Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Berkeley Fire Department Open House

Every year in October (this year it was on the 7th), the Berkeley Fire Department holds an Open House for the community. We had wanted to go last year, but something else was going on the same day.

This year Steve was out of town, so it was a good time for me to take the kids to do something special and take our minds off the sad fact that daddy wasn't with us.

Jared was very excited about going. When we arrived, the door to the fire department was up, and Jared and Alexa headed straight for the fire equipment. We weren't able to try any on, but it was fun to look at the hats, boots and coats. Then we wandered over to a large giveaway table where we picked up our own plastic firemen hats, pins, pencils, balloons, and some cookies.

Then the kids climbed inside one of the fire trucks. They seeed to enjoy themselves, although they had gotten in their heads that they were going to drive in the truck with the firemen, so they were a bit disappointed that it wasn't going to happen.

Several Coast Guard boats were parked in the lot across the street. Jared climbed on board with my friend's husband and her son. Alexa seemed a bit overwhelmed, so she stayed with me and waved at the boys when they peeked their heads out.

I think the most memorable thing we did was go into a smoke house. I had never done anything like this before. They have a small trailor that's made out to look like a two story house. They have a front section that simulates a living room with a fireplace. Towards the back is a kitchen area, and then you climb up stairs to go into a bedroom. At each section, a fireman goes over saftey regulations specific to that room.

It was very crowded with kids, and I had to really lean over when we walked from room to room. Then when we walked up the stairs, they started to simulate a real fire. A real fire alarm went off, and the room started to fill with smoke. I was sure the kids were going to freak out because I couldn't see them at all and it was very loud, but we somehow crawled across the room, and then a fireman carried them down the ladder. All in all, very memorable.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Books, DVD's and CDs' in November 2009


Huff and Puff on Thanksgiving
Turkey Days: Celebrating Thanksgiving with songs, games, art projects and recipies
Thanksgiving: stories and poems
Give Thanks to the Lord
My Father's Dragon
Spinning Spiders
Pamela Camel
The Skeleton Inside You
Dinosaurs Big and Small
Dinosaur Bob and his adventures with the family Lazardo
The Pilgrim's Thanksgiving from A to Z
Angus and the Cat
Stuart Little
The Wizard of Oz
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing
Angus Lost
One, Two, Three Little Pilgrims


Garfield: Holiday Celebrations
Get Ready for Phonics: Level 1
Liberty's Kids
Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Linnea in Monet's Garden
Stuart Little
Alvin and the Chipmunks: a Thanksgiving Celebration
Squanto: a warrior's tale
Early Settlers


Thanksgiving Songs the Tickle Your Funny Bones

Books, DVD's CD's in October 2009


Claude Monet: Sunshine and Water Lillies
The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Von Beethoven
Horray for Fall!
Ludwig Von Beethoven
To Everything
Linnea in Monet's Garden
A Chair for my Mother
Music, Music for Everyone
When this Box is full
Planting a Rainbow
Something Special for Me
Garfield and the Tiger
Charlotte's Web
Amazing Aircraft
Horrible Harry and the Kickball Wedding


My Friend's Tigger and Pooh: Hundred Acre Wood Haunt
Peanut's 1960 Collection
Garfield Holiday Celebrations
Beethoven Lives Upstairs
Hotel for Dogs
Between the Lions Season 2 &1
The Magic School Bus: Human Body
Monet: Shadow and Light
A Chair for My Mother
Charlotte's Web
In Winter Still: A Claude Monet Story


Beethoveens' Wig
Wee Sing for Halloween
Beethoven lives upstairs

Books, DVD's, and CD's in September 2009


Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose
The lion and the unicorn
Unique animals of the islands
A pocket for Corduory
Mother Goose, stories on the loose
Read me a story, please
Did I ever tell you how lucky you are?
No Such Things
Angus and the Ducks
What's it Like to be a Fish?
Guess who spins
Guess who snaps
Creatures of the Deep
Black Widows
Crafty Garden Spiders
Spider's Web
How Long or How Wide? A measuring Guide


Mister Roger's Neighborhood: A Day at the Circus
Corduory: and more stories about caring
Why Mosquito's Buzz in People's Ears....and more stories from Africa
The Teacher from the Black Lagoon...and more scary stories

Books, DVDs and CDs in August 2009

This is really backdated, but I really want to start posting every month the books we've read, DVD's watched and CD's listened to.

Since it is the end of December when I'm writing this, I'm bound to forget some things. but I have the library reading list I can refer to, along with looking at our bookshelf.

So here goes:


The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship: a Russian Tale
Why Mosquitos Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale
Fish is Fish
Three Pigs, One Wolf, and Seven Magic Shapes
More Tales of Oliver Pig
The Luckiest One of All
The Whingdingdilly
Duffy and the Devil: A Cornish Tale
Bedtime for Frances
The Emperor and the Kite
Courdory goes to the Beach
Merle the high flying squirrel
Welcome to China
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Spinky Sulks
Apes and Monkeys
A Baby Sister for Frances
Baby Whales Drink Milk


Chinese-American Heritage
Between the Lions Seasons 1&2
Tikki Tikki Tembo...and more favorite stories
Five Stories for the Very Young
The Flintstones
Beethoven (NEST Entertainment)

CD's or Books on Tape

Symphony no.5
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
Victorian nursery Rhymes
Granny will your dog bite: and other mountain rhymes
Princess Furball
How ostrich got its long neck
Eleven centuries of traditional Chinese music
Caps for Sale
Wee Sing nursery rhymes and lullabies

Here are other books from our bookcase that we bought from the thrift stores that we have read over the mid-summer through December 2009:

Martin's Invisible Invention
The Real Mother Goose
Where is Gah-Ning?
The Good Samaritan
The Speckled Hen: A Russian Rhyme
Ira Sleeps Over
The Nutcracker
Put me in the Zoo
The Chocolate Chip Mystery
Wonders of the Sea
The House on East 88th Street
Herbert and the Timid Dragon
Loudmouth George and the Cornet
Scooby Doo and the Shiny Spooky Knights
Baseball Ballerina
Who is God?
Jon and the Little Lost Lamb
Curious George
Mystery on the Docks
Keep you Socks on Albert
Lady and the Tramp
Exploring the Seashore
The Magic Carousel
Ralph's Secret Weapon
Tom Thumb
Many stories from Five Minute Tales for Four Year Olds
Richard Scarry Best Mother Goose Ever
Many Stories from Children's Bedtime Treasury

Needless to say, we have read to above books, over and over and over again, some of them dozens and dozens of times.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More Alexa Pics

More Cute Pics Plus a Scary Mommy Picture

The kids love imaginative play. In fact, they play way, way more with regular stuff around the house than with real toys. In every single home I've visited, I've always noticed that their kids have more toys than ours. I start off feeling a little bad, and then I think, those toys would mostly go unused at our home anyways.

This day they were playing pirates, and I thought it was so cute how they put diapers on their heads and swim pants around their ankles. I'll be writing more about their pretend play in upcoming posts, but I thought these two pictures were so adorable.

The picture below is definitely not adorable. In fact when I showed it to my mom, she said she was a little scared looking at it. Here's the backstory. My head was killing me that day, so I laid down on the couch. I have two kids that love interaction with others and will insist that I play with them, talk with them, and do things with them throughout the day all day long. Actually, they will do independent play for long stretches at time, but then the house is absolutely HORRENDUS unless it is times when Alexa will sing or read for a long while or Jared will play his drums, play with Playdough or his trains or puzzles.

They especially love when I play "Tiger" with them. This involves me chasing them throughout the house being a tiger, growling, dragging them back to my "cave" and "eating" them, or letting them escape. As you can imagine, this can be very physically demanding. They usually ask for this at times later in the afternoon when I'm starting to feel physically drained.

So, as I tried to lay on the couch, they wanted me to play tiger. I told them I just couldn't, that I felt too bad. So they wandered off for a few minutes and then came back with tape. They then started tearing off pieces of tape and putting it all over my  face, ears, neck, eyebrows, eyelashes and even parts of my hair. And you know what? I didn't even care because I was able to lay still with my eyes closed for a half hour. Then, because I couldn't see, they led me upstairs to the office closet, put me inside, burried me in cardboard boxes and put about six hats on my head. And I still didn't mind because I was able to sit still for awhile.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Yorktown Mall with the Family

On Oct. 4th we met Steve's mom, sister, brother-in-law, and brother, sister-in-law and nephew and nieces at the Yorktown Mall. We rarely get to see them throughout the year, so it was a real treat, especially for the kids, to see them.

Even though Steve's nieces are 12, 10, and 7, Jared and Alexa love them to pieces (they love Steve's nephew, too, who is 5, but I think they like the fact that the nieces pick them up and carry them around).

While we ate, they ran around the tables and had fun looking out the window at the cars in the parking lot below. It's so nice to be around family who has kids who can be just as loud as ours and not  feel like we're constantly getting funny looks.

While we were waiting to ride on the train, the kids ran around the pedastals.

For the kids, the best part of the evening was riding the train. The first time they rode this train they were 20 months, so it's fun to see how each year they grow the train seems smaller and smaller.

Grand Cayman - The Sad, Prolonged Farewell

Well, it had to end eventually. Still, it was very hard for me to leave our little home on the morning of Sept. 27th. Since I'm playing catch up with this blog, and it's really December 8th as I'm writing this, I'm a little fuzzy on exact details, but I think we had to get up at 4:30 that morning to make our 8:00 flight.

I was going to write a long post detailing our very difficult journey to get back home, but like I just said, the details are getting more sketchy, which by the way is very good.

We rushed to get to the airport on time, which included leaving a car with the keys still inside right outside the car rental agency because they were closed (what is that about!) and rushing to our gate, only to be delayed for six hours. When we finally started taxing down the runway and were almost in the air, the plane came to a halt and we had another small delay.

Then after arriving late at the Miami airport, we were told to go back through customs again by a horrible policeman who couldn't read a number correctly or count (believe me, you don't want me to go on about this part of the story) and so he made us miss our flight by five minutes. We RAN through that airport, and at one point I thought I was going to black out. So, we had to wait another few hours for another plane (thank God there was another one going out that night). I think we wound up getting back home close to 11. Needless to say, it was a very long day, and the kids did remarkably well. I think they only wound up sleeping two hours throughout the day, after getting up at 5 a.m. and getting to bed after 11 p.m.  I would do it all over again, though. We had an amazing, memorable time.

Grand Cayman - Portofino's

Travelling with very young kids usually means giving up going to many fancy restaurants. We didn't want to go out for many meals, mainly for the sake of our budget, but also because we can't really relax well with the kids yet. They are very finiky eaters, and will not sit still at the table very long.

That's why when we pulled up to Portofinio's, an upper scale restaurant, we at first were prepared just to order and take out the food. But we soon realized that no one else was there. So, we decided to take a chance and eat there. They had a section in the back on a porch overlooking the ocean. Steve and I ordered seafood, of course, and the kids had grilled cheese sandwiches.They actually sat there for quite a while, which was a really great treat.

I would highly recommend this restaurant, especially for anyone staying on the East End. We did spend close to $100 on our meal, but it was well worth it.

Alexa had a great time taking pictures. I've downloaded several pictures she took from this restaurant and put them in the post titled Alexa's Vacation pictures, if you want to look there. Here are a few more below. I absolutely adore the sillouette of Jared.

Jared found a tree to climb below the porch area, and Steve and Alexa had some good daddy/daughter moments looking at the ocean.

Grand Cayman - Smith's Cove

Smith's Cove is the perfect spot for snorkling. Many, many places in Grand Cayman have thick reeds to wade through, but Smith's Cove had beautiful sand and shallow waters right off the shore. It's a secluded spot, and not easy to find. There are no big signs off the road, which is a good thing in my opinion. Even with that said, while were were there, a tourist van pulled up and about a dozen people jumped off and started taking pictures. There were mostly older white folks. Then, about ten minutes later, a type of ice cream truck, pulled up and every one crowded around the van for thier treats. Since we had just watched Nim's Island the night before, it was funny to see these tourists act just like the one's in the movie.

Steve snorkled a bit more here, but it soon started to rain. We had thought it would be just a light drizzle, so we had a picnic lunch under a tree, but the rain soon grew heavier, so the kids and I went to rest in the car, while Steve snorkled by himself. At least the rain scared off those pesky tourists!

Grand Cayman - Pooky the Parrot

We'll always remember Pooky the Parrot. She lived upstairs from where we were staying in a cage on the porch. Since the owners of the home were not home most of the time during our stay, we didn't feel strange about letting the kids go up to visit Pooky, many times on their own.

We couldn't decide whether Pooky felt priviledged or annoyed by the kid's daily visits. He would squawk loudly when they sang to him and hop around a lot when they would dance for him. We spent a great deal of time  in the beginning showing the kids how to keep their fingers out of the cage, and about how Pooky would probably try to bite their fingers if they left them inside the cage too long. We became quite relaxed when they seemed to be taking our advice.

But, wouldn't you know it, Jared did get the tip of his finger bitten before our vacation was over. They had been putting bits of sugar cane into the cage so Pooky would have a little treat, and I think Pooky mistook Jared's finger for the cane. It wasn't a bad bite at all, still it bled which made it seem worse to Jared.

I think it was a really good lesson about how when mom and dad issue warnings, they probably should be taken more seriously. Also, so many parents wouldn't have allowed their kids to play so close to the cage unless they were standing right next to the child the whole time. As long as kids don't have lasting permanent damage, I think a certain amount of physical accidents are good for kids to experience. Those experiences are much better teachers than mom or dad.

Grand Cayman - Boatswain's Beach

We finally made it to Boatswain's Beach the day after visiting Dophin's Cove. We had a really wonderful time here, too. In fact, I'm pretty sure the kids liked this trip better than even swimming with the dophins.

After buying our tickets, we bought the kids each a bag of turtle food and headed out to the large tanks to view the turtles. These very large sea turtles, probably about four feet long, swam one on top of the other, to be the first to catch the turtle pellets the kids threw at them. Alexa absolutely loved this. She really would have spent hours and hours just throwing turtle food into the tanks if we had not stopped her.

Jared, on the other hand, was much more facinated with the ignanas. He was fearless with creatures here on the island, and we were always running after him to make sure he wasn't bitten by a crab or iguana.

After feeding the turtles for awhile, we put on our swim suits and walked over to Boatswain's Lagoon.  The lagoon is stocked with thousands of fish and other marine life. It was perfect for place for me to snorkle because I am not a strong swimmer, so I didn't have to fight waves, and Steve and other lifeguards were close by. Another cool feature of this lagoon is the underwater viewing panel that looks directly into the Predator's Tank, so you can feel as if you are swimming next to sharks.

We went to the outside of the Predator's Tank with the kids so they could see the sharks being feed before heading to a restaurant that looked out over the lagoon for some lunch.

After a pretty tasty lunch of conch fritters and mahi mahi (I had wanted to try turtle soup, but they wern't serving any that day), we walked down to the touch tanks. Alexa was able to feed the turtles more, which made her incredibly happy, and Jared was able to lean over and touch the turtles, something he enjoyed much more than feeding the turtles.

After a while, we were able to track down an employee, and he was able to help the kids hold the turtles, a highlight of the day.

Before leaving the beach and farm, we took one last swim in Breaker's Lagoon and swam underneath the re-created waterfalls.

Grand Cayman - Dolphin Cove

On the day we went to Dophin Cove, we had originally intented to go to Boatswain's Beach, which is right across the street. Since we were staying on the East End, and these two locations were on the northeast side of the island, it took us almost an hour to get there. We had really talked up going to Boatswain's Beach, which includes a large turtle farm and big lagoon stocked with fish and even sharks, so when we went up to the door and a security guard told us managment had decided to close for the day, the kids were very upset. Alexa even started crying.

I was very disappointed and wanted to cry myself. We now had an hour drive back to the house with two very upset children. Our car was parked in the parking lot of Dophin Cove, and Steve said he wanted to go inside and check things out. I told him it would be much to expensive to swim with the dophins, although I would have loved to have done that. When I had looked costs up online, it would have been $150 for each person, and I had thought the kids were to young to go in the water. Well, I'm so thankful Steve checked things out, since it turned out all four of us could get in the water with the dophins for $120, plus we were given wristbands for Boatswain's Beach that intitled us to half off ticket prices. Once again, another reason why it really pays to travel with family to the Carribbean in September.

After getting our suits on, we met one of the employees out at the pool, and we went over instructions on hand signals for the dophins and what experiences Steve and I would have with the dophins. 

After all of us had a chance to kiss the dophins (except Alexa who was a bit afraid to get near them) and pet them, and even hold onto their fins, Steve and I had two extra experiences. We did a Boogie Board experience where you hold onto a boogie board with your legs stretched out very straight behind you. Then the dophin pushes you by the bottoms of your feet to the other side of the pool. Then we had another experience where the dophin would swim up behind you belly up, and then you would grab both of his fins and lay across his belly as he swam across the pool. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures to post on the blog because we wern't allowed to have our cameras near the pool, but we paid to buy the DVD of our time here.

Before we left, we were able to watch a short dophin show. So, what started out as a disappointing day turned out to be one of our most memorable of the vacation. I guess it's true that God works in mysterious ways!