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Loopy Celebration

January 13, 2019

Back before children, I considered the holiday season to be about 10 days, spanning the week between Christmas and New Years. Fast-forward a few years, and now the holiday hoopla lasts months! We basically start gearing for the holidays after Labor Day. I should point out that we are a lucky bunch who gets to celebrate both Jewish and traditional holidays.

This year Rosh Hashanah came in early September. The boys enjoyed a short service at the JCC with apples and honey.

We visited a pumpkin patch at Sweet Berry Farms in October.

Then came Noah’s favorite – Halloween.

A week off school for Thanksgiving, on which Noah participated in his first race with dad while Nate snoozed in the stroller and mom ran 5 miles. Noah was a bit tired at the end since he jogged/walked over a mile to the start line to do a 1 mile race but the thought of cookies and bagels at the finish kept him going strong.

The 8 crazy nights of Hanukkah were particular memorable this year, as I got a new car! It was time to trade in my little Volvo to accommodate my growing family. (No, I am not pregnant, it’s just my kids are growing.)

We had a low-key Christmas day of baking cookies, watching The Incredibles 2, and eating Chinese food. At a friend’s Christmas party, Santa was confused when he asked Noah what he wanted for Christmas. Noah replied “We don’t do Christmas. We celebrate Hanukkah, but can I have a candy cane anyways?”

We rang in the New Year with an annual trip to the downtown Trail of Lights and Mozart’s cafe.

I dedicate January 1st to a home organizational project. This year it was my pantry. I forgot to take the before pictures, but the final result makes me smile every time I reach in to get something.

At this point, you’d assume we are finally done! But…. Aha! Lo and behold, here comes Microsoft holiday party just as the whole world is setting healthy resolutions to detox from celebratory bingeing. It was a dull gathering but we made the most of it.

There is no end in sight to our excitement with Nate’s 3rd birthday in a few days, our 9 year wedding anniversary, Valentine’s day, our second-ever Disney cruise, mom’s birthday, end of school year parties, dad’s 40th and Noah’s 6th birthdays, the 4th of July, summer camps, vacations, etc. The list just loops around. That’s what family life is like with little kids – a constant celebration!

 

 

 

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Fahrenheit 109

August 29, 2018

And just like that, the summer break is over!

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We had a great summer, surviving the record high temperatures over the last three months (109F, anyone?). As soon as preschool ended we headed to Galveston for our annual trip.

June is a celebration month for us with Dad’s birthday, Father’s Day, and most importantly, Noah’s birthday. Noah began planning his birthday party a year ago, carefully selecting Catch Air as the desired destination for him and a few close friends. He made a guest list and picked out a theme and eagerly supervised as he delegated the execution of details to his Momager. A mountain of presents and a surprise visit from grandpa turned a birthday into birthweek of fun!

For Dad the celebration was less grand, consisting of his favorite things: close friends, beer, tacos and sweet hugs/cards from the boys.

Soaking in sunblock and sweat, we proudly walked the neighborhood’s 4th of July parade. We started off together and ended with Noah, enticed by a cookie at the finish, sprinting at the front and Nate, with a demeanour of a British Royalty, waving to passing cars as the closing parade act.

The rest of the summer was filled with the usual shenanigans:

Friends’ birthday parties

Visits to parks and indoor playgrounds

Hanging at home

Hanging outside (rain or shine)

Running errands

Indulging in summer treats

Being Love Bugs!

A couple of summer camps helped mom keep her sanity. Pirate week was the best!

The best investment we made this summer was a couple of season passes to Typhoon Texas Waterpark.

A quick getaway to San Antonio was a last minute trip to wrap up the season. We stayed at the Hyatt Resort in the Hill Country which is all about family fun: daily activities like art projects, duck races, wildlife feedings, etc., playground, free bike rentals, a waterslide, beach area, lazy river, s’mores and more.

The hotel is located near SeaWorld. With a multiday pass in hand we visited the main park and the Aquatica waterpark. Finally, 3 days later, we arrived at home exhilarated and exhausted.

Come mid-August we were all itching for some change of pace and scenery. Even the neighborhood pool that we eagerly awaited to splash in at the end of May was looking sad, with a few brown leaves and an occasional stranded cicada floating by. School starts early here in Texas, which surprises the outsiders, but for locals it is a desired relief from what seems like the never-ending 100 degree heat. Nate is back at his preschool, in a 2-year-old class surrounded with familiar faces. For Noah, this year is a huge change, as he enters Kindergarten at the elementary school.

I can’t deny the amount of relief and joy I feel with starting our school routine. It’s taken Noah no time to integrate into his new school. I have many worries but one thing I can be sure of is Noah, thrown into a group of strange kids, will emerge with at least a couple of friends having a great time. School is no exception.  Noah’s surged on the wings of independence and maturity by taking the bus, attending school assemblies, packing/unpacking his backpack, quoting his school’s rules, and following the teacher’s instructions.

We are still adjusting to the insanely early wake-up time and rushed nightly routines. At dusk, the emotions run high as the excitement of the day turns into fatigue. All is forgotten in the morning with renewed energy and piqued curiosity of what another day of learning will bring. I could not be prouder of Noah and his attitude, using my newly available free time to bake sweet treats as a sign of love and appreciation.

[Jane Asks]: How was your summer break?

Noah’s Pre-K Graduation

June 1, 2018

Where did the time go?! The school year just flew by! It seems like yesterday that the boys were heading to their first day of preschool.

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The next thing I know, the two trouble monkeys are out for the summer!

This was Noah’s last year at preschool.

As usual we headed to Galveston to kick off our summer break. It was our fifth trip since we moved to Texas and the best one thus far. Apparently some record-breaking current swept by before we arrived, leaving the Gulf water clear and the beaches seaweed-free.

The boys had a blast –  wave jumping, sandcastle building, kite flying, bird feeding, and pool swimming!

We rounded out our stay with a trip to Pleasure Pier for some rides and ice cream.

While the boys rode the carousel, I got to hang out in the shade with a girlfriend.

We visited our favorite restaurants on the island for fresh seafood dinners: The Spot, Jimmy’s on the Pier, Waterman’s Grill, Yamato’s and Cajun Greek.

The boys did a great job with a 4 hour car ride (Eric did not whine once ;), equipped with invidual iPads and a promise of a fast food lunch stop (a real treat, since we only hit McDonald’s once a year– just like mom did back in the USSR.)

We can’t wait for next year when Nate will be tall enough to ride all the “big boy rides” and Noah might be over 48″ to get on “scary fast” roller coasters. Yeek!

Looking ahead we have a pretty “relaxing” summer planned: with a couple of half day camps, a long weekend trip to SeaWorld and the San Antonio Zoo, and lots of time hanging out with mom at home, parks and pool.

With Noah starting Kinder, and thus the boys being on different schedules in the fall, we want to embrace lots of brotherly love over the next couple of months.

[Jane Asks]: What are you doing this summer?

 

 

 

 

Disney Magic

March 25, 2018

This spring break we embarked on a magical journey – a Disney Bahamian Cruise!

First we hung out in Miami for a couple of days with our old friends from Seattle and their little duckling. Both Noah and Nate did a great job playing gently with the baby, but Nate was very uncomfortable with mom picking up the little one and kept saying “baby down!”.

Miami is gorgeous and the weather is perfect this time of the year.

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We visisted Pinecrest Gardens which has a large shaded playground, splash area, petting zoo, pretty plants and cool trees that are perfect for hide and seek.

We had a great time on Miami beach. Noah and dad played in the waves, Nate built sand mountains, and I ran on the boardwalk taking in the surroundings and fascinating tourist crowds.

We walked down the hotel and restaurant strip for lunch which reminded me of Las Vegas but with a giant beach instead of casinos.

We sampled fine cuban cuisine (Eric was super excited for Redhook beer!) and lots of local ice cream (Chillin’ being the favorite spot where the icecream is custom-made using nitrogen.)

Then the day came to board the ship. It was everything we hoped for and more:

  1. Spacious cabin with bunk beds
  2. Delicious cuisine
  3. Amazing kids club with super hero visits, scavanger hunts, cooking classes, ipad games, Disney movies, and more…
  4. Pool, Water Slide and Splash Zone

  5.  Pirates Party and Character Shows

Quoting Noah “I want to stay on the boat forever!”

Our first stop was Key West, a small island off the Florida coast. No beaches close to port, but the downtown area is pretty quaint. I did a quick 3.5 mile sightseeing run while the boys visited the aquarium.

If there is a wine tasting, I’ll find it: a sample of blackberry wine and a bottle to enjoy on the ship. (Disney is super cool about allowing 2 wine bottles per person at each port!)

Next stop: Nassau, Bahamas (our honeymoon destination 8+ years ago.) With two little kids, the easiest excursion was a nearby Junkanoo beach, about 20 minute walk from the port. The beach was small but not overly crowded (at least in the morning). White sand and clear water are all we need for an awesome time.

Our last destination was Castaway Cay (owned by Disney). I got up early, tiptoeing out of our cabin for a 5K Castaway race. It was a fun race with no chip timers, but they had a clock and I was the first female to cross the finish line 🙂

After a breakfast on the boat, we all headed to the island.

Noah’s first pick was the Pelican Plunge. It was overcast and the water was a bit chilly, which kept the lines short but required true bravery.

Nate and I chilled on the beach while waiting for the heros to return from their Pelican conquest.

One of many things Disney does well is great entertainment for the kiddos, but also adults: adult-only pools, spas, beach, restaurants, lounges with live music and yummy grownup drinks (reasonably priced!), movies (Eric and I watched Black Panther), clubs and dancing.

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Alas, the time soon came to disembark and head home. It was a smooth trip back considering we had to take every major mode of transportation from boat to shuttle bus to airport monorail to elevators and escalators to airplane to shuttle bus and finally car.

It was nice to be back home in our beds, sleeping in until almost 9 the next morning. No more Mickey waffles for breakfast, but on the sweet side, mom made sure to secure a 10%-off deal for our next cruise in 2019!

 

Half marathon sale

February 26, 2018

After my last half marathon (3M Austin 2017), I was left conflicted about racing. I wanted to take a break from racing and stick to leisurely runs around the neighborhood. But lo and behold, Groupon sent me a deal for the 2018 Austin Half Marathon and, being the penny saver that I am, I signed up.

Along with the discounted price, there were some other good things about the race:

1. Carpool: my neighbor across the street was running the race too, so I hitched a ride with her downtown.

2. Startline: We were able to sneak in right to the startline thanks to a gentleman who propped the fence open.

3. Weather: it was mid-50s and stayed that way the entire time. A light breeze with a cool mist at the start. Perfect!

4. New headphones: I got to enjoy my Valentine’s Day gift – Bluetooth wireless headphones.

The EarPods are amazing! I forget I am even wearing them! No more getting my hands caught in flimsy wires. I can also wear them around the house listening to tunes while doing chores. Props to Eric for finding a perfect gift!

5. Finish: seeing my guys dressed in bright neon colors with a sign “Go, Mom, Go!” definitely was the highlight of the race and a much needed pick-me-up at mile 13.

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For leisure, I would not have run 13.5 miles (I am obviously not good at cutting corners, adding an extra .4 miles to the overall distance) and especially not at 8:25min/mile, so the race did push my running stamina.

On the other hand, some things were not as pleasant which I, nowadays, have very low tolerance for — I’ve turned into a “racing diva.”

1. Racing etiquette: the runners around me were mostly late 20s-early 30s males that some may refer to as beefcakes. They weren’t your typical slim, broken knees, tight hamstrings, weak arms runners, but instead Lululemon clad dudes who consume way too many protein shakes and spend too much time obsessing over their physique and fitness level. From fart clouds to overcrowding, those dudes did know the proper racing ettquette. My annoyance peaked when one of them tried to pass me on a tightly marked highway lane by saying “on your left” when clearly there was no room. With nowhere for me to move, he then said “I’ll come this way” and pushed me aside from the right. At this point I could not help but yell “of course you will! Just shove me over with your bulging bicep, why don’t you?!” I was wearing my headphones, so I did not hear his response nor did I care.

2. Course: I was excited to hear that a different company was organizing the race. The course I ran in 2014 was really hilly. I later found out the course was changed only for a full marathon (just before 13 miles, the half and full deviated, and half marathoners raced to the finish line, while full marathoners sadly waved us good bye. How crappy is that? I wonder how many fullers quit at that point?!)

I started off strong, even though it was an incline for three miles. Mile 8 was a hip replacer mile where I had to literally hold my right hip down to lessen the pain from uneven pavement.

I could not maintain my pace through the rolling hills after that but I still had enough to sprint at the very end, managing to beat my earlier time by 1 and 1/2 minutes. Chip time: 1:53:21.

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3. Recovery: As soon as I finished, the soreness kicked in. After over a week and numerous yoga classes, I am still not fully recovered. My regular five mile loop feels tough. Being a mom, I no longer have the luxury of post-race couch vegging. I am up and down: cleaning, cooking, washing, carrying and rough housing with my giant babies. I have lost the racing drive and my desire to compete with myself and others. I much more prefer my usual morning jogs as a warmup to a full day of endurance mom training that comes after that.

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I am writing this post as a reminder to myself: Next time I see a deal for a race (and there undoubtedly will be one) – resist the temptation to sign up! Instead shake things up by lacing up your shoes and heading to the Lady Bird trail while the boys play at Zilker Park. It’s a win-win for everybody!

PJs and Pirates

February 16, 2018

Nate is 2 years old! He weighs 30lbs and is 35 inches tall which puts him in the 75th percentile for his size and the 93rd percentile for his brainy head.

We did not plan on a big birthday celebration this year: cupcakes at school followed by present opening and celebratory dinner of pizza and cake at home. The Mother Nature interfered once again (seems to happen a lot here in Texas)! We were hit by freezing temperatures, which resulted in massive panic and school closures for two days. We made the best of the situation and enjoyed a family day at home in PJs!

Being Jewish, the kids don’t get the Christmas morning experience (poor guys only get showered with gifts for 8 nights!) so we try to recreate it on their birthdays.

Eric and I stayed up late unboxing the giant tower of Amazon packages in our living room.

Nate was super excited to see all the presents and Noah, the world’s best big brother, took the liberty of opening and explaining every toy to him.

Nate LOVES Playdoh! He was thrilled with all the playdoh sets, spending hours molding, cutting, squishing, ripping and covering monster trucks with it.

After escaping the pirate attack it was finally time for pizza and cake!

Mom’s famous carrot cake was a hit again this year!

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A month later, it is starting to dawn on me that Nate is no longer a baby (although we all still call him baby Nate and he seems to refer to himself as a baby.)

He has perfected his daily routines, saying numerous words together and even full phrases like “I don’t know” and “here ya go”. He has mastered all the colors “dink”, “yellow” (first one he learned and his favorite for awhile), “blue”, “urple”, “een”, “red”, “own”, “oran”, “ite”. He is learning his letters at a miraculous rate, building impressive constructions with Lego and independently feeding himself with both fork and spoon.

Stuck at home over the holiday break, we did a 3 day potty training method that Nate rocked! He still has accidents but is getting better at holding and indicating he needs to go potty.

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Nate adores his big brother!

The two of them are inseperable!

Nate is silly and fun just like his big brother.

From all the impressive developments thus far, the most important is his loving, caring and sweet nature! Nate gives the best hugs and kisses, shares all his presents and treats with his brother, and is always full of smiles and happiness! No wonder Eric and I are madly in love with this kid!

 

Festivities

December 15, 2017

I love fall! The Texas heat finally breaks, and being outside turns from unbearable to fairly pleasant. With colorful leaves, fall also brings loads of holiday celebrations: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah/Christmas hoopla. The sugar joy never stops! 

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We kicked off our fall festivities at Riverfest: we dressed up in funny hats, danced, bounced, played games, and hung out with school buddies.

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Then came a Halloween parade and Trick-or-Treating:

…Followed by two weeks of checking the “magic” candy bucket and wondering how it made all the candy disappear one night. The conclusion was that it must have been the wild animal that got into our trash bin the night before; he stole all the candy to share with other animals since they don’t get candy on Halloween. (Makes sense to me!)

An annual visit to the Sweetberry Farms Pumpkin Patch:

This was the first year we all participated in Thundercloud Turkey Trot. So proud of Eric putting keeping up with me for most of the way while I vigorously zigzagged with a double stroller through flocks of walkers. When signing up for the race I did not realize that the “untimed” option was meant for strolling as a family in a single line, gossiping about aunt Marge and her poor cat Whiskers.

Nate napped through half the run and after some finishers’ muffins (sitting in the stroller sure makes the boys hungry!) we casually walked and hugged for awhile collecting “oohs! and ahhs!” from everyone on our path.

Later that day I made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, roasting my first full size turkey (it was on a smaller side). Nate was skeptical about the turkey at first but the next day he could not get enough.

Santa on the Firetruck is not really our schtick but it’s free and close to the house. Neither one of the boys wanted to even come close to Santa (can’t fight those Jewish genes), but they were intrigued with the firetruck (or the bike rack in Nate’s case. Both are equally amusing when you are 2).

We are quickly transitioning into winter celebrations, especially when we had our first snowday in over 5 years. This was the first time the boys got to play in the snow.

Hanukkah snuck up on us fast, even though Noah made sure to check daily “Is it Hanukkah yet?!”

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With Hanukkah being the holiday of lights, Trail of Lights was a perfect family outting.

We had a blast at the Great Gatsby Themed Holiday party at Speak Easy after discovering the room with the best food, replenished sparkling wine and pool tables.

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We usually celebrate the end of the year with a dinner at Hula Hut, duck feeding, treats and hot drinks, a light show at the Mozart Cafe, watching some TV broadcasting the New Year’s Eve countdown, and passing out way before the clock strikes midnight.

How are you celebrating the holidays this year?

We’d like to wish you a very happy Hanukkah, the merriest of Christmases, most amazing Kwanza, the most joyous Festivus, and all the best in the New Year!