and done.
The next morning they were up early for a rousing game of TRAP. These kids are like elephants with those memories because TRAP is a nonsense game they made up TWO YEARS ago at A's house. As soon as I told Norah we were staying with A she announced they would be playing TRAP. And play TRAP they did.
There was a lot of "Plants vs. Zombies" strategy talk.
A had a hectic morning of in-laws and soccer class, so Norah and I went to see my good friend T and her little boy Sean whose sixth birthday was that day. We got to chat a bit while the kids shared some hot cocoa and Sean told us all about how it felt to be six. Norah said she was really looking forward to it.
I took a picture of Sean and Norah, so Norah insisted on taking a picture of me and T. She's getting better.
We went back to Ruby's house and the girls were very relieved to be back together. Apparently that hour apart almost did them in.
We had a bit of time that afternoon, so we took the girls and we all indulged in some mani/pedis. Norah loved it. This was a legit kid mani/pedi--not just nail painting but nail trimming, filing, buffing, etc. She was really into the pampering.
Norah's first slurpee was next, as were their best zombie impressions. Ruby actually makes a really good zombie.
They asked for pictures of the finished product.
Once we determined we would be able to make it out to A's birthday party, Ruby and Norah were all over the idea of a big, fancy sleepover. Thankfully, Pamma stepped right in and offered to host them. There was pizza, movies, and tons of playing. Ruby's auntie even came by with gluten free Halloween cookies for the girls to decorate.
Pamma sent us photos throughout the evening of the fun they had.
The sweetness is palpable.
Meanwhile, A was gracious enough to organize a sleepover of our own and got the moms a room at the hotel across the street from the restaurant where the party was held.
This is how more of my Saturday nights should start.
We had someone from the hotel take our photo and although it is pretty blurry it is easy to see how fantastic we all looked.
The party was at a place called The Sea and was a gathering of A's family, friends from childhood, college, and grown-up 'hood. It was a lovely celebration for an awesome person and I was really happy that I got to be there. There are very few people in the world like A--funny, charming, smart, generous, and really, really, really kind. I feel lucky every day that I get to know her.
And I felt very lucky that night to get to eat these scallops.
Unfortunately the rest of the night is a bit of a blur because, well, free flowing wine. It was just like a wedding--almost impossible to NOT get drunk. Someone lovely was always refilling my glass and I felt like it was rude to say no...thankfully it was also Daylights Savings, so at least we got an extra hour in that morning.
Norah and I had to leave really early to get home at a decent hour. I picked her up from Ruby's and we were able to get out of there with only a few tears (mostly mine) and promises of what they plan to do on our holiday visit in just a few weeks (BVZ and Louie get to come this time). The trek back to the airport was long, but tolerable.
Norah wanted to take a photo of us making a "sad face" on the train, but the light flashed at the exact moment I took it and she really liked the effect.
It's always sad to leave but nice to know we will be back soon. For the first time coming back, Austin truly felt like home. That makes me a little sad but mostly very happy. BVZ and Louie were thrilled to see us. Lou told be beforehand that while we were gone he planned to: 1) play with all the toys in Norah's room; 2) eat tacos in the bathtub and 3) drive a car. It was mum's the word about what they actually ended up doing, so for all I know Louie now has a learner's permit.
It was a great weekend. I look forward to many, many more.
It's not too late for Halloween photos, right? I figure it is not Thanksgiving yet so compared to where I usually am when they get posted, I'm actually kind of ahead of the game this year.
Elementary schools in our district don't let the kids dress up in costumes on Halloween, nor do they have a "Halloween" party. Instead they have fall-themed activities throughout the week (like one day, BVZ got to go to her class and carve pumpkins) and a parade where the kids can dress up as a character from a book. The parade happened the day before Halloween this year, and Norah went as a character from a Fancy Nancy book. I will admit that I waited too long to think about her costume and then Norah insisted she dress as a girl who wears glasses. That's trickier than you might think. She looked cute but I didn't manage to take a photo of her that morning. My sister who has done elementary school with two kids for several years now, makes the kids pick their trick-or-treating costume based on the character book parade costume and I am now realizing the true brilliance of that move. I actually am totally okay with them not getting an official Halloween celebration at school. The last thing I want is more work for the teachers and as a mom of a kid with severe dietary restrictions, I really don't want to create more work for myself. Plus, they get to eat plenty of crap at home.
So that's why on the actual Thursday of Halloween, Lou got to wear his costume and Norah just wore regular (albeit festive) school clothes.
This is Lou's BFF at school. Louie is one of the tallest kids in his class but weighs the least. Check out his high water pants. It was a one piece outfit and Amy decided he looked like a river dancer. He totally did.
After dinner Norah got back into her Izzy outfit. She was insistent that she couldn't possible be Izzy and wear glasses, so we let her take the night off.
Reid was, of course, Captain Hook. My friend A lent him the costume and man did he own it. All on their own they did some method acting in character.
Louie's favorite part of his costume was the sword.
Camilla was a fish. A very sweet and very cute fish that had no problem with the chaos erupting around her.
We were missing the big cousins a whole lot, but they wanted and needed to hang out with their own friends and seek out candy their hood.
Lou was VERY apprehensive about trick or treating at first. Norah led the charge and Reid was usually right behind her. They were both very cute and polite and got a lot of attention from people at the door. Lou warmed up pretty quickly once he realized people were putting actual real candy in his bucket and it was game-on. By about the 10th house we realized that Lou's bucket was twice as full as the other two. We watched him at the next house and discovered that when a nice person held out the bucket of candy he, like the other two, took one piece and then said thank you. But when that said nice person gave compliments to the kids or chatted up the adults, Lou would do a sneak arm reach and grab several more pieces. Sociopath.
There were a ton of kids out in force, including a guy dressed as the Stay-Puff Marshmallow man (which Louie did not appreciate). There were several neighborhood block parties, including the Hallo-Weenie, where a neighborhood fed everyone hot dogs in exchange for canned food donations for the local food bank. I am consistently impressed by the level of activism around here.
Back at home I went through the buckets and took out all of the "Gluten" candy, leaving each kid with about five pieces of candy. For the first time I was able to use it to my advantage and there were no arguments over what got dumped. What they don't know certainly won't hurt them.
It was a hilariously fun night. I am already looking forward to next year.