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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Train Table


Jack's big present this year - figuratively and literally - is a train table. It's basically like a coffee table with a recessed top where you add train tracks on top. It's just Jack's height so he can walk around it and push the trains along.

Of course, everything comes unassembled. And weighs like 80 lbs.

Last weekend, I sat down and assembled the table itself, then the train station, bridge, tunnel, crane, carwash, etc. I loaded up all the batteries. Laid down the tracks. And viola! All together there are over a hundred pieces to play with including people, cars, taxi, trucks, streetlights, street signs, and more.

It takes up a bit of real estate in the living room, but Jack has played with it nonstop so he's really enjoying it.

3 hours and 1 Motrin later

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Tea

I think Holiday Tea is so festive. I have an annual Tea with my friend, Nancy, and even had a second tea this year with a couple of friends from work. You'd think that I'd be all Tea'd out by now, but this holiday season wouldn't be complete without a second annual Tea with Jack.

I left work at lunch today, picked up Jack from preschool, and we headed to the Top of the Mark hotel for their Holiday Tea. As you can guess, the Top of the Mark is on the top floor (of the Mark Hopkins hotel) so there are spectacular 360 degree views of San Francisco. Today was a beautiful day and the city sparkled under the sunshine with clear views of iconic SF landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, the "pyramid" building (the Transamerica building), the Bay, and all the hills in between.

Jack and I toasted each other with my water glass and his sippy cup, ordered some Earl Grey, and headed
Beautiful city views
to the food selection. The Kids' Holiday Tea is more of a lunch with a big dessert table. There's the traditional finger sandwiches and scones with Devonshire cream and lemon curd, but there's also kid favorites like Mac & Cheese. The finger sandwiches also get a kid twist like PB&J or Nutella with a jelly bean on top that's anchored down with piped cream cheese.

Of course, lunch mostly consisted of samplings from the dessert table which had every conceivable cookie, candy, and pastry you can imagine. Jack's desires are still simple and he had more than his share of little foil wrapped chocolate balls.

In between helpings, Jack had his face painted, a magician came around to each table, and we looked out of every window.

CLICK HERE for more pictures of our Holiday Tea time together.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Making Christmas Cookies

My friend Linda came over for dinner last night. We had some wine, Jack had some juice, and we all made Christmas cookies together in the glow of the Christmas tree.

I'd previously bought a cute Superman apron for Jack and it came in pretty helpful as he helped to flour every surface and we rolled out some sugar cookie dough.

We cut out candy canes, snowmen, gingerbread men, stars, and Christmas stockings. Afterwards, we frosted them with peppermint buttercream icing and decorated with crushed candycanes, shimmering sugar sprinkles, and mini-chocolate chips.

CLICK HERE for more pictures.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tis the Season

For remembrances.
LEFT: Jack, Nov 2009, 9 months - MIDDLE: Dad & Jack, Nov 2010, 1 year 9 months - RIGHT: Jack, Nov 2010
Jack's 2011 photo ornament should arrive this week!
A a small grouping of the many Uncle Connie's wooden ornaments that adorn our tree each year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Tree, deux

I love Target. They will be opening a "City Target" downtown in 2012 and I can't wait. In the meantime, I hit the store that is over 10 miles from home. But I digress.

The last time we went to Target I picked up a little foam tree that came with foam ornament stickers and thought it would be a fun thing for Jack and I to do together.

We had fun decorating the tree last night and placed it next to our Santa advent calendar.

CLICK HERE for more pictures

and see Jack in action below.

Kids Party at Williams-Sonoma

"I found snow!"
Pottery Barn Kids is part of the Williams-Sonoma suite of stores and they hold an annual Kid's Holiday party that is alot of fun.

The party is held in one of the offices and there's a different activity on each of the four floors. I took Jack again this year and we started on the top floor and worked our way down. Jack stood in awe next to another little boy named Jack as a magician turned foam balls into diamonds on the top floor. He got his face painted on the next floor down and played air hockey in the lounge area. We got a doggie balloon animal along with some snacks and juice. And finally, there was a visit with Santa who gave Jack a cool shark towel for bathtime.

CLICK HERE for a few pictures from our fun afternoon

and watch Jack playing air hockey, below.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Pictures With Mom

(Click on any picture to make it a bit bigger.)
By the tree tonight.

Jack jumped up and wanted a picture with his Bunny.

Good night! (Jack took this picture)

CLICK HERE for these pictures on Kodak Gallery.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

A Reflective Holiday Kickoff

Well, it's usually in the low 60's around Christmas-time in San Francisco. It was even 70 degrees last week. Jack and I have been reading about Santa, snowmen, and sledding in our short sleeve t-shirts. It doesn't feel like a traditional Christmas as I've known it growing up. Though, I still go with it and I try to explain to Jack what snow is, what it's like to make a snowman or to go sledding.

That's how I feel about Christmas this year. I feel like there's an ideal that's not being met and the whole season is a little off. The idea of family at the holidays is dismantled and we now need to cobble it together between several homes and new families. And though Jack may someday love having several Christmas's, I'm sad that he will be shuffled between homes, or leave one parent saddened because they cannot be with him, or leave extended family in an awkward situation of trying to keep the peace while still involving each of us in their celebration of the season.

Jack found a Christmas stocking
and decided to try it on
The former anticipation and happiness of the season seems deflated and emotionally draining now for me with all the inevitable sadness for some, complexities, scheduling, and shuffling that can be expected with each future holiday. But maybe it comes back to that's not how I grew up and I can't compare my reality to Jack's. Although it's not ever what I wanted for Jack or for our families, it is our reality now and I need to dig deep and find some joy in the present and be thankful and cherish the limited time that I do have with Jack instead of feeling punished over the time that I have been forced to relinquish. I've decided to start by kicking off the season with new traditions and upholding some old ones.

After the Thankgiving weekend I went down the block and lugged up a small tree for us. I strung the lights and bought a new star for the top; a symbol of our new beginnings together.

Jack and I trimmed the tree today. I decided to continue my tradition of buying one new ornament a year and let Jack choose it -- a shiny glass ornament shaped like a fire engine. As I do each year to whoever will listen, I told the story of each ornament as we hung it. My Uncle Connie's handmade wooden ornaments were the first to be placed in his honor (sadly, we lost him this year) and to have their story told.

After we trimmed the tree, we got ready for a new tradition -- an annual children's concert, Deck The Hall, at the San Francisco Symphony. The SF Symphony played a short interactive program of Christmas and Hannukah classics that was accompanied by a children's choir and dancing bears, trees, and Santa. For the finale, everyone sang Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and Tis the Season. In the lobby there were refreshments, candy, arts and crafts, and family favorite characters for photo opps. Several trees adorned the hall, tree lights twinkled, and kids were everywhere in their holiday clothes. I found myself finding joy in this afternoon and only teared up once at the line "All I Want For Christmas Is You", when I gave Jack an extra long hug.

CLICK HERE for more pictures of Jack and me trimming the tree and at the Deck The Hall holiday concert.

Below is a video of Jack exploring a box of decorations:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Santa Talks to Jack

Mindy's cousin, Peggi, sent this adorable video for Jack that has been fully customized with his name, picture, what he wants for Christmas, etc.

If you believe, click the link below to see Santa talk to Jack:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Future Gift

Click for a larger image
Jack is a very fortunate little boy who will receive lots of toys and clothes from generous family, friends, parents, and Santa this holiday season.

I am hoping that one gift this year will actually be a gift that he will enjoy several years from now. I came across a small book called, My Mom. Inside there are questions and space for Mom to answer questions about herself that give the reader insight into Mom's life past and present. Questions start with Mom's childhood (describe where you grew up, what music you listened to, who do you look like), move on to life before children (how did you meet Dad, how did you spend your free time), to motherhood (what was it like to become a Mom, what's the best/hardest thing, what advice would you pass on), to reflection (proudest moments in life, how life has changed, what do you still want to do in your lifetime, and how do you want to be remembered).

I hope it will be an interesting read for Jack someday when he realizes that life has ups and downs, but a Mom's love is unwavering. For when he realizes that Mom was also a youngster and teenager like he will have been one day, an adult who lived a rich life before having children, who then struggled to have children, and finally whose life was fulfilled in so many joyous ways by having a son she loves more than any words can articulate.

Occupy...the Mall

You may have read how the anti-Wall Street "Occupy" movement has sprung up across the nation to protest corporate greed. Today, I found myself in the midst of the Occupy San Francisco movement in Union Square (San Francisco's main shopping area) as they protested Black Friday's consumer culture.

I had basically finished my shopping for the day and had a full stomach from lunch, so I was feeling my second wind. I clutched my bags of capitalist goods and stopped by the mall sidelines to amuse myself with all the bongo-drumming, flying dreads, anti-consumerism signs, and wafts of patchouli, pot, and BO.

Mall rent-a-cops ushered the protesters along through and out the mall. Outside, San Francisco cops were forming barricades around intersections which kept the protesters on the move through the shopping district. Earlier the protesters were camping out at heavily trafficed intersections.

It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas in San Francisco - in other cities you can count on glistening snow or wreaths on every door. Here you can count on a protest on every holiday, convention, or tradition. Ah, never a dull moment!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


UPDATE 11/25/11 -- Jack ate 32 yogurts in 9 days. I went back to get two more boxes today!


I haven't been taking very good care of myself lately and my immune system has been greatly suffering. So, I made a trip to Costco to get a super-sized bottle of multi-vitamins, calcium supplements, and fish oil. I dumped them into the cart and weaved my way down each of the other aisles.

Costco has always been about toilet paper, garbage bags, and laundry detergent to me. I never really looked at the food aisles. And I never knew what I was missing! I found the same Yoplait yogurts, mozzarella sticks, organic eggs and chicken that I normally get at Whole Foods for a lot less. Though, it remains to be seen if Jack can eat 32 yogurts in the next month or 60 mozzarella sticks by February before they expire.

I also picked up a few things that won't expire - like a giant box of Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix with semi-sweet, bittersweet, and milk mini chocolate chips. I thought it would be something fun for Jack and I to do together. The box came with 6 separate packets of mix which will keep us in brownies for a long long time.

We made our first batch tonight. Jack had fun mixing the ingredients and leveling it into the pan. We both enjoyed licking our spoons. The brownies were foolproof - incredibly moist, chewy, and super chocolately.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Monkey See, Monkey Do

After her walk tonight, Stella laid down on one of the hallway stairs with one meaty little leg hanging down. When I went to take a picture, Jack decided he wanted to be in the picture too and laid down with her. Stella is so chill that she barely moved.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Another Month of Halloween Ends

A giggly shark and Santa Claus
Well, another Halloween month has come and gone.

Jack's preschool joined a costume parade this morning through the Marina neighborhood and he got lots of stickers and candy. When I picked him up from school, he was obsessed with his candy. I tried to convince him that candy is a treat and we eat it after dinner but that didn't fly. He asked me to unwrap a Tootsie roll and I took a bite - but evidently he didn't want to share either because he took a fit on the way home. See the video below for "Mommy Ate My Candy". After two years of barely any sugar, Jack now has "candy" firmly in his vocabulary.

After school, Jack and I went to our friend's house for pizza before heading out together for trick-or-treating on Fair Oaks Street. Their little boy, WyWy (Wyatt) is the same age as Jack and they are best buds.

On Halloween Day, Fair Oaks is closed to traffic for several blocks and the whole street gets into the action with decorations, music, haunted houses, etc. This is our second Halloween at Fair Oaks and Jack is so much fun as he is getting older. He and WyWy ran down the hills and from house to house to get treats. All the while laughing, holding hands, and pulling each other around.

CLICK HERE to see this year's pics of Jack and I with WyWy and friends trick-or-treating.

CLICK HERE to see us all last Halloween at Fair Oaks.

Pet Pride Day

I took Stella yesterday to the San Franciso Pet Pride Day in Golden Gate Park. The annual event is put on by the San Francisco Animal Care and Control.

Under clear blue skies and unobstructed sun in a meadow in Golden Gate Park, Stella and I made our way around the tents from various retail and rescue partners.

We spun a wheel and won some specialty doggie food, received plenty of treats, freebies, and pats. Stella got a nail trim and even received a massage.

The afternoon heated up quickly and Stella doesn't do well in the heat. She was one pooped pooch afterwards and sat next to me in the passenger seat on the way home where we blasted the A/C all on the way until we reached the front door.

It was a hot day today and thankfully there were lots of water stations.

Sporting her Bone Bandana, one of her many freebies.

Getting a doggie massage - and loving it.

One pooped pooch after all the fun!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Diwali

I had never heard of Diwali until I started working at Williams-Sonoma. Diwali is a major Indian festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil. Businesses shut down, people celebrate with dinners and parties, and exchange gifts.

Each year at work, we celebrate Diwali as many of our engineers are Indian. I missed it last year and this year I helped organize a lunch. We feasted on Indian food, decorated with flowers and lights, and streamed Bollyhood music videos.

Below is our team creating a traditional Indian design with different colorful powders and stencils. Lights were placed around it afterwards since 
Diwali means “festival of lights” in Hindi.

It's technically five days long, with each day representing a different facet of the festival of lights. In many communities, people pick one day of Diwali in particular to celebrate, often with fireworks and other large public festivities.

Diwali is also an auspicious time for new endeavors, and many people clean their homes and open all their windows and doors to welcome luck and good fortune during Diwali.

I was happy to be able to wear some of the clothes that I bought in India while attending a friend's wedding a few years ago. I was even given a bindi by a friend at work to complete the look.

In multicultural San Francisco, I don't know why I was surprised that Jack's preschool also talked to the kids about Diwali last week.

Happy Diwali!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Oh, Playdoh!

Jack and I found some old Playdoh party favors today from his first birthday party. Like Twinkies, I guess, Playdoh never goes bad if you don't take it out of its package. The Playdoh kept Jack and me occupied for a long time as we flattened it over and over again and cut out shapes. Some toys are truly classics.

Happy Fall

This weekend we ushered in Fall with Jack's first leaf rubbing.

Halloween Updates

Halloween is a fun time of year that feels like a warm-up for Christmas - lots of generosity from friends and family with packages and cards. CLICK HERE to see some recent updates to our earlier Halloween post.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Indian Summer

It has been spectacular Indian Summer weather here -- high 70's with blue skies and even warm enough for a t-shirt in the morning. I took the opportunity early one sunny morning this weekend while Tom had Jack to spend some quality one-on-one time with Stella. We roamed my favorite place, the beach. Stella and I walked for a long time and played frisbee. Then we sat to rest together under the warmth of the sun and stared out at the sea with its rhythmic roar and tumble of waves towards us and back out again towards the horizon. A soothing and calming start to the day.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Drop! Cover! Hold On!

I felt two earthquakes today -- one at 2:41pm (a 4.0 magnitude) while I was in a meeting and an aftershock at 8:16pm while at home (a 3.8 magnitude). Both were centered just across the Bay near Berkeley, about 11 miles from San Francisco, and classified as small. No injuries or damage reported.

I was scared. Though it seems like I am the only one out here that is scared by an unpredictable jerking of the earth that can down power lines, break apart concrete sidewalks/walls/bridges, and create tidal waves. For me, it's the ensuing aftermath of destruction that is the result of an earthquake which scares me - fire, tsunamis, live electrical lines in the street, falling and flying objects, downed cell phone lines, stalled transportation and damaged roads that separate me from being with Jack.

The earthquakes that I have felt in the past usually feel like a little sway or a rumble for 2 or 3 seconds and you think maybe you just got dizzy for a moment. The earthquake this afternoon felt like a violent jolt followed by rumble. Like somone dropped a truck on the roof. I actually didn't feel the earthquake in the evening as much as I heard the whole house rattle for a couple of seconds.

Today's quakes occurred within 3 days of the 22nd anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake (7.1 magnitude) that struck Northern California in 1989 during the World Series. That earthquake killed 63 people, injuring and leaving thousands of people homeless.

What's so funny is that we had a statewide preparedness drill,  "The Great California ShakeOut", just earlier this morning. At 10:20am, 8.5 million Californians participated in the disaster drill. We were instructed to get under our desks for 1 minute. Public transportation stopped. People in Target ducked under their carts. Hilarious, right? Until 4 hours and then another 6 hours later when two earthquakes struck for real!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bunny's Awake!

Jack consistently wakes up at 6:15am and is an early bird. I am not. In order to have enough time to get ready for work, I'd need Jack to stay in bed until at least 7:00am but he was still too young to tell time. What to do?

I found this "clock" on Amazon. You can set the clock with two wakeup and sleep times -- one for naps and one for bedtime. When it's time for sleep, the bottom bunny is illuminated. When it's time for wakeup, the top bunny is illuminated.

Works like a charm. Jack still wakes up at 6:15am but he knows to stay in bed until the top bunny is illuminated. Now every day at 7:00am you can hear Jack screaming, "Mommy, Bunny Awake, Bunny Awake!"

And then we start our day.

Here's our morning routine in action:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halloween's Here

UPDATED on October 29,  2011:

Cousin Annie sent a package of treats for Jack and Stella. The candy was all gone in a blink, but the pumpkin socks and straw are a big hit with Jack as were the dog toys with Stella:

Aunt Nancy sent a wooden pumpkin to add to our patch and a Halloween counting book that Jack likes me to read three times before going to bed:

Lola sent Halloween stickers which he used to festively decorate everything from his nose, to his truck, to Bunny Rabbit:


ORIGINAL POSTING October 16, 2011:

If it's mid-October then Halloween must be here.

For the first of our Halloween festivities this year, today Jack and I attended the Bay Area Discovery Museum's annual fundraiser - Goblin Jamboree - with my friend Michelle and her daughter Charlotte.

This is our second year to the Jamboree and it didn't disappoint. There were plenty of activities where the kids each receive prizes like stickers and plastic spiders, we made potions in the witches’ and wizard’s school, listened to live music, patted bunnies in the petting zoo, had a pony ride, and took advantage of the museum's many places to climb and explore.

After naptime and dinner, Jack decorated his first pumpkin by himself with glittery stickers.
I carved a pumpkin last night and opted for an LED light instead of a candle for safety. Halloween has gone high tech. The LED light is very cool with a toggle for a flickering candlelight or steady light effect, a 4 hour or 8 hour timer, and a remote. Jack has figured out the remote and likes to turn on the pumpkin which he did tonight and then proudly placed his pumpkin next to the carved one.

CLICK HERE for more pictures of today at the Goblin Jamboree and Jack decorating his first pumpkin.

CLICK HERE for a flashback to last year's Halloween season.

Here's a video of Jack climbing and crawling through the museum's tree house:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Couch Series

I have two good friends who have started a standing dinner date at my house every couple of weeks. Jack loves it when Auntie C (Christabel) and Auntie Dar (Linda) come over, and Stella gets all excited at the opportunity for more pats. Mom loves the good company and friendship they've provided through these past several weeks, and the bonus of a homecooked meal when they come over!

CLICK HERE for the "Couch Series" which was taken during one of these nights.

Sleeping Beauty