Category Archives: Around Town

Christmas Walk

Like last year, we went to La Arcada to wander through the Christmas Walk. But unlike last year, I didn’t spend the whole time taking pictures. I only snapped a few, not very good ones either, but somehow they disappeared. Luckily, it looked much like it did the year before, so the 2010 post will suffice for imagery.

This year’s trip was short. It was a chilly night and very windy, so we quickly made our way through the throng of people to pick up our free popcorn, candy canes, hot chocolate, and tamales. The last one sounds random, but it was the sample item offered by this year’s sponsoring restaurant and they were good. A true Santa Barbara style Christmas treat.

Again, we did not wait in line to see Santa on State Street. The line was too ridiculously long for our almost-ready-for-bedtime-children to handle. Instead, we walked past and waved hello from the sidewalk.

Despite the crowded nature of this event, we enjoy getting in the Christmas Spirit by attending. I actually like the hustle and bustle of it all. The fun of window shopping past brightly lit stores in beautiful decor without giving into the commercialism of needing to buy it all. The live caroling and jazz ensembles playing Christmas music, lovely decorations, and festive shops remind us that the Christmas season has arrived.

Family Night Bowling

We’d been talking about going bowling together for months and finally took the opportunity during Family Home Evening one Monday night. Maddie fell asleep on the way over so she was super grumpy when we arrived. She didn’t even want to try using the dragon bowling ramp we set up for the kids. Jake and Joey hung out in the stroller and watched us play as they snacked on pretzels. I can’t wait for them to start walking so that they can join us in these kinds of activities.

At first, Warren only used the ramp, but once he got going decided that he would try throwing the ball himself. More like chucking it in the air and having it come crashing down in the middle of the lane. Despite the crazy throws, and thanks to the side bumpers that came up during his turn, he actually started doing pretty well. Many spares and a few strikes. We won’t mention the gutter balls that rolled along the bumper and dumped to the side before it ever hit any pins.

Finally, Maddie warmed up to the idea and gave it a try.

I think she got more strikes than all of us combined. We are not bowling pros, to say the least. Maybe Colin and I should have used the bumpers on our turns, as well.

We ended the outing with bowling alley food. French fried dinner sounded good to me after a low-scoring but fun game.

The Art of Storytelling

Warren and I went on a mother-son date. I love these opportunities to be one-on-one with this funny kid who loves to talk. We stopped at Starbucks and grabbed a hot chocolate (complete with whipped cream and mini chocolate chips) and a caramel apple cider and then headed to the local public library for a storyteller’s rendition of The Adventures of Pinocchio.

Warren and I sat on the floor together among the throng of wiggly children as we watched the performer’s rendition of the classic version of the story. We were all captivated by his grand, animated gestures and silly voices. He was hilarious and knew how to work the audience.

I love that we went to this event. Warren and I had a great time together. We were happy to support this form of entertainment. The library is wise to provide the opportunities.

Storytelling is an underappreciated art form. As the storyteller stated, no one is still enough to listen anymore. We’re all so distracted by so many media that we aren’t able to pay attention to a story. Such a shame because a good storyteller is almost magical to hear.

At the close of his performance, he mentioned a website I’d never heard of before that has free stories for all ages told by professional storytellers. Plus, he has his own weekly Saturday morning radio show at 7:30AM (Pacific) that you can hear online. I have yet to check out either one but at least I know that there are some interesting options, that don’t involve television, when the kids are looking for something to do.

Halloween Festivities

The Costumes:

A dress-up piece that I purchased in the after Halloween sale last year. The outfit was completed by the rain boots I bought him in anticipation of a heavy rain season this winter. And because I love kids in rain boots.

On loan from Ani via her mom, Christy. The absolute CUTEST sheep costume in the entire world! Thanks again, Christy and Ani, for letting Maddie borrow it. She definitely made it work in her favor.

This year’s Pièce de résistance. If only you could see their adorable little faces! This costume was Colin’s answer to the question: “What’s a good twin costume?” Since this would be the only year we could utilize the stroller prop, it had to be this Halloween. Colin’s amazing mother took the design and sewed this winner together, complete with knitted hats. IT IS TOO MUCH! Definitely the highlight of this Halloween. Thanks again, Grandma Tuki for the fantastic work!

The Activities:

As it’s been in the last couple of years, Halloween turned out to be a three-day weekend event.

On Saturday night, we attended the church Trunk-or-Treat. The next day proved once and for all that kids are indeed highly affected by large amounts of sugar consumption. Just ask Maddie who over dosed and spent much of the day in a state of tantrum. Fun for all.

On Monday, the actual Halloween day, we picked Colin up from work and headed over to the local shopping strip mall where we let the kids get just a few pieces of candy. Warren bounced in the jumpy house and rode with me on the kiddie train, but Maddie didn’t care for either. All she wanted was to rifle through her loot and dig in.

We came home, ate spiderweb pizza, and took the kids to the street where our good friends from church live. Since the candy haul from the Trunk-or-Treat was so ridiculous we decided to only go up one side of their street and then back down the other. Period. That was about all Jake and Joey could take anyway. They were good sports, cruising around in their stroller, but when they were done, they were done.

I love Halloween. From the moment the calendar turns to October 1st, we start playing “The Nightmare Before Christmas” soundtrack, I put up our many decorations, and we eat our fair share of Halloween-themed treats. It’s a magical time full of golden sunsets with long shadows, harvest moons, and pumpkin patches scattered with orange.

This year was particularly special because it was the first time our kids went trick or treating door to door. I hope I never forget the joy I felt watching Maddie and Warren run up the sidewalk, giddy with excitement. Or how sweet and polite they were saying, “Trick-or-treat,” and “Happy Halloween!” to all who answered the door, though Maddie did try to go inside every single house. (How confusing that we shouldn’t considering every time we knock on anyone else’s door it’s someone we know who gladly lets us in!) I love how proud she was as she would drop the candy in her bag all by herself and chase off after Warren who was practically at the next doorstep. And how Warren took care of his little sister to make sure she got her share.

True, there’s not much to the holiday. It’s pretty straightforward: dress up and get candy. A silly tradition that came alive for them this year. And I loved watching every minute of it.

I hope your Halloween was as happy as ours.

Soccer: Season 3

Another year of soccer has begun. Again, Colin is coaching Warren’s team. This year’s name: Lightning Strikes Back.

This time things are going a little better with the “Dad-is-my-coach” situation. Colin worked out a reward system for helping Warren remember to have a good attitude, especially at practices. This system, as you might have guessed, involves receiving LEGOs. Whatever works.

Warren’s first game was amazing. Not because our team won, or scored any goals, for that matter. It was awesome because Warren seemed to “wake up” out on the field and actually engaged in the game the entire time. He can really plow through those kids when he makes his mind up to do so! He was a soccer powerhouse!

After it was over, we went out for the traditional post-game scoop of ice cream.

The kids always go for the fruity flavors. The ones that are brightest and leave the most stains, of course.

I think Warren may have overdosed on his “Cotton Candy” but he valiantly pressed on to finish.

Participating in soccer every autumn is taxing on our family’s schedule. We don’t have a Saturday free until Thanksgiving. But I think this year, our time spent will be worth the effort.

Colin is a fun, devoted coach that knows how to get the kids excited to play. He even designed the team banner above. Warren is improving weekly in his skill level and ability to play the game. And I think he actually likes it.

So we’ll keep going with this fall ritual. At least for a few more seasons.

Labor Day at Santa Claus Lane Beach

Another fun-filled Labor Day at the beach with our pseudo family. This time we met in Carpinteria and spent the afternoon together at Santa Claus Lane Beach.

The adults didn’t get in the water like we did last year at Zuma, but the kids enjoyed splashing around and playing in the sand. Plus, there was plenty of junk food to keep us occupied. You can always count on Julianna to provide the Oreos. Thank goodness.

It was Jake and Joey’s first real experience with sand. Thankfully, they seemed to really enjoy it.

Warren requested to be buried in the sand and Danny willingly obliged.

Maddie spent most of the afternoon dodging waves. She loves the ocean as long as Dad is close by to assist navigating the surf.

It was a great day! We love spending holidays with this fun crew.

The Last Day of Summer Vacation

I asked Warren what he wanted to do on the last day of his summer break. He decided on the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens, another item on our to do list. An absolutely gorgeous place to be, especially on a beautiful sunny day.

Jake and Joey kind of got the shaft on their morning nap just so we could fit this outing in before the many other activities we had planned on this busy day. Other events included a visit from our county social worker (We’ve made progress in our quest to adopt the boys! I promise I’ll post all that I can soon.), a parent-teacher-child conference with Warren’s first grade teacher, and time to play in the sprinklers.

Maddie is becoming increasingly more resistant to walking any longer than five minutes. We did a lot of resting on the benches scattered throughout these beautiful grounds. But she still threw a fit and stood stubborn and unmoving when I said it was time to walk back to the car. I got tired of waiting for her to follow us, and I can’t really carry her anymore and push Jakey and Joey in the stroller, so I acted on a random thought/prompting I had: put her on top of the stroller canopy.

Worked like a charm. She got to sit while I had an easier time pushing all three children than I would have had coaxing her along to keep up. A queen on her throne.

After the other appointments ended, we came home and realized that the day was warmer than most we’d had all summer. We turned on the sprinklers and enjoyed time in the backyard. No pictures, however. We were too wet and too busy to think about the camera.

It was a perfect afternoon and evening together. We ate Woodstock’s pizza outside, had popsicles that dripped down onto little hands (and bellies), and sat for awhile in the warm summer air. It was our last moment of freedom before the busy school and soccer schedules would take over again. I didn’t want it to end.

On the eve of the new school year, I found myself tearful at the thought of Warren’s absence from our lunch table once again. I’m sure that summer just began yesterday, so how could he already be heading back to school? His vacation is over and I am truly sad. The time it took to get here seemed to pass in an instant.

I’ll be fine. I’ll get used to him being gone again. I just wish I didn’t have to.

Natural History Museum Outing

Checking off our Summer To Do list was slow-going at first, but we kicked it into gear the last week of summer break.

We went, once again, to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, this time by ourselves. The kids enjoyed the same exhibits and the addition of Butterflies Alive! that runs through the end of the summer. We didn’t make it to the planetarium this time either (sorry, Krissie!) because by the time it would have started Maddie was 100% done with the museum. One day we will experience the astronomical wonders SBMNH has to offer, but it would not be this day!

If you have time to see the butterfly exhibit, I highly recommend it. Butterflies are dripping all over the enclosed structure. It’s quite an amazing sight. But don’t try to go in with your stroller like I had the audacity to attempt! Be expected to carry your infant through the entire display, even if you have two! Thanks a bunch, Unfriendly Docent.

That Small Town Feeling

Some may mock me for saying this but I think that Santa Barbara has that small town kind of feeling.

Granted, my perspective is a bit skewed since I have only ever lived in big cities. Make that two out of the top three largest cities in the United States: the Los Angeles suburbs known lovingly as “The Valley” (yes, I am a “Valley Girl” but do not say “like” any more than you do, thank you very much), and the south side of Chicago (the very definition of urban jungle). The third “big” city I’ve called home is Seattle, which I considered to be on the small side but I know Christy thinks is much too large for comfort.

Still, you can’t deny the tell-tail signs of familiarity that life in a town with a population less than 500,000 people brings.

For instance, I see the same cars driving around town and often know at least in which direction the owners live if not exactly where they reside. On a given day, I can go to the post office and then the library and see the same customers in both places.

Given enough time in the conversation, people you just meet at a work gathering or friend’s party are sure to know someone you know from church or school or one of the various community moms’ playgroups.

But if that’s not enough, I can almost guarantee that I see at least one person that I actually, really know while out on an errand. Last week I went to Trader Joe’s and saw two gals I personally knew from two separate organizations. Then at Costco, on the same outing, I recognized a lady and her sweet son that I’d only ever heard about but had never met (our children share the same Early Start therapist since they both have heart issues).

Need more proof? While browsing through a local photographer’s online galleries I saw lovely photos of a woman and her daughter I know from Warren’s school.

Christmas parades, outings to the zoo, and beach trips are also hot-spots for sighting people you’ve interacted with before. It’s pretty much unavoidable.

And you know what? I love it. Not so small that the main source of entertainment is keeping track of one another’s personal business, and not so big that no one cares or even notices beyond his own street corner, Santa Barbara seems to be just the right size. I love that it feels like a true community here. People seem a little more invested because it’s so obvious we’re all neighbors.

It’s a good feeling. It feels like home.

Family Pictures 2011

I had been bugging Colin for the longest time about taking family pictures together. The last one we had was two years old and showed how uncooperative Warren was being at that moment. I wanted something that we could hang up on the wall that included all of our children. I knew that I wanted Tami to take the pictures, but since she lives so far away, I thought it was a hopeless idea.

And then she decided to take a mini vacation to visit us! And she was willing to photograph us while she was here, too! It was literally a dream come true.

I could not be more please with how they came out. There was much bribery, I assure you. But it was entirely worth every scoop of ice cream promised to get the shots that she was able to coax out of my four distracted children. See for yourself.

I love them all! So much! There are many more, but I don’t want to bore you. Plus I need to save some for the Christmas cards.

I wish I could show you my favorite one, but since we still cannot post pictures of Jake and Joe, you’ll just have to wait. There’s a good story too, but it would lose something in translation if I posted it with the question mark over Jake’s face. Trust me. If you know me personally and are friends with me on FaceBook, you can see it there.

Tami, you are an amazingly talented photographer! I feel so grateful that you would take the time to capture these priceless images of our family.