Christmas 2012

Christmas has now come and gone and this year was definitely a mixed bag. The good news is that the boys had a great Christmas filled with friends, family and lots of Legos. Bruce limped through with a head cold that was less than ideal. I, on the other hand, got my butt kicked by a stomach bug on Christmas Eve and spent that miserable night and Christmas Day laid up. Thank goodness Jamma stuck around much of the day to keep me company after Bruce and the boys left to celebrate with the rest of the Moisions at the Becks’ house.

But lets back up to the good parts before my stomach rebelled. Bruce and I were fighting off the colds the boys had so lovingly passed along, but things were going fine. We’d finished shopping, I’d made dozens of Christmas cookies, and we were happily preparing for Christmas Eve with Jamma and the Bannings. The boys made place cards for the tables (Ezra insisted on a kids table); Finn did most of the pictures while Ezra wrote the words.

Place cards for kids

Place cards for adults

Jamma's place card

Finn drew something everyone likes on their place cards: Ruby has a horse, Chapin has a penguin, Rob and Bruce both have wood because they do the woodworking class. When he went to do Jamma’s he said, “You know, Jamma just really likes us,” so he drew himself. Then Ezra drew himself on mine since he wasn’t included on Jamma’s. Super cute.

Once Jamma got here we did the annual parade of new Christmas ornaments symbolizing our year: Finn got a No. 2 pencil since he started Kindergarten.

Finn and his pencil ornament

Ezra got a snorkeler.

Ezra's snorkeler ornament

Bruce got the very hard-to-find (can you say Ebay?) Curiosity rover which was such an exciting part of our lives when it successfully landed on Mars in August.

Hard to find Curiosity ornament from Jamma

I got a wolf to remind me of my trip to Washington with my girlfriends. Jamma is so thoughtful!

Pretty soon the Bannings arrived and the kids all went crazy running around, eating cookies and generally having a great time. They settled down for dinner, but still had a good time.

Kids' table

We had a pretty good time at the adults table, too. And pretty soon the kids joined us with the prizes and jokes from the holiday crackers/poppers that Cari brought. Bruce’s crown was, as always, ill-fitting.

Bruce's ill-fitting crown

Rob and Chapin

Three Bannings

Ezra reading jokes

Double-crowned Ruby

Finn and Jamma

Rob and Bruce

The kids also decorated cookies for Santa (thanks to Cari) and wow was that a fun and messy project!

Decorating Santa cookies

Finn went pretty crazy with the sprinkles.

Finn's cookie

Ezra was a little more precise.



Wow, what a mess!

We opened a few presents — new pajamas for all the kids and books and gift cards — but by then I wasn’t feeling so hot so I didn’t have the energy to go get my camera. Luckily Bruce was a good host, doing a scavenger hunt for the kids and entertaining everyone. I fear I was not.

When it was time for the Bannings to go, we saw them off hoping they would have good luck getting their kids to sleep. Finn was very concerned about Santa coming and therefore went right to bed; Ezra, on the other hand, wandered around the house for at least an hour. I think he did it just to torture me.

Finally, with Bruce’s help the Santa gifts and stockings were prepared and placed by the fire and I crawled into bed miserable but still not anticipating the rotten night to come. By morning I was at least able to reach for my camera and take some pictures from my perch on the comfy brown chair. Finn tore open his stocking and anything else with his name on it.

Finn gets into his stocking

Ezra was thrilled with the giant Lego set Santa brought. (“Mommy, now you don’t have to get this for my birthday! Santa brought it!”)

What Santa brought Ezra

They couldn’t wait to show everything to Jamma.

Showing stuff to Jamma

And start building all those Lego sets.

Ezra building

Finn was pretty taken with the Furby that Santa brought him.

Finn and Furby

And that’s about as far as I got before I crawled back into bed. I send out a big thank you to Bruce and Jamma for entertaining the boys and managing to do some clean up, too. About noon Bruce and the boys headed out for the Becks’ house. He said they all had a good time and he even managed to take a few pictures.

Finn and Alek


Christmas at the Becks'

Christmas at the Becks'

It’s now the 27th and I’m up and about and on the road to recovery. And in the future I’d like to reclaim my title as the member the family who always manages to avoid the stomach bug.

[Fake] Snow!

Cari and I took the kids over the Americana for their [fake] snow fall Thursday evening. The kids didn’t give a hoot that it was soap and we all had a great time. The place is, of course, all decked out for Christmas and really quite lovely. The kids made an early stop here to admire the view.

Kids take in the view


First stop was dinner and when we were done we had some time before the first snow fall at 7:00, so we took a short trolley ride.

On the trolley

After a good game of chase …


… some playing in the mulch …

Drawing in the mulch

… and watching the fountain …

Finn watches the fountain

… the snow started falling. The kids had a great time jumping up to catch it and just generally running around.

Ezra and Ruby catching snow

Finn jumps to get the snow

Snow fall

Catching the snow

After the snow, we hung out a little longer. Finn met Frosty.

Finn and Frosty

We rode the glass elevator.

On the glass elevator

Watched Tangled at the Sony store.

Ruby, Finn and Chapin watching Tangled

Or Toy Story, as the case may be.

Ezra watching Toy Story

We rode the trolley again and decided to wait for the 8:00 snow fall. Again, fun ensued. When it was over we dragged four very tired kids to the car, listened to how they were so thirsty they were going to die (!) and, luckily, provided them with a little water thanks to Cari. The boys crashed when we got home and actually slept until a little after 7:00 — quite a luxury!

I think a trip to the real snow is in order this winter.

Up a Tree

We were over at the Altadena Farmer’s Market with some friends yesterday and the kids had a wonderfully good time playing with all the fallen leaves. Ezra also found a perfect climbing tree. When I first saw him from my vantage point up the hill, he seemed incredibly high up and I decided to go down and check out the situation.


He was very happy to be sitting up here.


And I realized that the smaller branches provided perfect notches for climbing and he was safe, so I snapped another photo and let him be.


This morning as I was trying to find a place that could print these square Instagram photos properly, I uploaded a couple of other good ones, so I’m adding them here. First, Finn and his crab and blue ninja.


And second, bath time.

Bath time

I ordered some prints online, so we’ll see how they look when I get them.


We had what thankfully turned out to be a much smaller version of last December’s windstorm last night. I haven’t seen any downed trees but some people around Pasadena and Altadena lost power. For us, it was just a falling palm frond bonanza. At one point, one fell out of the tree and got stuck in our Christmas lights.


It was really hooked on there but when the stronger winds picked up later in the evening, it fell off. Here’s what we had in the morning.


Driving to school this morning was like an obstacle course dodging all the fronds in the road. But my favorite part is that the neighbor’s useless pecan tree that tortures me by constantly dropping leaves, nuts and, worst of all, parrot droppings when they come to eat the pecans, is finally torturing the neighbors as well. The winds blew all of the leaves right off my car onto their lawn!


Too bad no one lives there.

Christmas Card Retrospective

One of my favorite parts of decorating for Christmas is pulling out the bags of old cards I keep and looking at all of the photos of friends and family through the years (I probably have 20 years of picture cards). Of course, it’s also fun to look at my own old cards and seeing how Ezra and Finn have grown, so I decided to scan them in and do a little retrospective.










2009 outside

2009 inside





The 2012 version is in the mail!

So That Happened

I was working diligently this morning on a Photoshop project when I received this text from one of Ezra’s teachers.

Text from Thea

Later this afternoon, I had a chat with Ezra about it. In the conversation, I said something like, “You know, that’s the F word. You can’t say that word.” He said, “I didn’t know that was the F word because you wouldn’t tell me.” He has a point. About a month ago he and Finn were dying to know what the F word was, and I just could not bring myself to say it in front of them. So I guess this is my fault. It’s always the mother.

Anyway, I was talking to Cari about it later and to lighten the mood (I assume) she said, “Maybe Ezra could do a Bart Simpson exercise and write 100x on Thea’s board, ‘I will not say fucking in front of my teacher.'” (This was a text, so technically Cari didn’t say it out loud.) Anyway, that gave me an idea to hopefully give Ms. Thea a laugh. I sent this to her via email.

Bart Simpson

Oh how I love Photoshop.

Christmas Decorating

We did some decorating over the weekend and I’m just now getting around to putting up some pictures. First up was the Christmas Tree shopping.

Looking for a good one

I was thinking … you know … a green tree would be good. The boys had another idea.

The boys' pick

I won. And on the roof it went.

All ready!

I got lots of help decorating it this year from Finn. Coincidentally, we had a record number of broken ornaments. Luckily, nothing precious.

Little decorator

These two are my favorites. No one touches them except me. This one is from Aunt Claire and is dated 1980 which sounds about right.


This one Janice gave me after my dad died and I inherited his old Rolleiflex, which I loved as a kid.


After a few hours, we were done.


Overnight Bruce put up my dad’s old train which delighted the boys in the morning.

Finn and the train

They tried loading up some of their toys on it with varying success.


Sunday we focused on the outside and strung our eight strands of lights between the palm trees. It was another challenge of engineering and math but we made it.

Working on the lights

Lights, early


This is my favorite picture of the bunch — a California Christmas.

Lights and palms

December Woodworking

Friday marked our last woodworking class of the year and it was a blast. This month’s project: Snake Sticks.


First, though, there was some pre-class goofing off while Bruce and Rob pulled things together.

Playing before class

Playing before class

We got started right on time at 4:00 because we knew we were going to lose light. The kids settled down to listen … sort of. Here’s a perfect contrast of the girls and boys during Bruce’s instruction.

Girls paying attention

Crazy boys

But everyone figured out what they were supposed to do one way or another and started working. They had lots of good sticks to choose from. (Thanks especially to Laura for a great supply!)

Raw materials

Here are Amelia and Silvia shaping the heads of their snakes.

Amelia and Silvia

Ruby and Ezra, too.

Ezra and Ruby

Kai has great concentration.

Kai and Caleb

Sofia chose to use the chisel instead of the rasp.


Finn decided not to make a snake. He just wanted to pass out masks. Safety first.

Finn passing out masks

Next up: sawing the sticks into pieces. It’s a lot of sawing.


Silvia and Amelia

Working hard

Next they needed to drill holes in all the pieces so they could string them back together. After eight classes, the kids are remarkably comfortable using the drills!

Ruby and Jack


With kids at all stages of the project, it was a busy garage!

Busy garage

The last step was to assemble the snake by threading it together with string and beads.

Jack, Amelia and Ashlyn


Ezra, Ruby and Sofia

Everyone was finished by about 6:00 and dinner and play time followed. Most of the adults sat around chatting and testing out the various bottles of wine (of which I have no pictures) but Bruce spent most of the evening playing with the kids. My pictures don’t do the scene justice — the kids love him.

Bruce and the kids

Here’s Ezra’s final product. I was happy to see him so engaged in this project, especially since the sawing and drilling were kind of difficult.

Ezra's snake

I took a lot more photos, so I’m including them all here in a slideshow. What a fun class!

Finn’s Field Trip

Finn’s Kindergarten class took their first field trip this week and, of course, I went along as a chaperone. The trip is part of a larger Aveson focus of “global competencies” which is a little vague and unwieldy but, as I understand it, basically means helping the kids understand the world. For the youngest kids, this translates into learning about their immediate community, so our trip was to visit the public library, fire station and sheriff’s station. We also got to ride on the city bus — very exciting!

The bus stop is just outside of school, so we walked down and started the wait. Each adult was assigned to a group of kids. Here are my charges for the day: Finn, Charlie, Luca and Morgan.

Waiting for the bus

It took a while for the bus to come …

Waiting ...

But finally it arrived!

Yay! The bus finally arrives!

The Kindergarteners charged onto the mostly empty bus. I inadvertently got a picture of this very stunned lady wondering what just happened to her roomy seat and quiet bus ride.

Stunned lady on the bus

Here’s Finn all the way in the back.

Finn in the way back

Luckily another mom got a great shot of him.

On the bus

We traveled just over a mile on the bus and then walked about a half mile from the bus stop to the public library. Here’s my favorite picture of Finn and Charlie on the walk.

Finn and Charlie walking

At the library, we started with story time.

Library story time

And then got a tour of the library and a chance to look at some books.

Library tour

Next, we walked over to the fire station and got a tour of the whole facility. Finn was thrilled that we not only got to see the fire trucks, but we got to see where the fire fighters live when they are on duty.

At the fire station

In the kitchen

Showing all their tools

Fireman's presentation

The kids were particularly enthralled watching this firefighter put on his gear. We’ve seen a similar demonstration before when the firefighters visited Cottage and they do a good job of making sure the kids aren’t scared by the mask and equipment.

Putting on his gear

Fire man in full gear

Fireman in full gear

By this point (about 11:15) the kids, having skipped snack time, were starving so we walked up to the community center and had lunch.

Lunch time

Then a couple of sheriffs came over to chat with the kids and answer questions.

Listening to the sherrifs

But the best part of the sheriffs’ visit was that they brought their car and let the kids climb through it. Here’s Finn in the back seat. Hopefully this will be the only time in his life that he finds himself in the back seat of a police car.

Finn in the back of the sheriff's car

Climbing out of the sheriff's car

Soon enough we were back at the bus stop waiting for the bus back to school. Ms. Jessica led the kids in some songs to pass the time. Here’s part of the Fall song — the boys are making trees with their hands.

Singing the Fall song waiting for the bus

And finally, back on the bus!

On the bus back to school

We made it back to school safely right at lunch recess time so the kids took off to play. I came home and promptly fell asleep on the couch. Kindergarteners are exhausting! My hat is off to their teachers.

School Pictures!

We got the boys’ school pictures back yesterday. While the individual ones are a little painful — would someone please teach these kids how to fake smile?!? — the class pictures are adorable.

Finn - Kindergarten

Ezra - Second Grade

Finn's Kindergarten Class

Ezra's Second Grade Class

Aveson Jog-a-thon

Yesterday the boys participated in the fundraising jog-a-thon at school and I went to take some pictures. First up were the Kindergarten classes.

Spacing out the Kinders

Finn runs!

Finn slowed to a walk

The kids did a combo of running and walking and got their hand stamped with each lap. Here’s Finn going in for a stamp.

Finn gets a stamp

He did ten laps.

Finn's stamps (10 laps!)

After 20 minutes they stopped and were handsomely rewarded with popsicles.

Happy Kinders

The first and second graders were up next. Ezra did not seem to be enjoying himself; he walked around the field, spitting water from his water bottle. Charming.

Grumpy Ezra

He doesn’t seem quite as miserable here.

Not quite as grumpy Ezra

Friends were having a better time. Jack:






Of course, these pictures were taken on the first couple of laps. They looked much less happy after 20 minutes of running. Here’s Amelia, for instance. She did 21 laps!


Finally the running time was over and the big kids got popsicles, too. Finally, Ezra was happy.

Finally, Ezra was happy

And here’s a row of second graders resting up after their hard work.

Second graders