Friday, February 19, 2010

Like Riding a Bicycle

I really enjoyed reading by the fire (or at least the wood burning stove) while the rest of my family was skiing. Had I stayed at the cabin and read my book, maybe I would have felt differently. But by the time my family showed back up, I was feeling sort of left out. I don't know why. It's not like the kids were thrilled with their first day on skis. I guess it just bugs me to be sitting around relaxing while everyone else is doing something a whole lot more active, even if it's just falling down.

I don't really know what transpired that made the kids eschew their plans for sledding and snowman-building and decide they wanted to go skiing again the next day. Smunch was still coughing up a storm. I suspect he was sleeping poorly, but our bedroom was far enough from his that we couldn't hear him.

We had breakfast at our favorite little breakfast spot, went to the local ski rental shop and took advantage of the "super bro" pricing our cabin "host" (who owns the cabin as his main residence, but moves into his production studio downstairs when he rents the house's a strange situation as renters) said we could get by mentioning his name. Went back to the cabin to get everything else we needed an headed back to the same resort we went to the previous day.

This time, the kids had no lessons, so Daddy and I both skiied the bunny slope with them...for hours. Naturally, that sat just fine with me. I'm a hazard on anything much more complex than a bunny slope. It also gave us a chance to try and teach the kids a few more skills...which is sort of a joke for whatever kid was with me at any given time. They'll both overtake me in no time. Still, I was surprised to find that I hadn't really forgotten anything I'd learned about skiing...on those two days I went skiing...18 years ago.

By the time the lifts closed, Mam was whizzing down the hill. She even made it several times without falling, even if I was cringing at her lack of turns. Smunch, on the other hand, bailed out any time he started turning, so he fell a lot more than his sister. He may have learned a lot and had a good time, but still sick, he was in frustrated tears before the rest of us finished and threw a massive tantrum when he'd spent too much time brooding and missed the last minutes of lift time. Oh well.

There is no photographic evidence that any of this ever occurred (although there are rumors of video evidence). I admit I didn't hate skiing. But that's as far as I'm willing to make concessions.

The Winter Olympics have been on this whole time, of course. It brings a whole new perspective to what people can do in the snow...

We returned to another ear infection. Other child. We'll be done with antibiotics someday, maybe...

Not Feeling Great at Eight

After our post-ski/post-reading soak in the hot tub on Smunch's birthday, I threw together a decidedly un-gourmet meal of spaghetti, green beans and sourdough. Smunch was still grumpy. He caught Mam's nasty cold, had a rotten cough and was tired from a day on the (teeny, tiny) slope. But it was the requested birthday meal and he seemed to enjoy it, right down to the sauce from a jar. The love for piles of pasta hasn't diminished in the past year, at least.

Looking back at my post from Smunch's 7th birthday, I realize that this year didn't really hold a birthday candle to last year's fun, mellow day. But the one thing I wanted to be sure to repeat was the cupcake idea. Not wanting to make a trek up to Sprinkles before we left in the morning I spent a ridiculous amount of time looking for a place with great cupcakes along the way to Tahoe. I found Icing on the Cupcake in Rocklin. It wasn't far off the path and they had some fun (and yummy!) cupcakes to choose from. We picked guessed it...eight. I see this becoming and expensive little tradition!The cupcakes are still a big hit.

There weren't a lot presents to open. We've promised Smunch a trip to the sporting goods store to get new baseball gear. And, of course, he had a day of ski school...but I'd argue that was as much for Daddy (who is trying to cultivate some skiing partners) as it was for Smunch. Still, he loved the few presents he got, including a book of great sporting moments from Grandpa Ryderand the entire Baseball documentry by Ken Burns. Don't doubt me. He'll eat this up.Just like those cupcakes.

Living Up to Ski Week

I love Lake Tahoe in the winter. It's painfully pretty. But then, it's often pretty darned cold too. And I'm not a skiier. So, that generally leaves me sipping hot chocolate by the fire.

But in our little corner of California, we have this funny little week off school in the middle of February. Although in our district, it's technically known as Winter Break, everyone calls it Ski Week. That's because they instituted this break to try and keep the families around here from pulling their kids out of school to go skiing. Don't know how well that works.

Last year, we did go to Tahoe during Ski Week, but there was no skiing involved, just sledding. This year was different, although it turned out that Daddy had unknowingly booked a cabin just a few doors down from the one we rented last year. The drive in was easy. It wasn't snowing. It was warm and the roads were very, very clear. It was sunny every day and there was significantly less snow when we left than when we got there.

And this year, we were there for Smunch's birthday. For his birthday, he and Mam went to ski school at one of the smaller, lower-key resorts.The outcome of a day worth of ski school was somewhat predictable. Smunch wasn't in the greatest of health (or mood) for starters. He's not fearless. He's cautious. He gets frustrated easily. I talked to him at lunchtime and he wasn't altogether thrilled with the experience.

Mam, on the other hand. Well Mam is fearless, she's almost always in a good mood and although she's easily frustrated, she bounces back quickly.Smunch was tired and grumpy at the end of the day. Mam was just tired. It didn't seem like either of them had really learned a whole lot, each of them falling several times on the way down the tiny little slope in the lesson area. But they could stay up on skis for a few seconds, at least.Daddy went skiing on his own while the kids were in ski school. Me? I took a book and sat by the fire reading when I wasn't out tromping around trying to find the kids with my telephoto lens. There was a lot more reading than photography.

With two exhausted kids, we left as soon as ski school got out. We went back to the cabin and jumped in the hot tub (which turned out to be way too hot) and appreciated our view for a little while...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Who needs flowers and chocolate when there are cookies?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Paleontologist Smunch

Just two days (two, very, very short days) after the big birthday party, Smunch was scheduled to give his oral report on the Allosaurus to his second grade class. I hadn't done well with the preparations for this report. Things were just so crazy in the week leading up to his performance. Preparing for it required canceling swim lessons and mommy's birthday dinner out, but it got done. It was just a short report, just about two and a half minutes. Of course, knowing how difficult speaking can sometimes be for my little guy, I held my breath for him, but only for a second. He did great!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Game Day

Yesterday was Superbowl Sunday and it was a great football game, but before the chips and dip came out, we had an entirely different set of games to play. You see, although I'd originally scheduled Smunch's birthday party for the 13th, too many of his guests were going to be out of town, so we rescheduled for Superbowl Sunday, with the goal of being done a good 90 minutes before kickoff...because even if the guests and their families had no interest in watching the game, I knew the guest of honor would not appreciate missing it. Not for anything!Originally, Smunch requested a chess party and I agonized about that a little bit because not all the guests were avid chess players. Somewhere along the line, I realized that I could still include chess if I made it a board game party.

So, after getting the cake all put together, strung the kitchen in streamers and picked up balloons, we whipped out the fun kid games - chess, checkers, Connect Four, Uno, Sorry, Jenga, dominoes, and Twister. I wasn't sure how it would all work out, but it turned out to be a great idea, especially with a couple extra volunteers to help.

We started off the party by having each of the kids make their own English muffin pizzas (wish I'd thought to take pictures of them!), then they went and played (or watched) a game of their choice while I popped their cute little pizzas in the oven. We supplemented with some fun football-shaped pretzels, popcorn, strawberries and carrots, with fizzy pink lemonade. It all went over pretty well!

After lunch, Daddy facilitated as the boys (and Mam) played Twister. I knew it would probably be a fun game for them, but it was truly hysterical.Most of the boys had very good humor about it...all, but Smunch, who hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before. He confessed he'd woken up at 5:45 and had a ridiculous tantrum the first time he fell over playing Twister. Still, I don't think it dampened the fun for any of them.Shortly before cake time, Daddy took the more active kids out to play soccer in the front yard for a little bit. A few of the "quieter" kids stayed in and played with the dominoes. They weren't technically "playing" dominoes, but building things with them and screetching as they fell over.I took lots of photos of the cake in its final moments. After all, it's not much to look at afterwards!And then it was time. The kids were all excited to get to taste some of the chess pieces, but not before some singing and candle blowing.Of course, it turns out that this cake wasn't the least bit easy to cut! With the solid chocolate checkerboard on the top, I sort of had to chisel my way through.It worked out though...and the cake was pretty yummy too. Of course, it was huge, so it was only half gone when the boys were done. Then Daddy took all those boys, all hopped up on sugar, out for a game of tug-o-war in the front yard. It was the perfect end to a pretty great party!Each of the boys left happy with a little bag of chocolate chess pieces and a box of checkers, chess and backgammon. And now another week and a bit before I actually have an 8-year-old!

You may have noticed there were a lot of Daddy-facilitated activities at this party. It's true. I totally let him take on the brunt of the during-party work. By the time I've got the party favors figured out, planned all the food, gotten decorations and made yet another ridiculous cake, I'm apparently worthless. At least I managed to take some pictures!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Making It

It took until late afternoon on Saturday, but we finally found out that Smunch made the competitive baseball team he tried out for. I'm really thrilled for him...a wee bit scared for me and the limited sanity I'll have come March...but really, truly excited that he gets to play even more.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


In retrospect, it was probably fortunate that Smunch decided he wanted a "chess party" for his birthday this year. Because, if you know me, you know the first thing on my mind is how I'm going to make a chess cake. I thought about it for a good, long time because I just wasn't sure.

Yeah. I could make a bunch of chess pieces out of fondant, but I don't play with fondant that often and I had no faith that I could make a set of relatively uniform chess pieces by rolling the play-dough-like stuff in my hands. Fortunately, I had an epiphany that there must be chocolate molds for this sort of thing. Ah, the internet is a wonderful thing!I spent the last couple of weeks putting together life-sized chocolate chess pieces a few at a time. I also got a chocolate mold that made quarters of a chess board. I found myself a 16" square cake pan and some high quality cake mix that I've used before. Finally, by the end of this week, it was all coming together. The two layers of cake (one devil's food and one white) were baked and Friday afternoon, I put the cake together with chocolate mousse in the middle and a "crumb coating" on the outside. This morning, I put on the final coat of crumb-free frosting.I added the chocolate chess board quarters. Unfortunately, they bowed a little as they hardened, so they weren't perfectly flat, but close enough.I added some chocolate bead borders to hide some imperfections and tidy things up a bit.I had a vision for how I wanted things to go from there, but it looked so neat and tidy that I almost chickened out and left it as it was. But I'd bought some plastic frogs and bugs to add and it really didn't make a lot of sense without a little greenery. Originally, I thought I'd go for grass, but I opted for leaves instead and added just a few flowers...not too girly, just decorative.After all, a snail and a frog cancel out the flowers and butterfly, right? And the finishing touch, of course, was to add the chess pieces.
Not sure how we'll do this in the end. I may have Daddy set the cake up so it looks like a game is being played rather than having the pieces set in their starting positions. It should be a fun party...even if we'll be winging much of it!

Derby Day

It's another rainy Saturday in the litany of rainy weekends we've had here this year. I'm not really complaining. I understand drought pretty well. I know how much we desperately need the rain. And I need to be decorating a cake for tomorrow anyway. Daddy and Smunch left an hour ago for the San Francisco Giants FanFest, which doesn't start for another half hour. It's raining there too, but I hope it's some good bonding time for them.

We were supposed to find out yesterday whether Smunch made the competitive baseball team. We haven't heard a thing yet and I'm kinda bummed about that. It makes me unnecessarily nervous. I mean really, if he doesn't make it, I'm off the hook for a lot of extra work this Spring. But he'll be so disappointed...

Anyway, I hadn't quite finished up yakking about last weekend when we all endured another Pinewood Derby. Not only were Aunt Karen and SPENCER! there, but Gram and Grandpa joined us as well. They joined us far too early. I hadn't anticipated the whole weighing in and registering to take a full hour or more. We were all pretty bored, but at least SPENCER! had some good company.This year, Daddy took a different approach to creating a Pinewood Derby car with his son. Last year, they agonized over the details, made it look really cool and in the end, it ran two races and didn't do well enough to run in any more of them. This time, Daddy left most of the carving and decorating up to Smunch...with supervision, of course. When it needed a little more weight, they hammered nails into the back end. Not pretty, but quite effective.

Smunch's den was in charge of the "flag ceremony" for this event and it was cute to see them marching down the room with the flag and leading the pledge of allegiance (even though I half-despise this ceremony).And Smunch looked excited to be doing it. He managed to keep from mopping the floor with the national emblem. It all went pretty well!And finally, the races began...43 heats of races and that was just for the scouts. There were also divisions for siblings and parents!Smunch's car is in the photo above, next to the one being set on the track. It did really well and placed first in two races, second in one and third in one. The car's time, however, was best in the race where it placed third...suggesting that it wasn't really all that fast, but Smunch was thrilled watching it go. It was more fun to watch him than to watch the race.In the end, his car wasn't in the top three for his age group, but it was probably in the top 5 of about 13 cars. He was happy, so we were all happy. Much better than the meltdown of last year!


It's a little weird to blog about things that I wasn't present for. But sometimes it's fun to talk about things one of the kids really enjoyed, so I can remember it even if I can't remember being there...because I wasn't.

Aunt Karen and SPENCER! were here, so when some extremely generous friends (thanks again, They Call Me Mama!) gave us a pair of tickets to see the San Jose Sharks, I knew it was more than likely that Daddy would be going. And, of course, there was no question that Smunch would be going. He'd never been to an ice hockey match before and he'd been waiting for this particular Saturday night for months!

So, I did not go, but I did watch for my boys on television and Daddy thoughtfully sent me a few photos from his iPhone. They had great seats.And sometime before the game, Daddy was fortunate enough to have forward, Jody Shelley, flip him a puck, which immediately became Smunch's most prized possession. (Perhaps it's no coincidence that Smunch's 8th birthday party will be held on Mr. Shelley's 35th birthday...although really, it is.)Apparently, Smunch bounced on his toes for the first two periods of the game, but running purely on excitement and on so little sleep, he became awfully mellow by the last one. He didn't let o of the puck though.He was still psyched about the puck when he got home, wide awake around 10:30 that night.

Daddy really hadn't wanted to take him to the match. The sleep-deprived behavior that afternoon was pretty awful, but I'm so glad they went anyway. You just don't get that kind of opportunity every day!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Trying Out

A couple of weeks ago, I was reminded (via e-mail) that Smunch is now old enough to play on a competitive baseball team in addition to his regular recreational one. Although the competitive team is through the same league, the kids have to try out and only the best kids make it. They're a lot more serious and it involves a lot more time. I think at one time, some sane part of me decided not to mention this to Smunch. But knowing how much he loves baseball, when I got the reminder, I talked to him about it. I told him it would be a lot of work and that he'd have to try out and might not make it. He didn't care. He was raring to go.

So, last Saturday, after not nearly enough sleep the night before (see previous post about Hell Week), our entire family headed over to the baseball diamond to see what Smunch could do. Smunch knew a couple of the boys there and after a few minutes of watching, it was clear that these boys are good baseball players.

Smunch, overtired and unfocused, was looking pretty mediocre, honestly.Um, no. He didn't catch the ball. But he did catch a couple of the fly balls launched at him, I think. Some of the other boys caught nearly all of them.Not sure if he was actually paying attention here or just looking like he was. It's quite possible he was faking. And here he is hitting the ball...foul. He fouled off almost every single one of them. I guess that's better than wiffing it entirely!

To be fair, he really looked good here and there. Like here:Dunno. That one might've gone foul too, but at least it looked good at that very instant. And he did a great job of showing them that he can run...although he jumped over the bases rather than tagging them. It didn't go unnoticed.

We find out today if he made the team. Not too many boys were trying out, so I think he's got a pretty good chance of making it despite the less-than-stellar performance. And then, I shall wave goodbye to my sanity for the Spring. The Spring...when I've just become manager of a kindergarten girls' softball team. Yikes.