Sunday, November 20, 2016

18 months!

Sweet baby Jesse is 18 months already!  And given that it's taken me an extra 2 weeks to write this, he's now 18 1/2 months.  Which basically means time is flying by too quickly.

So here's a quick update on Jesse.

Jesse is an active 18 month old.  His sweetness is sometimes overshadowed by the things his brother teaches him, namely stealing toys and playing rough.  If you are sitting on the floor he loves to push you down and jump on your belly.

He's also started babbling a lot and says lots of words: bubble, waffle, water, duck, mama, dada, 'nana (banana), please, more, and he loves to make animal sounds.  Some of his favorite animal sounds are kitty cat (meow), dog (tongue out and panting), elephant, cow.

At school the other day I saw him learning his body parts with his class.  It was super cute and he loves to point out his head and fingers and ears.

As for stats, this kids is off the charts.  36" tall and nearly 28lbs.  Pretty soon he's going be in the same clothes as his brother!  What's crazy is he can now technically ride some roller coasters.  No way!

As for his nystagmus, it doesn't seem to slow him down much.  He has developed a second null point down and to the left, which we knew was a possibility.  It's also why we elected to wait for surgery until his null points were a little more established.   He's been using it pretty strongly over the last few weeks, so now more than ever we know surgery is in the cards.  We are looking at early April, but we don't yet know for sure and won't until mid January.

Happy 18 months Jesse!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Halloween 2016

The family that Ninja's together, stays together.

We had such a great time with halloween this year.  Max and Mommy picked out the costumes way back in September so there was no last minute panic in this house.  Max practiced being a ninja all month and mastered it perfectly for trick or treat.  As did Jesse.  Hi-ya!


This was Jesse's second halloween and he enjoyed trick or treat much more than last year (obviously).  He really got into it and loved following Max around collecting candy.

(Jesse waits)

(Max as the black ninja and his bestie, Alexander in red)

Candy choices of the year were lollypops for Max and M&M's for Jesse.

We also lucked out with the rain, as it held out until about 8:30.  

(Mommy helped Jesse)

(Hello, Ninja)

This year we started in the area around Jordan Park, which was great for the kids because there were enough houses and it wasn't too crowded.  Then Max wanted to go dance in the street, so we went over to rockridge.  He was into it for a while then the sugar started wearing off and he was done.  Home and in bed by 8:45 for us.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Fun Around California

As most of you know, we're a pretty active family.  There aren't many weekends that we just stay home to "relax."

Well, this past month has been no different.  I haven't had a chance to keep up blogging, so here's a compilation of all the fun stuff we've been up to.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

I'd been hearing about this place ever since we got to the area, but I never really knew what it was.  Finally, I looked it up and I couldn't believe how awesome it looked.  It's a boardwalk, on the beach, with tons of rides.

Sign me up.

Though the boardwalk looked promising, the reviews of the beach itself were sub-par, so we opted for Natural Bridges State Park just down the road and made it into a long day trip.  We left Oakland around 10am and we returned around midnight!

First stop: Natural Bridges State Park.  Park on the road just outside the park, or pay $10 to park inside (about the same distance if you can get a reasonable street spot).

We played in the water, searched for sea creatures in the tide pools, and played in the sand.  Of course mom forgot to bring the sand toys, but there were a few left on the beach that kept the kids happy for an hour or so.

Second stop: Boardwalk.

A short 10 minute drive along the coast and you arrive at the boardwalk.  Here's a helpful hint, even if the parking lot says full, ask the attendant.  Our car plus a few others got in anyway because they won't change the sign off full for just 3-4 spots.  We scored a great spot!

We bought a wrist band for max and then we got one for myself + about 15 tickets.  Since Jesse was under 35" (or something like that) he was free on all the little rides and then Max could do a bunch of rides on his own, plus 3 others if he was accompanied by an adult (hence my wrist band).  Given that he road those 3 rides the most it was worth buying the wristband for myself instead of paying with tickets.  The 15 extra tickets we got with the package came in handy for games (Max won a flower) and for Jeremy to do a ride or two with them.

Max had a blast.  Seriously, this kid was riding rides until we had to pry him off at 10pm.

We also had dinner at Firefish Grill which we thought was pretty good.  The clam chowder was great and Max ate over half my bowl.

We can't wait to go back again... maybe next weekend!

Pancake Breakfast - West Point Inn

A few weekends ago we decided to finally make it to one of the pancake breakfasts at the West Point Inn.  This Inn is only accessed through hiking and we thought it would be something super fun to do with the kids.  There are many hikes one do take to get there, some steep, some accessible with a stroller.  We decided to start our hike from the Rock Springs parking lot as described HERE.

Max did great and walked the entire way there!  He loved counting the bridges and walking along the path.  As you get close to the Inn you're temped to think you are only 2 minutes away, but its another 10 minutes as the path curves around the mountain side and through the valley.  It reminded me a lot of the path from Vernazza to Monterossa al Mare in the Cinque Terra.  Man that was a great trail and this hike brought back so many memories.  Even better, we were doing the hike during the day and not in the pitch black night!

Once we got to the Inn we had our breakfast and hung out for a while before heading back.  The pancakes aren't anything to write home about, but the experience is worth the trip.  We found it wasn't very crowded and the food was very quick.  Pancakes, sausage, orange juice, and cantaloupe.  If you're looking for more, this isn't the breakfast for you.

Walking back home I carried Max in the hiking backpack and Jeremy packed Jesse.  It's amazing how quickly the walk back went with two sleeping kids.   


Max love firetrucks.  That's no secret.  A few weeks back I was at the grocery store and saw the fire truck from the local station.  I asked them if they ever held open houses for kids to visit and they invited us over that night!  

After an early dinner, we piled in the car.  I wouldn't tell Max where we were going incase they were out on a call and the station was closed.  Fortunately they were around and they were so happy to have us visit.  They gave the boys hats, coloring pages, and other goodies and then spent about 45 minutes with us touring around the station and showing off the trucks.  

Both Max and Jesse got to drive the big truck and they learned about the different tools carried on the side of the trucks.   Max loved the surprise and Jesse had more fun than I thought he would.  Man, they loved "driving" that truck.

In two weeks if firetruck week at Max's school.  I'm going to call and see if they can stop by to give a presentation to the kids and show off the firetruck. 

Alameda Beach

The family that stays busy, stays together.  Man we never stop.  There's too much to do!

Two weekends ago we had a free Sunday, the weather was beautiful, and Mom decided it was a good day for the beach.  

I've been wanting to check out Alameda beach, so we headed out that way.  It didn't take much convincing to get Jeremy to stop by the toy store first to pick up a few more sand toys and some big shovels for the kids.

All in all, I would say that it's an okay beach.  The sand is very coarse and there was a bunch of seaweed, and a funky smell.  Honestly, I'd probably take the extra time to drive down to Shadow Cliffs Regional Park in Pleasanton (also host to the Tri for Fun series in the summer).  

But Max and Jesse had a blast.  The water stays shallow for a while, so Max could run in and out, and he didn't seem to care that it was fairly cold water.

The boys played on the beach for over 2 hours before we headed to lunch at a nearby sushi restaurant and then to Faction Brewing for Mommy/Daddy drinks while the kids napped in the stroller.

Sonoma & Pumpkin Patches

It's taken me so long to write this blog post that I keep finding fun things to write about.  

Yesterday we decided to take the kids up to Sonoma.  It had been a while since we visited the area and there are a few really kid friendly wineries up that way.  First stop was the town square to pick up lunch at the Cheese Factory.  If you go, I highly recommend the Mission sandwich; turkey, brie, pesto, cucumber, delicious.

First stop was Sebastiani winery.  They have a huge outdoor area with plenty of tables and green space for the kids to run around.  As for the wine, I'd give it a 3.5-4 out of 5.  Not the best, but it's good and very reasonably priced if you stay away from the reserve wines.     

Next up was Nicholson Ranch.  We are fans of this winery because of their huge outdoor deck, comfortable furniture, and large umbrellas to keep off the sun.  The wines are good, but they are pricey and the tasting is on the expensive side ($30 if sitting outside).  We opted to split a tasting then bough a bottle of Merlot which we drank there.  This place is also great for kids who can lay out on the furniture.

On the way back home we stopped at a pumpkin patch which we happened to come across on our drive up.  It was fortuitous that we took the Napa route into Sonoma or we would have never seen this pumpkin patch.  

Overall the pumpkin patches out here aren't that amazing.  There are a few big ones, but it's nothing like being back home with the cool air, leaves changing, and general country feel.  Even driving 45 minutes outside of the city you still won't get that true country feeling.  But this one was good and they did their best with the space and land they had.  

They set up a large pumpkin area complete with vines and straw to round out the look.  They also had a kids hay maze which was well done, a hay pyramid with slide (also well done), tractors, a greenery archway tunnel and lots of gourds and hay bails for sale.  The kids had a blast climbing up and sliding down the hay pyramid and after playing around we picked out a pumpkin and some gourds.  I also decided we NEEDED a large hay bail.  Lets just say it barely fit in the car and took me 45 minutes of cleaning to get all the straw out.  Note to self, next year, small bails that can be contained with a blanket when in the car.  

If you're up in the area, check out this pumpkin patch off HWY 12 between Sonoma and Napa.

Well, I should wrap up this blog before the weekend starts otherwise it will never be finished.  Until next time...

Monday, September 5, 2016

Bye Bye Curls

Well, it was time.


Jesse was starting to really get bothered by the curls on his ears and I figured if we cut the top and sides but left the back then he'd be left with a mullet.

So off it all went.

It's still a bit longer on the top than I'd like but I think we'll get that trimmed up next week.

He looks so much like his brother!

And so much bigger!

I have to admit, I miss the curls, but it will be interesting to see if they come back or not.  You can already tell he has curlier hair than Max does.

In other news, Jesse is talking a lot more lately.  He babbles, says "gata," "step," "please," and "more" which he signs and says.  He's also about 33" tall and is getting pretty close to Max who stands at just over 37"

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Summer break in PA

This past week the kids were off school for summer break.  Please don't ask me why a daycare and preschool are off for summer break; I don't want to talk about it.  Nevertheless, the kids were off for a week and we needed something fun to do.   Off to PA!

I took the kids to PA for the week and was able to telework while Jeremy took the week off and spent it in northern California camping with his dad and his brother.

My mom was prepared for the fact that two kids with short attention spans were about to be in her house for a week.  She had so many activities planned.  She even had a full sized huge bounce house!  They also had the house kid proofed and my Dad had spent the last few months getting the spare bedroom ready for the kids.  It went from our old magic room (yes magic room) into a kids room fully decked out in Mickey Mouse.  It's also the first time that the kids slept together in the same room without Mommy and Daddy.  They did great.

Day 1

Day one we went to the children's Please Touch museum in Philly.  It was a sunday and about 90+ degrees outside, so of course the cool air conditioned museum was packed.  Fortunately it's a very large museum, so it wasn't too bad.  The kids were able to play with everything they wanted without waiting too long.  It's a really great museum and if you are in the area with small kids (<5) you should definitely check it out.  They have a play grocery store area complete with isles, carts, meat, bread, and fish counters, and cash registers.  They also have a work site and emergency vehicles area as well as a garden area and trains section.  They also have a full Alice in Wonderland display that is amazing and a rocket room where you can launch foam rockets.  Finally, upstairs they have a carousel and a large water play area.

Day 2 

Day two I went to Barnes and Noble to work while Grandma and Papa played with the kids.  This was so nice.  Not only did I have some quite time outside of the house, after working I took some extra time for myself to browse the store and find some new books.  Besides some Curious George books, I bought a new one "There is a Bird on my Head" in the Elephant and Piggie series.

While I worked, the kids had fun playing in the pool, using the new t-ball set, and just hanging out playing with all the toys they don't see that often.  That night we ate dinner at Blue Mountain.  This is the ski resort that I used to race for in high school.  It's amazing to be back, even in the summer, to see all the upgrades that have taken place over the last 15 years.  It really looks nice, especially the lodge area.

Day 3 

Day three was another work day for me but I was able to play in the morning because my work schedule was shifted to Pacific time.  There was play time in the bounce house, finger paints, bubbles, and an egg hunt.  Like I said, lots of activities planned.  Mom even got them a chalk board and a new track with race cars that they played with while I worked.

Day 4

Wednesday was a day off for me.  It was also a special day because my long time friend, John, came down from New York to see us.  It was so nice of him to make the drive back and forth in the same day, and I can say it was so much appreciated.  We were all going to go down to Dutch Wonderland with the kids, but it was hot and we decided to just stay home and relax.  That was fine by all.  John and I first met doing magic so many years ago.  Since that time we've weaved in and out of magic, but John's love and talent of balloons had exploded.  He's amazing.  Words cannot describe.  He was also nice enough to bring balloons down and show me a few new twists I can do myself.  Yes, at one time I used to be into balloons as well as magic.  John even pulled out a paw patrol balloon for Max without having done one before.  Amazing.  

Day 5

Thursday was day five and that meant back to work for me.  While I had a pretty hectic day, the kids had fun feeding the fish at the fish hatchery, playing with all the toys, and even trying to make some slime.  That night we went to the carnival at Muhlenburg Hospital.  They had ride passes for $20 and Max rode so many rides it was well worth it.  

Day 6

Soon enough it was Friday and it was time to go home.  It was really hard leaving this time.  I know the kids had so much fun with Grandma and Papa, but they were also ready to go home and see Daddy.  I know Max wishes that all his grandparents and uncle Matt lived closer.  Perhaps one day.  

The flight home was fortunately uneventful.  It's a long flight but the kids did great.  Unfortunately it was a full flight, both legs, but even with our small space Max managed to sleep the entire flight from Chicago back to Oakland.  Jesse did good, though he's become a little troublemaker.  At one point he wanted Max to play so he whacked him with a phone.  That was a rude awakening.  

A million thanks to my parents for showing the boys a good time and having so many activities planned to keep them occupied for the week.  After this trip I think they are ready for a week on their own while Mommy and Daddy take a vacation.  What do you think?  :)

A lot to catch up on.

I can't believe that it's been 2 months since I last blogged about the family.  Lots been going on since then.  A quick recap on the kids.

Jesse - 15 1/2 months

Jesse is doing amazing.  As for the nystagmus, we know he has a chin down head tilt that is becoming more apparent as he gets more into reading books and such, but otherwise his vision is very good.  Of course we can't say for sure what it is, but we know it's on track and he has no trouble doing everything any other kids do.  We will be visiting a third doctor, Dr. Granet, in two weeks to see how we feel about his procedure to help correct the nystagmus.

Otherwise Jesse is a mostly happy go lucky boy.  His wake ups from nap are rough, but after an hour or so he's so happy.  He laughs a lot and has the biggest smile.  He walks like crazy and loves to put things away.  He can say Woah, Yes, Mama, Dada, All Done, and sometimes Jesse.  He has 14 teeth with 2 more coming in and he still has his beautiful curly baby locks that I just can't bring myself to cut; maybe next week.  He loves playing with brother Max and wants to do whatever it is that he is doing.  He also likes playing cooking and playing with the track from grandma and papa with the light up cars.  His favorite toy is the hand mixer.  His reputation as a train baby hasn't diminished either.  Oh, and he's an instigator.

Max - 3 yrs 2 months

Max is a full blown 3 year old.  He loves trucks and construction vehicles.  He also still loves trains, but given the choice at a toy store he will choose the construction vehicle train over the standard thomas train, or the like.  Yesterday he did amazingly well on the flight from PA back to Oakland that he got to pick out a new train from the toy store.  It was a hard choice but he picked the tow truck train and there are a few on his list that he's been looking at  (HERE, ahem grandparents looking for gift ideas). Mama's pretty happy that he's consistently avoided picking the Thomas train.  Though I will say, a few weeks ago we went to Thomas Day Out and I'm surprised to say that it was actually quite pleasant.  We road the train at Roaring Camp Railroad and it was amazingly beautiful.  Max's vocabulary and grammar has blossomed and he loves telling stories and pretending play.  He's usually a good big brother to Jesse, but still enjoy's his alone time, especially after dinner.  Max's best friends are Alexander, Sai, and little Jack.  His favorite toy at the moment is Magnatiles and construction vehicles and he likes to "do it himself" whatever it is.

July 4th

I realized I also didn't have a chance to blog about July 4th.  Like most years, we were in Ohio for the holiday.  Sue put on a great party, as usual, and I finally was able to sit through about half of the Elvis show.  Yes, that's right, Elvis.  He's a fixture as these parties.

Max and Jesse spent the weekend playing in the big yard, riding grandpa's Polaris UTV through the woods, and playing with their cousins, especially Zaly.  Max loves Zaly ("ZZ").

While we were in Ohio, Jesse also had an appointment with Dr. Hertle in Akron.  You can read all about that HERE.

Mom and Dad

Jeremy and I are doing well.  We are thinking about buying a house out here in CA, which is pretty huge, but nothing has materialized yet.  Just some discussions.  We're also in the market for a new car, so the end of 2016 might be pretty expensive for us.

My job is going great, as usual and Jeremy is rocking it at NASA.  Life is pretty good.


At the end of July we took a family camping trip to Portola Redwoods State Park.  It was beautiful and I'd been waiting over a year to visit.  We got a large family tent a while back from an online Mom's group so we had plenty of room.  The kids loved sleeping in the tent and did great.  Of course there were some stressful moments keeping them out of the soot of the fire pit and keeping Max from poking the banana slugs, but it was worth it.  Max even did the little rangers program where he learned about animals and their adaptations.  A month later and he still remembers and understands that word.

We also took a few hikes and roasted marshmallows, of course.  Some caught fire...

CA State Fair

July was packed with fun adventures.  In addition to camping and a trip to Ohio, we also visited the CA state fair.  This was our second year to go and we really enjoyed it.  We rode rides, played games, and Max even milked a cow!  We also got passes for the water park and the kids had fun splashing around and playing in the wave pool.  I think we may even go back in the next few weeks.


As summer winds to an end we head into the new school year and fall.  As you might imagine, our lives aren't going to get any less exciting.  We have a few trips planned for the fall and we can't wait to watch the kids grow and blossom.  Our big trip of the season is a trip to Disney World!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Grandma and Grandpa Rea Visit

A few weeks back Grandma and Grandpa Rea came to visit.  This was smack in the middle of birthday season and Grandma (Grammy) and Papa Stortz had just left.  The boys were wound up and couldn't wait to have another 5 days of undivided attention.

That weekend we had yearly pictures scheduled and a birthday party for Max's little friend, so we didn't do any big excursions, but we had fun.

Saturday was our yearly pictures.  This year Sara Pope Photography did them for us.  Sara is great and had also done Jesse's newborn shoot.

After playing at home on Saturday, Sunday morning Mom and Dad got to go for another bike ride together.  After doing some bike maintenance this ride went a lot smoother for both of us.

We then headed off to the Bay Area Children's Museum for Max's friends birthday party.  This was Max's first birthday party and he was very excited.  Jesse stayed with Grandma and Grandpa and played in the little kid zone while Max played with his friends.  It worked out well for him to be able to have some time with his friends.

After the first grandparent visit we realized that it's nice to send one child to daycare and keep the other one home for some quality one-on-one time.

During Max's day off they went to the zoo and spent the afternoon on the zoo rides.  Never quite made it to the zoo itself.  Roller coaster, airplane, cars (firetruck), trains, carousel (bench!) all were a big hit.

Jesse's day off was spent at the playground playing on the swings and slides.

Of course we also had to have a birthday celebration.  More presents!!

Another fire helmet!

Fun visit with grandma and grandpa Rea