Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sunrise, Sunset

Pictures never seem to do them justice.

We raced home on our bikes to try to capture these in time...just caught the tail end of it...

The End of 2017!

Continued from Part II...

Eileen continued to be a frequent visitor at our house. Tyler and Eileen met when they were 3, at preschool. They have not been in the same class ever since that first year, but they are at the same school, and continue to be best friends. This house is ideal for entertaining - there are so many options available to them - Eileen enjoys climbing up on the top bunk of the bunk beds, or they spend time in the family room, outside on the swingset, and occasionally, they end up in the living room to watch music videos. Eileen and her dad sometimes bike home from school, her dad kindly escorting us to our house before they head home. We enjoy the company, and he enjoys the opportunity for her to burn off some energy before homework time. That green shirt reminds me, Tyler got Eileen excited about Minecraft, and so her mom let her sign up for Minecraft Club since Tyler was doing it. And...the club was so popular that they had to split it into two sessions. Eileen's club met on a different day. So much for getting to be together!

 Tyrien's favorite show to watch on TV was "A Dog's Life", for a long time. This show was about the intelligence and sociology of pet dogs, including a variety of fun, behavioral experiments. One of the dogs happens to look a lot like Vader. Tyrien gets excited to see him, calling out, "Look, it's Vader!" Even though that dog is shown briefly, Tyrien loves to watch the entire show, over and over.

In September, Tyrien began watching Octonauts instead of A Dog's Life. We were happy with this too, it teaches facts about marine life and the importance of protecting the environment. Not to mention, I hope our kids will be as interested in marine life as I am when they grow up, so we can go on diving adventures together.

I asked Tyrien what kind of birthday party he wanted, but he was not able to answer. Based on his interest, we decided to throw another Octonauts birthday party. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to prepare for a party in light of our hectic schedules and the fact that kids tend to make messes. I had always thought that hosting a party at our own house would allow us to prep in advance, but so far, it has been windy or rainy the day before each party. This year, I took the day before off, and invited Anne Marie. I love party prepping with Anne Marie, it reminds me of the time we used to spend alone together, pre-kids, when Tyson had to work on Saturdays. This time, we got off to a slow start because I was stuck dealing with a work issue and was delayed. Then we cleaned, but the house was messy again by the next day. Next time, we'll make the cake and prep decorations first, and save the cleaning for either the night before or the day of the party. We were also trying to anticipate Tyson's preferences, which fluctuate between believing the inside of the house doesn't need to be clean because it's an outdoor party, to wanting a portion of the inside clean in case people come inside, to wanting the entire house spic and span AND wanting the yard cleaned up as well. Again, next time, decorations should be prepped first, even if they can't be hung yet.

I couldn't find Octonaut party invitations, so found a template and printed them at Kinko's. Tyrien was so excited to see his name sharing the same piece of paper as the Octonauts, so we posted it on the refrigerator at his eye level. 

Tyrien had just moved from the 2 year old classroom to the 3  year old class - the same teacher and classroom that Tyler had! Unfortunately, the kids we invited to the party were young 2 year olds instead of older 2s and young 3s. That changed the dynamic of the party! Several planned activities were instantly scrapped. Tyrien opted to play with the older kids, ignoring his younger guests, who preferred the swings, sticking close to their parents.

This is blurry, but such a happy memory - Leo lookinng on as Tyrien slides into the pile of Izzy, Tyler, and Eileen. We feel so lucky that our kids are so comfortable with the children of our friends, and that they are growing up together.

We did convince all the kids to play Duck, Duck, Goose, only we called it, "Squid, Squid, Octopus." Dahkniel helped me run a fishing pond, where the kids threw their line over the wall, and he hooked a ziplock bag with a paper fish, fish stickers, and a Finding Dory pencil, tugged the line, and the kids pulled their fish back over the wall to retrieve it. The kids that were on the top deck of the swing set were proud to share the secret behind the fishing pond, watching Dan hook the fish. It had never occurred to me that this was supposed to be a secret.

I made jello cups with "eels" in them, so the kids had to dig through the jello to find their sea creature. This was a bigger hit than I expected.

It was fun to see how some kids proceeded to eat the jello, while others were repulsed by it!

During pre-party prep, I showed Tyrien pictures of Octonaut-themed cakes to choose from. He selected the same cake I had made for Tyler's fifth birthday. This time I used fondant. I don't like the taste, but I do like working with the texture, and realized that instead of buying a bunch of different candies, I could just color and shape the fondant accordingly. This year, I didn't buy enough fondant, and was trying to stretch it over and over until it finally occurred to me to read the box to see how much fondant was needed for that size cake, so I had to make an emergency trip to the store late at night. So much for being faster at cake-making this year.

The last time I made this cake, there wasn't enough to go around, so this year, I made a sheet cake to serve as the ocean. We ended up with way too much cake. C'est la vie. But it is so fun to see the look of joy on a child's face when they see their birthday cake. I should try to make sure to capture THAT photo.

 At some point, Tyler came home from school with a beautiful, glossy brochure for the "Apex Fun Run." It was in less than two weeks. High gloss brochure for a school fundraiser, in less than two weeks? We'd just done the Spell-a-thon! Tyson and I decided not to sign his permission slip. A few days later, Tyler was talking about the Apex Fun Run the whole way home from school, and again throughout the night. He's never shown an interest in running before, so we decided to go for it. But we refused to do his fundraising for him.

We coached him on creating a sales pitch, then listened to his side of his phone calls. He left a message for Anne Marie. So we tried Jonell.  He left another message. Anne Marie called back. He gave his pitch, and of course, we heard her ask, "How much do you think I should pledge?"
"How about $5 per lap? Or maybe $20."
"How about $2 per lap?" she countered.
"How about 5?" he countered back. I couldn't stop cracking up.

Then Aunt Jonell called back. He was still negotiating with Anne Marie, so I gave Jonell a heads' up about the glossiness of the brochures until he was ready to start working on her. His sales pitch went smoothly, and he closed the deal quickly. Next was Grandma G. Somehow he convinced her to pledge $5 a lap! He was going to be allowed to run up to 36 laps! I quickly did the math, and told him to warn her how much money she might be committing to.

Tyler was proud that he had five pledges. The day of the race, I helped him select a layered outfit for running. I was sad that neither of his parents were going to see him run. That morning, I asked how many laps he thought he could run. "I don't know."
"How many laps have you been running during practice?"
"What practice?"
"During gym, then."
"We can't run in the gym, it's too small."
"How have you been preparing for this run?"
"We collected money."
I was downright freaked at this point. Who ever heard of running up to 36 laps without ever practicing? I did the math. 2.25 miles. I remember when I first started running in PE, one mile was a big deal. 2.25???

My coworker convinced me I should go watch him run, and offered to cover my class for me. Tyson was home sick that day, so he showed up to watch him run, too. It turned out, the kids had to stop after each lap to get a tally mark on their T-shirt. Plenty of rest. Tyler cranked out those 36 laps just fine.

 The joy of finishing! Tempered with agony.

The friends found each other quickly.

Proving they actually completed all 36 laps...

I'm sure the school didn't make much money on a fundraiser like this, but it was a joy to see Tyler push himself and succeed. He was so proud!

It was also time to focus on Christmas. We again went to the tree sale for the Tucson Boys' Chorus. This year we selected a Douglas Fir. Beautiful tree, but no pine scent, yet Tyson and I were allergic.

 I continued Jonell's tradition (which is really her mother-in-law, Peggy Johnson's tradition) of matching Christmas jammies for willing participants (Tyler, Tyrien, Anne Marie and me.) This year Target had some cute ones. Unfortunately, Anne Marie's and my package contained only a child size 4 blue legging instead of adult pajamas. It took some work, but I was lucky enough to get the problem resolved in time for Christmas. Meanwhile, the boys started wearing theirs right away. Tucson winter is so short, and this house gets so cold, I figured they were right, it was impractical to wait until Christmas Eve to wear them.

In keeping with my desperate ploy to teach my kids that Christmas is about "giving", not receiving, Tyler was required to join me in working for Toys for Tots. Maybe not the best venue for my goal - a warehouse full of toys. He was most uncooperative this year, even though we were lucky enough to be "runners" - taking the tickets from the parents, and running from one toy section to the next, selecting gifts for the family. I loved seeing the look of relief on the parent's face when we handed her multiple bags of toys. But Tyler wasn't feeling it. My quest to teach Tyler the spirit of Christmas was nowhere near complete.

We made cookies well in advance this year, and I learned the error of planning ahead - most of the cookies disappeared before it was time to give them away.  But it was a great way to get the kids in the spirit of Christmas. We made cookie cutter sugar  cookies, took the time to decorate them, and managed to reserve a couple for Santa. Then Tyson informed us that Santa doesn't actually like sugar cookies. He prefers chocolate chip. So on Christmas Eve we resorted to making slice and bake chocolate cookies, just to get in good with Santa.

Tyler prepared a plate of cookies for his teacher. I invited him to consider making a plate of cookies for last year's teacher, too - I know he still sees her, she was his soccer coach, and I remembered him commenting on how happy she was when he brought her a cookie last year. Good thing! While his teacher's reaction to her Christmas cookies was a harsh "Careful - don't drop them, you'll make a mess!" his previous teacher was delighted with her gift. One step forward towards understanding the spirit of Christmas...

Tyrien fell in love with this hat. 

 I had bought it to wear to work a few years ago. Tyler claimed it, then Tyrien. There were battles over this hat. One day Tyler wore it to school and somehow the pom-pom got ripped off and there were footprints on the white fur. So I stuffed it full of newspaper and let our gargoyle wear it for the rest of the season.

The Santa hat with the Halloween skeleton jammies reminds me of Jack Skellington and the Nightmare Before Christmas.

We worked on our gingerbread house - a kit, as usual, because nobody in our house has time for all that. This really does seem to be Tyler's favorite tradition. I vaguely heard Tyrien say "Tyler, I put it in my nose!" I assumed he meant frosting, and calmly responded, "We don't put things up our nose." "Oh-kaaaay." Then a minute later, I heard Tyrien cry, "It burns!" He'd stuck a tiny little candy way up inside his nose!

It is funny just how much we remember from our first job. When lifeguarding, when a kid gets injured, the first thing we do is get them into the first aid office, away from all the action, away from other people. We were trained to be calm, and by remaining calm, help to calm the injured child, along with a soothing tone of voice and demeanor, and to make them believe their injury is relatively mundane. When our kids get hurt now, the first thing I do is almost always to carry them to the bathroom with the first aid supplies, trying to get them away from the action of the rest of the household, and to speak in soothing tones, staying calm, treating them as though their injury is no cause for alarm. Tyson has a different approach.

When Tyrien cried out, "It burns!", I picked him up, carried him to the bathroom and stood him up on the counter so I could see, while he continued to scream and cry.  From the outside, I could see the ball shaped object was so high, it was near his tear duct. I began massaging it downward, trying to soothe him. After a couple minutes, he was still crying, the ball was still stuck, and I was beginning to consider the thought that a trip to the ER might be in our future...Tyson eventually overheard the ruckus, and burst into the bathroom, shouting, "Really? Are you going to be THAT kid? Don't be that kid who puts stuff up their nose! Oh, wow, it's way up there!!!" Tyson shouldered his way in, and took over massaging his nose, by which time the candy had begun to melt, so colored liquid was running out of Tyrien's nose. Tyson taught him to perform a farmer's blow into a babywipe, and eventually the little green candy came out, along with brightly colored mucus. Tyrien hugged Tyson fiercely in relief. I laughed at the fact that  I can calmly, soothingly, work on a child's injuries, while Tyson comes in yelling and scolding, and yet the kids are instantly comforted by his presence. Just the other day, Tyrien was running to the mailbox and tripped and fell, landing at my feet. I began to soothe him and look at his injuries, and sure enough, Tyson came running outside, scolded him for running too fast down a hill, picked him up, and again I watched as Tyrien collapsed in relief against him. Even Vader used to sit still to let Tyson pluck cactus from his legs, scolding and complaining all the while. It never occurred to me that first aid with simultanous scolding would be comforting, yet clearly, it is, and it's obviously a role Tyson delights in. I hope our kids always remember their father rushing to attend to their injuries, and the comfort they derived from his approach.

Our neighborhood "Rooftop Santa" was different this year - the house that Santa had always visited had been sold, and no one with a flat roof was offering to let Santa have a party on his roof. Hey, it's an old neighborhood, everyone's probably afraid his bodyweight would cause permanent damage. Plus, it seems the houses with the flat roofs are the ones that are less likely to have a chimney. He needs a chimney for his show. So this year, instead of a show, it was just a beautifully decorated yard, and a photo op with Santa. It turned out, Anne Marie had taken Tyler to see Santa the day before, unbeknownst to me, so Tyler saw no point in waiting in line to talk to Santa again. I could see his point. I asked Tyler to please be a good sport for Tyrien so we could get a photo. He begrudingly agreed. We waited in line, and, right when it was their turn, Tyrien suddenly realized he was too afraid to sit with Santa. Another good reminder that Christmas is about people - human beings. Little human beings who have their own hopes, dreams, and fears, independent of their parents', and who don't always want to do the things we expect them to do.

But they still have to make the effort. I took every opportunity I saw to teach Tyler about social contracts. "If you want to celebrate Christmas, you have to fulfill the social contract. Christmas is not about getting toys. It's about celebrating the birth of Jesus, the life of Jesus, and honoring his life's work by being kind and generous to others. If you really want  to skip  volunteering to help the less fortunate, and you want to skip  the church service, then we're not honoring the true meaning of Christmas, and that means we don't need to be celebrating Christmas." "I want to celebrate Christmas!" Okay. Then you have to volunteer and go to church. AND you have to smile for pictures."

Finally Christmas Eve arrived. Anne Marie came packed and ready for a sleepover. Our quest to find the right church has been a long one, but we liked Catalina at Easter, because they were so kid-friendly, so we returned to Catalina for Christmas. The brotherly love on approaching the church melted my heart.

They did a great job during the service! After the service, we drove around looking at Christmas lights. It is an annual tradition from my childhood, and for some reason, Tyler HATES it. He wants so much for Christmas to arrive, he seems to think driving around is somehow preventing Christmas from coming. The truth is, driving around gives me ideas for next year's decorations, and more importantly, gives Tyson more time to get things done.

We put out the cookies and milk for Santa - chocolate chip per Tyson's recommendation. Then we put out food for the reindeer - when I was a kid, we just left carrots by the fireplace. But I borrow Aunt Jonell's tradition of putting oats outside, so the reindeer can eat while Santa's inside, arranging the gifts.

With Vader gone, it was convenient to put out his dog food bowl instead of scattering the oats on the ground. I think the reindeer liked it better, the oats were all gone the next day.

This year the kids remembered to wake us up, I think this was the first year they awoke before me. .

Tyler shows excitement by dabbing.

Love the fashion model pose.

It's hard to get spontaneous photos that show Grandma's face - she is always looking at the boys :) But I promise, she was there!

More pics...

For some reason, opening gifts this year required opening one's mouth as wide as possible at the same time.

Seriously. We did not encourage this.

I don't know where they get it.

In the afternoon, Great Grandma Allaire, aka Gigima, and Anita, aka Auntie Em, came to visit.

I'll never forget the conclusion of their visit - on our front porch, Gigima grabbed me by the shoulders, speaking very emphatically to me, while out of the corner of my eye, I could see Tyson walking in circles around Anita's vehicle, drawing pictures in the dust on her windows, and Anita chasing him to erase each picture, but not wiping down the entire window, so the cycle continued, and Gigima's diabtribe concluded with her passionate cry, "I just want to live ALONE!" 

Tyson's cousin James and his son Christopher joined us for dinner that night. It  was so awesome to have all of the Allaire family at our house at some point on Christmas. 

What a great day!

Next was Winter Staycation. Who ever thought a staycation would be relaxing??? With kids, it becomes endless referring, endless cooking, cleaning, dishes. Staycation really just equates to..."stay at home mom-dom." Not my cup of tea.

On the 26th, I briefly violated "Official Play With Your Toys Day" to meet up with our Candian cousins, the Pattons, for lunch while they were in town for the day. This was the day that I learned, routine finally matters to the Sleepless Wonder. The boy who never regulated his sleep cycle, who seemed to have no need for scheduled bed times, wake times, meal times, naps, or other activities, suddenly was a disaster without his routine. Tyrien was in full meltdown mode for the entire lunch, repeatedly throwing himself headfirst into the floor, bashing his forehead, then flipping over to his back so he could bash the back of his head as well. I carried him screaming to the car, stuffed him into his carseat, strapped him in, rolled down the windows, then walked back to the restaurant to say goodbye. Don't worry, I could still hear his hollering the entire time. Tyler, on the other hand, had a fantastic lunch, looking at his cousins with pure joy in his eyes. I would have taken a picture of that, but couldn't get the shot, because I had a whirling dervish attacking me the entire time.

 The next day, I utilized a better strategy. I called in a friend. A friend I love and trust. A friend who knows how to survive the "stay at home mom" thing. A friend with kids my kids' age. And most importantly, a friend who has a zoo membership. Sarah!

Instant improvement in sibling relations.

At the end of our time together, Sarah and I chatted while Leo, Auggie, and Tyler embarked on an entrepreneurial  business venture together. They even designated a CEO, CFO, and COO. Tyrien was assigned to manual labor.

The next day, I also had an effective plan of attack. Or so I thought. Roller skating with Eileen!

I paid for Tyrien to get a cheater rack. I refused to get one for the older kids. That thing about kids being human beings...Tyrien didn't need the cheater rack, because he was in no way willing to wear roller skates. Meanwhile, Eileen commandeered someone else's cheater rack.

Tyler and Eileen had a great time. Tyrien did too, once I gave up on trying to get him to skate. He danced on a bench for two hours. I got to skate around the rink twice in that time.

The final day of staycation, we went to Paula's to watch a fight. And by watch a fight, I mean...

As for New Year's, well, I think this says it all.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Highlights from 2017 Part II

Continued from Part I...

Part II...

We continued to celebrate spontaneous sleeping in a variety of locations.

While in Greer, I received word from our townhouse tenants that they were moving in less than 30 days. This set of a flood of concerns and interesting experiences. These folks were very private and so limited in their communications, that we began to prepare for the worst - they had a dog, but were not willing to admit they had a dog, which set up the grounds for distrust. They wouldn't return my calls, and would respond via email but not answering our questions. We made our best guess and posted the rental on multiple website - receiving an overwhelming response. We had never tried renting out a house in August - right before college starts. Meanwhile, our tenants sent another email requesting that they extend their lease for an undefined period of time. After several unanswered calls and emails, I studied up on landlord tenant law, and resorted to posting an envelope on their door, as well as email and certified letter, knowing that if they did not in fact vacate the premises, I would have to start the eviction process. We just had to wait and see what they would do.

Meanwhile, I had to leave for Sedona for a conference. Anne Marie and Tyrien came with me. They got to play at the pool while I was stuck inside windowless, overairconditioned ballrooms all day. But we did get a little bit of time together to explore.

My favorite part of this trip was when we drove to Flagstaff to see Emery, Noah and Wesley. Too bad I forgot to take any pictures!

When we got back, it was time for Tyler's and my staycation to close out the summer before the start of school. The "Five Days of Tyler" were a blast! In a perfect world, we would spend every day, all day, at the pool. But in Tucson, for some reason, the pools don't open until 1pm, of course, in July in Tucson, there are thunderstorms most afternoons. Alas, the pool experience is an unreliable one. So we had to get creative.
The first day, we went to Golf-n-Stuff.

Tyler enjoyed putt-putt. He LOVED bumper boats. When the rain started, we headed for the indoor activities. For some reason, laser tag "freaked him out." We were the only two people in there, and I could not get far enough away from him to surprise him. Reminded me of his young octopus days, where he would suction cup to me in the swimming pool or ocean, and I couldn't get him to detach! Of course, he loved Star Wars Battle Pod.

The second day, we went to the trampoline park. No pictures in there, but we had a blast on the trampolines, in the foam pit, and especially, playing "Duck Hunter." Finally, a game I'm good at! So much jumping burns off a lot of energy...

Tyler lost more teeth, leading to this beautiful smile.

The third day, we traveled to Mount Lemmon for fishing. Tyson was hilariously outraged about this, "You don't know anything about fishing!" Much to our surprise, as soon as we walked down to Rose Canyon Lake, two boys ran up to us to say hello  - Logan and Zane from Catalina!

Before Tyrien was born, I used to sit with their dad and let Tyler play with these guys before heading home each day. Tyler was always fascinated with Zane's bald head. How fun to have a reunion! And their dad immediately set up Tyler's fishing line and introduced us to artificial worms. 

After about 20 minutes, of course, it started raining, triggering a mass exodus. Tyler and I stayed behind to enjoy having the lake to ourselves!

The fourth day was roller skating. Tyler looked like Bambi learning to stand for the first time. Or like the main character from King's Quest when he's drowning.

He wanted so much to use a cheater's rack, and I wouldn't let him. I usually snap a photo to send to Tyson mid-date. When Tyson saw this, he immediately texted back that he himself was unable to ever learn to skate - he just couldn't find his balance. So I lowered my expectations, but still wouldn't let him use the rack. Tyler ran into his rival from Little Dragons, and saw him progress from cheater's rack to independent skating. That, along with some pizza, motivated Tyler to figure it out.

By the end of the session, we were able to skate around the rink a couple of times, with Tyler clinging to my hand and occasionally taking me out. But we were finally having fun!

The fifth day, I asked Tyler to select an activity. He opted to return to Golf-n-Stuff! I regretted not having bought an entertainment book. Note to self - buy an entertainment book. It has coupons for ALL of these activities, it would have cut the price of this week in half!

Meanwhile, the townhouse...everything was fine with the tenants' move out. It turned out, they were relocating to another country for her work! And were excited about it, and jumped the gun, not realizing how long it would take to get a visa. They were actually quite understanding about my inability to extend their lease. They just never got around to telling me!

Another note to self - tenants do NOT remember the terms of their lease. Schedule 90 day reminder to check in with them about renewing! I really appreciated working with Tyson on this, given his experience with "customers" - being firm, but realistic. Together, we'd decided not to penalize them for improper notice, but rather, cut our losses and just help them move out. We decided not to try to penalize them for hiding a dog, again, let's just help them move out. Then when asked to let them stay longer, making that difficult decision to proceed with their original move out notice, based on the difficulties communicating with them. We recognized that since they wouldn't be up front about their dog, it would be impossible to show the home while they were still in it, and it would be too hard to find new tenants when we had no clear move out date from the current ones. Listing the apartment so far in advance before being able to show it probably didn't pay off, we probably didn't need to list it as early as we did. We received an onslought of calls, and I had difficulty returning them all. I kept notes on each call, and kept a good schedule for showings. I learned that people don't always show up to scheduled showings, so started booking them 20 minutes apart and making reminder calls, and even then, not everyone showed, and some people showed early, others showed late, so often I had multiple people looking at the house at the same time. I liked that, I felt safer having more people around, and it created competition and a sense of urgency amongst prospective tenants. As always, I learned alot about the different kinds of people there are in the world, and that they didn't understand that I wasn't automatically obliged to rent to them. I was still shocked by the entitlement of some, such as the young college student who became angry and refused to remove her shoes to walk on the freshly cleaned, still damp carpet, clueless that her attitude could and would disqualify her from becoming my tenant. Noticing that everyone else readily took off their shoes and expressed appreciation that I had just had the carpet cleaned. There was the kind basketball player who was about to graduate, and who already knew who he would be subletting to, not realizing that I had the right to refuse subletting. The young couple who thought it would be fun to be playfully mysterious with me, not realizing that failure to give straight answers to direct questions meant I wouldn't be able to screen them, let alone establish a sense of trust. The gentleman who pressured me to change my eligibilility criteria, quoting laws from a different state, and Tyson's advice on how to handle this ("Do NOT meet him in person. Call him and cancel that showing. Get out of it. Now.") The pleasant teenage couple with a service dog and another large dog, who I was excited to rent to, but when their credit screening indicated they needed a co-signer, the young man, so proud and excited of his new career, took offense and refused, despite their complaints that other places were refusing to accept  their second dog based on its size and breed. The woman whose husband had a stroke, derailing her search for a home. The sweet woman whose boyfriend's violent criminal history, plus her lack of income, hindered her ability to find a home. The woman who on the phone had a boyfriend and one child, but suddenly had  three children when she filled out the application, who said they'd be back in 30 minutes with their application fee, and instead, emailed that they'd changed their minds because townhouse was too small for 5 people, not thinking about the fact that I wouldn't be checking emails in a vacant house, and that I'd be sitting waiting for them in said vacant house with a tired, hungry toddler . The devoted mother who wanted to rent the home sight unseen for her two boys, and following Tyson's recommendation to require that she wait until it could be seen, rather than risk her locking into a lease that she might be unhappy with. Meeting so many people, and learning so much along the way.

Tyler for the most part was miserable when it was his turn to show the town house with me. But on the night we met our new tenants, he immediately took to them, taking the lead on the tour, effectively showcasing the highlights of the property. He worked hard, and wore himself out. You think your kids aren't listening, and then suddenly you hear them quoting you...

All those trips to the townhouse tended to happen at either sunrise or sunset. Despite the hassles, I was reminded how much I love this property on a daily basis. I still can't believe I was able to buy this at the age of 25, back when my salary was only $25k a year! Grateful to my family for teaching me how to stretch the value of the dollar and how to save! 

Tyler and Eileen had been asking for a sleepover. I decided instead to offer them a "lock-in". The night of the Perseid meteor shower, we traveled to the vacant townhouse for our lock in. We planned to swim, but when we got out to the pool, there was a beautiful dry electrical storm, so we couldn't risk it. We ate pizza, played games, and watched movies. The kids were asleep before 10. I set my alarm  for 12:30am, planning to drive them to Gate's Pass to watch for meteors. When my alarm went off, it was pouring rain, with lots of lightning. So much for meteor showers!

We woke up to this sight - fog in the valley!!! But in a couple of hours, the sun came out, the fog cleared up, perfect swimming weather. We had the pool to ourselves, and had a blast.

Tyler opted to wear his school shirt to his first day of school. He claims he hates school, yet when asked where he goes, he proudly recites the formal name.

We celebrated Tyson's birthday with our annual tradition of ice cream cake. So grateful that Grandma A came to celebrate with us!

Evidence that riding a bike as an adult is still a work in progress...grateful to our camp nurse for showing me the best way to wrap my hand!

Words can't describe how I felt when Tyler wore this shirt for the first time. I fell in love with the Gourmet Pizza Deli/Lost Dog Cafe in high school, the one on Washington Boulevard, near Lebanese Taverna, my other favorite Arlington restaurant. My sister's sister in law bought Tyler this shirt when he was four years old - so excited that he can finally wear it!

Tyson had bought me a gift certificate to Miraval Spa for Christmas. I had a hard time scheduling it. My admin helped me book the reservation and select activities. I was completely out of my comfort zone, spending a day in solitude amongst people who go to spas. Although I would prefer to go with a friend, spending a day there was an amazing experience!

I would definitely like to go back some day. I'd skip the personal development stuff though - I'd get a massage and some new physical activity, spend a little time on personal reflection, but also spend time with a friend.

Celebrating the development of the boys' relationship...Tyrien used Tyler as a substitute for Vader - sitting on him and petting him. Sometimes Tyler put up with it.

Still getting good use out of Vader's bed.

In October, we threw my mom a surprise birthday party. I picked her up from the airport, and then when she came into our house, my sister, mother-in-law, and our friends jumped out and threw confetti at her.

My sister had arrived one day earlier, and took Tyrien to the Desert Museum while the rest of us were at work or in school. I was so glad that Tyrien had the opportunity to spend time with his Aunt Jonell!

The second day of Grandma G's visit, her cousins Gary and Beth came down for a visit. The next day, Jonell's flight was delayed, so we spent time at the Botanical Gardens. What a great way to spend a flight delay! Grandma G then went on an adventure with her friend, Toshiko. Together, they rode the bus down to 4th Ave, ate lunch, took the trolley back, and then took the bus back.

The next day, we rented a van and drove to Albuquerque for the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

We attended the sunrise balloon session, the morning session, and the evening session.

Full disclosure - this trip included two six-hour drives, a 4am wakeup call, a 4:30am traffic jam, and then, everyone is required to leave the park between the morning and evening sessions. We tried napping at the hotel, but the kids' schedule was too messed up. There were meltdowns. Tyrien finally fell asleep right about when we were planning to leave, so then when we finally did leave, we were stuck in evening rush hour, and there was a detour forcing us off the freeway, but with no explanation as to how to get back to our destination, leading to an even worse traffic jam. But then when we finally got into the park, it looked like this:

Tyler and Tyrien requested light sabers. Usually at an event like this, we stay focused on the experience, and don't give in to requests to buy material things. We made an exception this time, and it turned out to be awesome.

The boys loved both the lightsabers and the balloons, and spontaneously held hands for much of the night. We learned Tyrien is not yet ready to love fireworks!

Celebrated more spontaneous sleeping.

Also celebrated moments of spontaneous horizontal orientation, amidst statements along the lines of, "No, I'm not tired!"

Part of my preparation for my Krav Maga test:

A little healthy competition helped get my head in the game.

After the test! As usual, Elizabeth looks calm, cool, and collected, while I look like a mess!

My partner for the test - I learned after that the purpose of the bandanna was to wipe off sweat. Note to self - the braid was a good idea, but bring a hairbrush for after the test.

Words can't express my joy that Gigima and Auntie Em joined us for Tyrien's family birthday this year. Family birthday dinners were a big deal during my childhood - how I loved that my siblings and their spouses would come home and spend the evening with us! I miss my family so much, especially on occasions such as these, so am always grateful that Grandma A joins us. This was the first time in a while that Gigima and Auntie Em came too - this is the kind of family celebration I love!