Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Thing 1 and Thing 2!

Seven years ago today our life changed in a big way. There I was at the hospital, on day 6 of my magnesium sulfate-induced stupor, when in waltzed my doctor, who looked at my most recent test results and deemed that THE TIME had come. It was close to 11p as I recall and she said, "How soon can Dave get up here?"

It's been a whirlwind ever since. I look at this picture and Eldest Daughter is being protective of Thing 1. Thing 2, true to herself, is thinking, "More bumps, Daddy. Bring it on!"

"They" say that that first year is a blur. Sadly, it was true. Fortunately the digital and video cameras have captured what our sleep-deprived brains have forgotten.

When we discovered that I was pregnant with the littlest pinks Dave said, "they're going to be the greatest thing that ever happened to us and a year from now, we're not going to be able to imagine life without them". He was right.

And so, on this day where we breakfasted at Country Waffles, then went for mani / pedis and had dinner with our extended family, I raise a proverbial glass to our gemelli, who make us laugh until we cry (and I try not to pee in my pants, remember, I've had three kids ...)

Monday, December 29, 2008

TIT - This is Tahoe

Did you see Blood Diamond? Leonardo diCaprio's 2006 blockbuster on the moral conundrums of the international gem trade? It was interesting and fast moving, and diCaprio is one of the most talented actors of our generation. In it diCaprio's character often says "TIA" which means "This is Africa." It's the cynical mantra he and his colleagues toss around to explain how things are. I have my own take on this, Tahoe Style. TIT. This is Tahoe.

Situation 1
We had DSL put into our condo recently. Other condo owners have it. It took us two hours on the phone with Exwire plus two visits by Exwire to our condo to get it working.

Situation 2
Dave went to a restaurant in the Village last week and ordered a Hot Apple Pie. He asked the bartender if he knew what one was. Yes, the bartender said. The drink arrived at room temperature and with a lemon garnish. Dave asked if he could please remake the drink to be hot since it's a HOT Apple Pie and to garnish it the traditional way, with whipped cream. After 15 minutes the bartender returned with the drink, again at room temperature and this time missing the Tuaca. Dave gave up and drank it this way.

Situation 3
Ski team meets at 8:30a. For perspective, there are 700+ kids on ski team this year so it's a big group that meets. The ski team director updates the web site every morning by 7a so families know if there is a delayed start, the weather is too bad to ski, etc. There is also a phone number you can call, a hotline. On Day 2 we showed up at 8:30a. The start had been delayed until 9:30a because the Funitel is not yet open due to avalanche control. But neither the web site nor the hotline reflected this. Fortunately it was no big deal for us. Our condo is literally two buildings from the meeting spot. But what about the families who drove in 30 minutes from Donner?! The picture at left is taken from our patio. The tree on the far left is where ski team meets. It's that close.

Situation 4
On Hwy 80 there are large digital signs that advise motorists of road conditions. They say things like "Chains Required to Pass Summit. Checkpoint 2 Miles Ahead". But there is no checkpoint and there are 2WD cars whizzing by.

This kind of stuff really used to bug me and it still does down in the Bay. But after seven years of spending a good amount of time in the land of the B Team, I've come to accept things the way they are. This is Tahoe.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tahoe Top 10 (Winter Version)

1. The view of the people skiing down the mountain as seen from our warm and cushy family room sofa.

2. Daily lemon, butter and sugar crepes from Le Petite Creperie. (Pictured here are our downstairs neighbors and Thing 2.)

3. The way we all leave our doors ajar in our condo development and the kids and adults go in and out of each other's places casually to play, drink and share mountain stories.

4. Snow Angels

5. The groomers on the mountain in the middle of the night, which I can see from our bed, and which I spend far too much time watching when I should be sleeping.

6. The way fresh snowfall clings to the trees and looks like frosting on everything else.

7. Running on the treadmill in our fitness center, watching the snow fall into the swimming pool.

8. Children's ski clothing. It gets more adorable each year.

9. A windless day on the slopes with light powder and blue skies.

10. The ski team tradition of affixing gummy bears to your helmet.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Chairlift Incident

We're just back from a week at Tahoe, during which there fell 5 1/2 feet of snow. It was gorgeous and the skiing today was epic. I have a lot to say about this trip but let's start with ski team for now.

This is our first year on Squaw Valley's ski team. Eldest Daughter is cake: easy going, flexible, happy. Thing 2 is a different story. Let's recap.

Day 1
Conditions: Sunny. 10F. No wind. Groomed terrain with light dusting of powder. This is as good as it gets for December skiing.
What her coach says to me at pickup: She needs a really good night's sleep.
What she says to me at pickup: I am not happy!

Day 2, after 11 hours of sleep and a high protein breakfast
Conditions: Snowing lightly. 20F. Windy. Fresh powder.
What her coach says to me at pickup: She loves powder!
What she says to me at pickup: I had a great day Mom!

Day 3
Conditions: Snowing moderately. 25F. Windy. Fresh powder.
What her coach says to me at pickup: We had a little Chairlift Incident.
What she says to me at pickup: I was not going to ski down that run, Mom.

Apparently her group went up the Exhibition Chair. Thing 2 could only see the steep way down. So while her coach and teammates unloaded, she did not. The slacker lift operator did not notice the 6-year-old downloading. So down the mountain she went, solo. And, by the way, at Squaw no one bothers to pull down the guards on chairlifts and there was no way she could have done it herself anyway.

Meanwhile her coach is screaming at her to hang on and skiing under the chair preparing to catch her if she falls. I have no idea where the other kids were. Thing 2 is yelling, too, because she is really scared. Eventually the chair got to the base of the mountain again and she got off, all pieces and parts intact.

Sadly, knowing how Thing 2's mind works, I am certain this won't be the last Incident in her future. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Leslie's Lunchtime Lesson

About six months ago I had lunch with a former co-worker. James is someone I just adored when we killed ourselves to bring this technology startup to an IPO. He's a smart, authentic guy, someone who was quick to explain complex technologies to me in layman's terms. I was thrilled when he met the woman of his dreams and then married and had a family with her.

During the time we worked together I was mentored by the company's marketing vice president. I worked for Rich for five years and credit him with much of my success as a marketeer today.

As James and I reminisced about The Good 'Ole Days it came out that he had learned a lot from Rich, too. In fact, over lunch that day he taught me something that he learned from Rich that I had not! How incredible was that?! Ten years after I stopped working for this man I was still learning from him?! Networking Guru Thom Singer has a term for this, I'm sure.

Today I received an IM from James. He's now a full-time employee at one of the companies I consult to. I am thrilled. It was the best thing I'd heard in a long time. Welcome James!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Flying during the holidays?

If so, then this post may come in handy!

When I flew to Bangkok last summer I got awfully tired of holding my iPhone up to watch movies. And when I sat it on my tray table and viewed it down there, I got nauseous.

Here's an easy way to turn a barf bag into an iPhone or iPod Touch holder. It’s simple and easy and I especially love the fact that you can change the viewing angle by adjusting the fold.

A big thank you to Hodenmumps whose picture I have absconded with.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Middlesex

In general, I read to escape. I do the same thing with movies: check out and visit someplace else for a moment in time. My pattern seems to be one business book, one recommended novel and one trashy novel or parenting book. Rinse and repeat.

Every now and then I read a book that just blows my mind. I felt this way about The Poisonwood Bible. I read the entire thing on a 9 hour flight from Tokyo to San Francisco when I should have been sleeping. Likewise I could not stop reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, the second book by Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner. It was a horrifying story and absolutely gripping.

I am reading such a book right now. Middlesex won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003 for good reason.

It's a complicated tale of a young girl who grows into a man. It begins generations before the main character's birth, in a small Greek village, when his grandparents succumb to incestuous desires. Told with both humor and earnestness, the story grows more engaging with every page. There is just something magical about the way the words are strung together. It's an artistic telling of a captivating story. I am eager to finish it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I scream, you scream

Each June I am overcome with an urge to make fresh peach ice cream. It's an annual event, one signified by the arrival of perfectly ripe, fragrant peaches in the farmer's market.

We are a family of ice cream lovers. Since childhood my family has consumed more than its fair share of the summertime staple. My father had Foremost McKesson Dairies as a customer way back when there was such a thing.

Even people who marry into our family adore ice cream. For the bridal shower I threw for my future sister-in-law, we hand painted ice cream bowls and played "match the name of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream to the flavor." She won. My brother selected his bride very carefully. We've given ice cream makers as wedding gifts more times than I can count.

Eldest Daughter would have nothing to do with one of my favorite uncles, Syd, until he offered her a taste of his chocolate ice cream in the middle of her second year. This is especially funny as she had every reason to adore him from the get go: he was CEO of the toy company Hearthsong at the time!

My SIL, that fabulous gal that my brother married, outdid herself this week. For Hanukkah, my brother's family gave The Pinks the Cuisinart Soft Serve ice cream maker. In pink of course. I would never have thought to give children this as a gift but let me tell you, they went wild. I went wild. And, as you'll recall, I have a thing for appliances. It has three dispensers for toppings and we can't wait to mix and match, in search of the perfect combinations.

Anyone up for ice cream? We're taking reservations ...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Luau in December

The littlest pinks have December birthdays. We don't celebrate Christmas so the whole issue of December birthdays competing with Christmas is irrelevant. Chanukkah is a small holiday in the grand scheme of things so really, we're fine with the December birthday situation.

The thing is, children who have December birthdays typically have indoor birthday parties. In the last six years we've done Build a Bear Workshop twice, Habitot, Gymboree and a princess party where the princess came to the house and turned all the kids into royalty.

This year I had a luau in mind. This is the year that Thing 1 really got into swimming and this being California, kids learn to swim early and strong.

Yes, it's winter. But gosh darn it, we were going to swim! Fortunately, I found a local swim school with an indoor pool to rent. And that's where we spent Saturday afternoon -- throwing a Hawaiian-themed party for two nearly seven-year-olds.

It was one of my better ideas. Sweetening the deal was the fact that it was probably the coldest day of the year thus far. The kids had an absolute blast as was evidenced by the deafening amount of screaming. There were all these amazing pool toys the kids had never seen: logs, slides, large floating mats, animals. The swim school staff did a great job and everyone took a swim test before being let loose in the water. There were four lifeguards for the 24 kids and another staffer orchestrating check in, F&B, etc. The kids swam for an hour and a half then we did goldfish, Pirate's Booty, Swedish fish, juice boxes and Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes.

We kept with the theme for the favors by doing flip flops with Pez dispensers. I loved the parade of bathing suits, too. The kids have such perfect bodies without vanity or self-consciousness at this age. I'm a huge fan of seeing them in teenie weenie bikinis although our kids didn't seem to want to wear theirs on this particular day.

The swimming, coupled with an hour of vigorous indoor soccer that morning, had even Thing 2 into bed at a decent hour. In one of my less brilliant moves, we invited my four-year-old niece to spend the night before with us. She and Thing 2 only slept from 11:30p to 7a. I suspect that a repeat of this is not in our immediate future, as much fun as it was for all involved.

All that remains of the birthday party is a list of gifts for us to properly acknowledge, the aforementioned gifts, a trash can full of recycling and a bunch of really happy memories. Success!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dan the Man / Part 2

Do you remember our friend Dan? The father of two who is returning to active military duty in Iraq?

The most perfect holiday card arrived from his family this week. On the cover was the requisite picture of his family and in it was a holiday newsletter.

Some people find these off-putting. I love them! How else would I know that our neighbors two doors up (who we never run into) are expecting their first grandchild? Bring 'em on. I want to know the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Streetman's newsletter was perfect. They shared their accomplishments and also that Dan was going to serve our country overseas once again. The tone was just right. I couldn't have written it any better myself and I make my living as a writer!

Dan is stationed in Washington State through January. If your kids have some downtime during the holidays they can send him a note or drawing and thank him for helping make the world a safe place for us all.

Here's his address:

MAJ Dan Streetman
P.O. Box 331204
Ft. Lewis, WA 98433-1204

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In over my head

I'm still working on Thing 2's Class Auction Project. It's a little more ambitious than I'd anticipated and I'm starting to panic at how much is left to finish.

Do know what this block right here is? It's the Mustang Soccer Complex. See? Red and white? Green fields to the side? Use a little imagination please as I'm in that frightening place where I don't know if this quilt is going to be my best or worst ever.

I was feeling much better about this endeavor before I talked to the mom who is doing Thing 1's class project. She's also doing a quilt and she's a professional quilter. She really and truly makes her living designing patterns and fabric. She has my fantasy job. And her work is gorgeous! But I'm not competitive or anything ...

One last comment about this time-suck of a masterpiece. Eldest Daughter looked at it tonight and said, "I know the perfect place for it: the laundry room."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Train and Tahoe

Last week was frenetic. We came back from Atlantis late Tuesday night and were home less than 72 hours before heading up to Tahoe for ski team orientation.

But before we left for Tahoe we did the Niles Canyon Railway Holiday Train of Lights. The train is covered with thousands of lights, both inside and out, and makes a 75-minute round trip through the Niles Canyon between Fremont and Sunol. There are Christmas carollers and Santa and a whole lot of holiday cheer. It's completely kitschy and a blast. We took my parents with us this year, and also our train aficionado friends Seth and Lori. (If you want to do this this year, check craigslist for tickets. This is one of those things that sells out within hours of the tickets going on sale.)

After the train ride Friday night we drove up to Tahoe. We won't be doing that again anytime soon. It was midnight when we arrived and we were all a little cranky the next day. I gave in and made a morning Starbucks run to get the kids expensive drinks whose names had 14 syllables.

Tahoe was gorgeous -- blue skies, warm. No snow. That's only a problem if you had planned to ski. Which I'm sure the merchants at Squaw really wanted. The mountain did open but only one run open and it was on snow they'd made the night before. Essentially the ski team kids tested their equipment and left. Here's a picture I took off our balcony. Ski team is going to be fun; Eldest Daughter and Thing 2 will do it. There are 700 kids on Squaw's ski team. We bought really cute ski team sweatshirts, too.

We drove home Saturday night and spent most of Sunday in our PJs.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom & Dad!

My parents are in the midst of celebrating their birthdays. This is pretty cool, actually. His is Dec 5 and hers is Dec 6. When they were younger they used to celebrate at midnight on Dec 5. Not sure if they do this now.

My parents' first date was in St. Louis when my mom's sister was visiting her college roommate, who happened to be my dad's aunt. They reconnected a few years later, at Mizzou, and their fate was sealed. After a few years in St. Louis my father took a business trip to Colorado. His head cleared, his allergies went away and the next thing you know, my folks high tailed it to San Jose and have lived on the west coast ever since.

My dad is now retired and spends a lot of time with his horses. He has a long history of volunteering for Jewish causes and serving on boards. His membership in the Sierra Club probably dates back to around the time of my birth and he has championed environmental issues long before green was in vogue. He's also got a green thumb and we love eating our way through my parents' garden.

My mom works as a paralegal in the city. She was one of the very first people to graduate from SFSU's paralegal certificate program way back when and has been at it ever since. She is a good sport, supporting my father in his adventures (including that Alaska stint) and creating a normal home and homelife, no matter where the zip code. She loves her five granddaughters and is such an amazing cook that I bring my own Gladware when we have dinner at their house so I can take home the leftovers. (Sorry, Dad!) She is a good friend to many. I often read the best of her book club's picks.

Happy birthdays Mom and Dad!

Friday, December 5, 2008

And the prize goes to ...

the Batross family, for the first holiday card of the season to arrive. Their blond kids have grown so much in a year; one looks just like Mike, one like Kris. Adorable! This was the best piece of yesterday's mail for sure.

Our holiday cards have not yet mailed. Actually, I just approved the proof yesterday so it'll be a while. I fall into the camp of those that like to handwrite notes to the out-of-towners so they take more than just stuffing, addressing and stamping. I have the good fortune to be married to a man who happily does the stuffing and stamping so that part is off my plate.

Do any of you stress over which picture to put in your card? Let's face it: it's hard to get a flattering picture of three kids. Or the entire family. I should have started this process around Halloween but no, I knew we were going to the beach over Thanksgiving and I had the perfect ocean shot in mind. I even hauled my laptop with us so I could order the cards from there, thus starting the process a full week earlier. Didn't happen. I got a great shot of the kids in front of the Christmas Tree at Atlantis but being Jewish, it was questionable how many of my relatives it would offend. Ditto the shot of them decorating gingerbread men at the Christmas Faire.

And so the holiday card picture is of the kids in a big chair outside the casino. It was re-do, actually. The first shot was better but one of The Pinks forgot to cross her legs and well, use your imagination.

The picture above is the one good one we got of our entire family on vacation but it's not the holiday card photo. Who cares what Dave and I look like?! People want to see the kids. I'm disappointed if people send cards without the (in my opinion) requisite photo.

Also -- for the record, I do not send out a zillion cards. I hand address them and mostly send them to people we do not see often enough.

Wishing you greetings of the season ...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Homeward bound

Our Bahamian trip is coming to an end. As I type this it's pouring rain. It's not the drizzle we get at home; it's a full-on downpour that attacks you from all sides. I feel bad for the cruise ship visitors; they expected a day of sun and fun on the water slides. The Pinks still want their hair braided so we'll venture out to the beach-side huts in a bit to see if the braid ladies are working today. I'm hopeful.

We've done some great things this trip. We spent most of a day at the beach. Thing 2 just loves the water and played in the waves for hours. I never tire of watching her body surf, dig in the sand and dive for coral.

The resort put on a Holiday Faire one night so the kids made Chanukah plates, glass bottles with snowmen and decorated gingerbread cookies. There was a band and we danced. I'd be remiss if I did not mention how beautiful the property is done up for the holidays. Okay, Christmas. There's something a little odd about palm trees spiral wound with lights but I'm getting used to it and developing an appreciation for it.

Surprisingly, some cousins of Dave’s are here this week, too. Dana, Mark and their two sons live near my sister-in-law in Southern California. Apparently Eldest Daughter met their 12-year-old son last summer and they are friendly on iChat. So the two of them have hung out a bit. He is sweet, even with the littlest Pinks. We walked through the aquarium together. I look forward to seeing more of them when we’re in LA in December.