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.