Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fiesta Month 2010

As luck would have it, four of the six birthdays in our family happen within a three week period: mine on February 21st, Andrea's on March 2nd, and Jayden's and Owen's both on March 4th. This year, another unfortunate day of note coincided with our usual craziness with Andrea's grandmother passing away on February 28. We spent Andrea's birthday driving down to the San Luis Valley for her funeral services, but we also found time to celebrate the kids' birthday.

The first part of the celebration, on the big day itself, was an evening of fine dining at the Alamosa Burger King, which of course included some fun with cousins at the playland. Even better, when we got home that evening, the boys got to open some presents.

"Can I play with it now? Can I play with it now? Can I play with it now?"

"I am... eight years old!" "I... have claws!"

A few days later, on Saturday, we continued a tradition of having a birthday party for all the kids together at Andrea's parents' house, which is always attended by all the family in the area, including my parents, who drive the two hours up from Los Alamos, NM. As if a houseful of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other relatives weren't enough, we also had a piñata, cake, and of course more presents.

Star Wars toys, frosting and kids: an explosive combination

"I'll be with you just as soon as I finish building this log cabin."

"Can I play with it now? Can I play with it now? Can I play with it now?

Finally, to bring to a close the fiesta month, we threw the kids a birthday party in Greeley where they could invite their friends. At the boys' request, this event took place at that Mecca of childhood party-going, Chuck E. Cheese's, which of course made the previous party seem like a solemn prayer meeting at a monastery. But amid the pizza, cake and blur of video game noise, there were some extremely happy kids.

"Cry 'havoc,' and let slip the dogs of virtual mega-war!"

"No, officer, I wasn't speeding!"

"So make sure you don't change lanes in an intersect— hey, are you paying attention?"

"Hi ho Silver, away!"

The decorations have been put away now, the cake has long been eaten, the piñata candy has been... okay, well, we're still working on finishing that off, little by little. But fiesta month is behind us, and we're okay with it. There's always another one lurking on the horizon...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Andrea & Toby & Billy & Elton

Andrea and I have both been fans of Billy Joel and Elton John for a long time, and I was able to fulfill one of my long-time dreams two years ago when we saw Billy in concert at the Pepsi Center. I had heard late last year that they were doing one of their "Face to Face" combined tours again, and that they would be in Denver in November or December. Unfortunately, the timing didn't work out for us, and since they are both getting on in years, I figured I probably wouldn't get a chance to see them together.

But then Elton had some health issues, and they had to postpone several concerts, including the Denver date. Andrea, being the awesome person she is, found out when the new date was, and mentioned it to my parents. My parents, being the awesome people they are, bought us the tickets as a Christmas present.

As we had done in 2008, we drove to Denver but then took the Light Rail into downtown (which saved us parking costs and also gave us smalltown folks a fun taste of big city life). We then walked to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner, and the walk was considerably colder than it was two years prior. But the food was delicious and warmed us right up.

Looking northwest

Looking southeast

After an enjoyable dinner, we walked down to the Pepsi Center and found our seats. Having seen Billy perform but not Elton, it was interesting to compare experiences with a lady and her daughter sitting next to us who had seen Elton but not Billy. When the show began, it started with both of them performing together, each of them starting each other's songs, but both playing.

Trying to capture the experience with a cell phone camera is like using a Walmart bag to carry the Pacific Ocean.

After their amazing combined set, Billy left the stage and Elton performed several of his songs on his own, and while the experience was amazing, we found ourselves a little less impressed than we thought we'd be. His musicianship was top notch, and he performed some great tunes, but everyone had the volume knobs at 11 or 12 and there were some songs where the lyrics were completely unrecognizable. Andrea and I later agreed that we were anxious to get on with the show during his set, although seeing him in person was undoubtedly a thrill.

Billy's solo set was next, and he did not disappoint. He is much more talkative, telling stories and jokes between tunes, and the music was just more enjoyable... as it had in 2008, his set flew by and he left the stage all too soon.

Fortunately, they ended the concert by joining forces again, including combining the bands, which was another treat.

We don't get to many rock concerts, and there are quite a few bands that I would love to see live, but if the only shows I get to see are Billy Joel's, I certainly won't complain.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

And Then, On February 19th, Owen Found A Googly Eye

Oh, Owen.

Chappelow International Night

February 18th was International Night at Chappelow, and Noah's Kindergarten class featured Australia as their topic. We got there a little early, but ended up sitting in the van for a little bit until the weather lightened up a bit...

If I understand my geography correctly, this is not what February is like in Australia.

We were then showed into the gym for a musical presentation by the class, at which Noah overcame his stage fright which, in the past, caused him to break down in tearful frustration while performing. He still didn't really sing, and his coping mechanism involved a lot of wiggling, but hey, we're not going to be picky.

"Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree..."

We were then treated to a presentation in Noah's classroom, which featured the Kindergarteners parading shadow puppets while the teacher spoke about Australia. Noah and one of his classmates were sheep, and as sheep go, Noah's was considerably more hyperactive than most.

Sheep 1: "Whoa, are you okay?" Sheep 2: "WHAAAAHAAAAAAAOOOOOOIIIIEEEEEEEwakkawakkaEEEEEE"

After this session wrapped up, we were able to sit and look at some of the work the students had done in their Australia unit, and even now Noah remains an expert on all things Down Under.

The text reads "Koalas Never drink. Koala's name means no drink" and the picture is a contented koala next to a canned beverage labeled "drink" with a "No" symbol over it.

The night was great fun, and we were proud of our little scholar. He started first grade yesterday and we look forward to seeing what new adventures he has coming.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Noah Turns Six

Noah turned six on January 5th, and so, according to tradition, he found his chair at the table decorated. That night, he also got presents from us, which included some shirts (Phineas and Ferb and Star Wars) and, of course, some video games.

A king among men

A Wii game? For me!?

Then, on January 16th, he had his birthday party with his friends at Adventure Gymnastics, and he was delighted to have a great turnout. The environment was perfect for a wild six-year-old and his closest friends: a gigantic padded room filled with trampolines.

“Is anyone here having fun?”

Next up was cake and gifts, for which the padded room would have still come in handy...

Digging in

The party was a great success, and the kids didn't want to leave. We look forward to going back for future parties!

Friday, July 23, 2010


The day after New Year's Day, we had some time to go down the street to Epple Park ("the frisbee park" to locals, since it features a frisbee golf course) which happens to have a perfect hill for sledding. We have four saucer sleds, one of which we have a long rope tied to, and of course we had four very excited kids ready to use them.

Jayden makes it almost all the way down

Jayden and Noah, for the most part, were content to glide down without any assistance, although they had to be reminded almost constantly to walk back up off to the side, out of the way of oncoming sleds. Owen and Sofie, however, did better with the "sled-on-a-rope," which allowed us to slow the trip down a little, as well as pull the sled back up for another run.


...and back up...

...and back down again

Andrea and I even joined in for a few runs, usually with one of the kids on our laps.




Finally, before heading back home to dry off and warm up, I took each of the kids for a run down the icy street and back, which elicited the most excited squeals of the day.

Riding the "slingshot"

Sitting here next to the air conditioning unit at 9:00 pm when it's 81° outside, I don't imagine we'll have enough snow to pull the sleds out again anytime soon, but I do look forward to doing it again... sometime!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ringing In 2010

Perhaps as much as the kids look forward to Christmas Morning, Andrea and I look forward to another tradition we've been privileged to be a part of: a New Year's Eve Party with our closest friends. This year, it was held at Ryan and Shannon Paul's home, and in addition to the Moses family who attend every year, we were joined by the Staples, Marions and Williams families and had a wonderful time.

I made a chocolate cheesecake for the occasion, which was fun to make and even more fun to eat (working off the calories, though, was not as fun).

Staring at it too long may cause weight gain...

We were sad to celebrate this tradition for the first time without Ryan and Terra Hall and their family, who moved to Canada last year, but we felt their presence, especially when Mark Marion opened his Secret Santa gift: the Jessica Simpson poster which has been given as a gag gift for the past four or five years.

Who's going to get it? Who's going to get it?

Finally, it was time to ring in the new year, and with each kid getting a noisemaker, my hearing still hasn't completely recovered some seven months later...

Tired AND noisy

Ryan makes the ceremonial pronouncement

We are fortunate to be part of such a wonderful group of friends!

Christmas 2009

The Christmas season last winter began in our family with our advent calendar, which contains a small ornament behind each door. The nightly ritual is for Andrea or I to review the previous ornaments ("What's on number one?" "What's on number two?") until we get to the current day. Then, the kid whose turn it is that evening opens the door and we discover what the new ornament is. Such a simple thing, but it's one that the kids adore, and one they'll remember for a long time, I'm sure.

What's it going to be tonight?

With the advent calendar up, it was time to start preparing in earnest... it was time for Christmas shopping for Andrea and I, and the kids were confronted with the arduous task of being good in preparation for the big day. In the midst of all the hubbub, though, we were amazed to have a surprise visitor at Owen's Preschool Christmas Program: Kris Kringle himself!

"Santa, just how good to I need to BE?"

The other boys enjoyed Christmas parties at school as well, which were simultaneously exciting...


...and exhausting:

Who says you have wait until nighttime to dream about sugarplums?

We were blessed to have my parents join us for Christmas itself, and we were able to enjoy a tradition my family used to do growing up: driving around on Christmas Eve to look at Christmas lights (while listening to John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together, of course). We were able to take my parents to see the biggest displays in Greeley: the house just North of King Soopers on 35th Avenue, and of course the Greeley Grizwolds in Northwest Greeley. After all the oohs and aahs, we took the kids home, set out the milk and cookies, and tucked them in.

And then, it was time to see what Santa brought...

As happens every year, I started out the Christmas season thinking that we wouldn't have a lot, and we of course had far more than we could have imagined.

Here it is, almost August, and the kids still enjoy playing with the many, many presents they got... that is certainly a pretty good measure of success.

Sofie Turns 2

Next up on our tour through the last year is Sofie's second birthday, which started out with a tradition we've recently begun: decorating the birthday kid's seat at our kitchen table so they get to see it first thing in the morning. We even put out the Bob the Builder tablecloth (which we had used for Jayden's third birthday) which she was very happy to see, having become a great fan of the show.

This is going to be a great day!

Next up was gift time, and Sofie was in heaven when she found a new outfit and a purse in the gift bag...

SOOO stylish!

What good is a new outfit if you don't have anywhere to go? We let her choose the restaurant for lunch, and that meant the haute cuisine of Chick-fil-A.

A playland, you say? Why, yes, I would love to.

Lastly, as a bit of a surprise to all of us, we were invited to our friend Cricket's house for cake and ice cream, where Sofie shared her position as guest of honor with her close friend Kaylee, Cricket's daughter, who had celebrated her third birthday just the week before.

All in all, a wonderful day for a wonderful little girl. Hard to believe she's a few months away from being three!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Visit from Karen and Steve

The weekend after Jayden began school last August we were delighted to have some old friends come up from Denver for the day. Steve and Karen Shea brought up their son Liam to spend the day with us, and we enjoyed lunch and conversation. Karen and Andrea attended Adams State College together, and Karen is now a doctor with a part-time practice in Denver. She has a special place in our family because she was in the delivery room with Andrea and I when Jayden was born. Steve, who also attended Adams State and who has served in the U.S. Army in Kosovo as an MP, is spending time now as a stay-at-home Dad. It was a joy to spend time with them, and we were able to see them again soon afterward when we attended a Labor Day barbecue at Steve's parents' home in Loveland.

Karen and Sofie have a heart-to-heart talk

Taking down an Army guy looks so much easier on TV!

Good friends

This past June, Karen and Steve were able to give Liam a little brother: Henry Shea was born June 1st. Congratulations, you two... we look forward to meeting Henry and seeing you all again soon.