The area had some frigid temperatures in the days leading to Christmas.  Wind Chill was below -10F one day; precipitation was minimal, but pond surfaces were covered with a skin of ice.  And in the early morning hours, so were roads.  Not great for traveling to Grandma's house by car, train or plane.  By Christmas Eve, however, rain showers had settled in, but they didn't dampen the holiday mood.

Although Brandon is almost 9 and Sophia is 6, they still want to take care of Santa, overlooking the possibility that his bottom may be burned by the embers when he comes down the chimney.  This year, as always, they put out a plate of cookies for him.  However, the reindeer were ignored.  I understand that it's the female reindeer who have antlers, so perhaps Brandon and Sophia acknowledged the possibility that as females, they'd be on diets and wouldn't want to eat anyway.

I stayed overnight at the Valentines so that I'd be there when Brandon and Sophia woke up.  They went to bed at 10:00, Sophia on a pallet on Brandon's floor because she was afraid Santa might come into her room.  She went right to sleep.  Not Brandon, though.  While Dawn and I sat in the living room and Papa Elf slumbered in his bed, Brandon tossed and turned.  He came to the landing more than once to announce his inability to go to sleep.  He did some jumping jacks to burn off the energy that wouldn't let his mind rest.  Brandon also tried some warm milk, but after tasting it, decided he'd rather be awake!  Finally Dawn went to lie down with him and Brandon dozed off sometime after 12:30 AM.

The next morning, Sophia and Brandon woke up at 5:00 and were promptly sent back to bed.  But there were up for good at 6:30 and the day of celebration began.

Nana and Pap arrived about noon and the second gift exchange took place.  Brandon was excited to receive another sports-related gift.

In the week after Christmas, holiday decorations came down in preparation for the arrival of 2009. Our final tradition capped the holiday -- the Valentines came to dinner to sample New Year's fare. On the table were pork, sauerkraut (Dawn and I will eat it; the others shiver with displeasure), black-eyed peas, cornbread and green Jell-O salad (in place of greens).  Most important, however, is taking the annual family photo.

The Valentines - New Year's Day 2009

Brandon's birthday follows New Year's by just a few days. Brandon wanted cupcakes and he wanted to decorate them all. I don't think he gave much though to the difficulty he'd have blowing out all the candles to make his wish come true. 

Copyright 2009 Kitty Park

2008 - FALL

Ahh, FALL ....

School's back in session.  Sophia is now in kindergarten five days a week.  Brandon's a third grader.  Suddenly I've gone from having them with me three days a week to an hour and a half three afternoons a week.  I have a life again!  But as unbelievable as it sounds, I find no time to be bored.

Brandon played flag football this year.  The sport is open to first through third graders, so he's one of the bigger boys.  Matt played football in high school, so he and Brandon enjoy throwing the football to each other.  I overheard comments that Brandon has developed quite a throwing arm.

When Brandon's six-week-long football season ended, Sophia elected to take gymnastics.  I visited one evening and was met at the door by the smell I remember from my school days.  The smell of feet.  Folks who stay while their children are in class sit in bleachers in the Balcony.  The beginners' class, Sophia's group, was waaaay down at the far end of the gymnasium.  Binoculars would have been helpful to observe the little girls bouncing on the trampoline and tumbling on the mat.  Sophia's already declared she wants to take cheerleading next.

Halloween.  The weather was beautiful that day.  Sophia was a witch and Brandon, an injured football player. They and a few of their friends ran through the first half of the route.  By the second half, as their goodie bags became heavy, their pace slowed and they admitted they were ready to go home to sort through their loot.

This is the year Dawn turned 40.  In late September Matt began preparations for a surprise birthday party.  The plan included inviting friends to a pig roast, the Valentines' third and final of the year. Dawn, as has been their custom, sent invitations.  Matt and Dawn's friend, Rachelle, prepared a second invitation, reiterating that a pig roast was planned, but it would also be a surprise birthday party for Dawn.  To add to the excitement of the day, Matt called Dawn's childhood friend, Inga, who lives in North Carolina.  Inga said she'd come and bring her 3-month old son and her mother, Carolyn, who was Dawn's second mom when the girls were little.  Matt also called Brett who said he and his girlfriend, Michelle, would fly in from San Francisco.

The weather cooperated as much as it can in early November.  The day was overcast but the temperature held in the mid 50's.  At 2 PM, a friend pulled Down into the house on a hunt for headache remedy so surprise guests Inga, the baby, Carolyn, Brett and Michelle could scurry over from their hiding place next door.  A short time later, when Dawn returned to the patio, everyone yelled "Surprise!!" and Dawn was!  The celebration lasted until after midnight, with people coming and going throughout the evening.

Yes, Dawn was surprised!

Inga and Brett surprising Dawn

Dawn and Inga
Brett, my brother Jeff, and Michelle

Presents appropriate for a 40th birthday

Sophia's birthday is the day after Dawn's.  Cupcakes were shared with classmates and Sophia wore a crown in class all day. There were presents from her family that evening, but the big party with school friends was on Saturday. After Sophia opened gifts, the girls painted camisoles and decorated their cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles. When I looked at the results, I can honestly say I was thankful I had to work that day!

Brett, on a morning walk with the dogs
A couple weeks later Dawn and I flew to San Francisco to help celebrate Brett's November birthday.  Brett had moved to San Rafael where Michelle has a home.  The association where they live is surrounded by a walking path.  Every day, sometimes twice a day, the dogs Bella (leading the parade and out of this picture), Lulu (both black labradors) and Nick (chihuahua mix) are exercised there.  Lulu is a go-getter and will fetch until the thrower's arm gives out.

Dawn and I have visited San Francisco, but San Rafael is new territory for us.  Brett cycles through the area frequently so with a nod from us, he drove along routes where the views along the coast are spectacular.  On Sunday, the four of us visited Healdsburg where we had a light lunch before strolling along the streets and visiting several of the unique shops selling unusual or trendy items.

Copyright 2008 Kitty Park