11
March

Double digits

Dear Woo:

It is hard to believe that you are now ten years old! It seems like just yesterday that you came into our family. The last decade has been filled with lots of laughter and love, and a little bit of chaos thrown in. I have loved being on this adventure with you, watching you grown and develop into the amazing guy you are today.

I know that this last year hasn’t been the easiest for you, not only did you move far from home, leaving your family and friends (and bunny) behind, you started a new school where you knew no one, where the rules and norms were different, and there was a whole new way of teaching things to you. You have handled this so well, diving into your school work, joining new activities, and making new friends. This new school has also brought new independence, and I am so proud of you whenever you venture out on your own.

California has been good for you, in many ways. You have embraced the adventuring spirit, and challenge us to bring you new places and show you new things. Many of these trips bring us to your favourite museums or aquarium, where you continue to learn and share what you find with us. You continue to be a voracious reader, frustrated only by the seemingly arbitrary limit of ‘50 books from the library at once’ that Mama has imposed on you. You love to swim with your sister, and hike with the family, and I am enjoying our new running adventure together. It is awesome to have the time with you, and to try something new together.

Watching you with Goose has shown me that you are very much the older brother I thought you would be. You love to tease her and boss her around, but you also are fiercely protective of her, and will back her up regardless of the circumstance. She continues to be your sidekick, partner in crime and best friend, and your Dad and I love to see this.

Happy birthday to my favourite guy,
Lots of love,
Mama

a year of woo
A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

A year of Woo

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3
March

California Adventuring

**If you are looking for Disneyland tips, scroll down half way**
**There are roller coaster videos at the bottom**

When we moved to California, we knew that it was just a matter of time before we made the six hour drive south to Disneyland. We’ve wanted to take the lils for a few years, and this move gave us the nudge that we needed. The schools here are strict about missing classes for fun, so when we started planning this trip in November, we knew it would have to be on a school break. Last week was that week, so early Sunday morning we piled in the car an started driving. We didn’t tell the lils where we were going, just that it would be an “overnight” trip.

2017-02-19 08.25.49
Going on an adventure

We finally spilled the beans when we arrived in Anaheim and were about to check into the hotel. They were starting to get suspicious at this point because, as Goose pointed out, “six hours is a loooooong way for an overnight trip”. They were very excited about everything, especially after we walked to the parks to have a look around on Sunday night. We had three days in the parks planned, so we knew we’d have to make the most of the time there. Willy and I both did a little bit of reading on what to expect and dove in early Monday morning. It was a packed three days, with lots of good memories made.

It was so fun watching the lils move out of their comfort zones and try stuff that was new to them. Woo was identified as the secret spy on the Star Wars ride, which amused him greatly. Goose learned that she really likes carousel rides. They both went from overwhelmed by the sheer number of people, to navigating the fast pass system, lining up, and riding rides without Willy and I before we knew it. Willy got to spend time experiencing the parks with each lil on their own, which was great for all of them. I was super excited to learn that both lils really liked roller coasters, so I know I’ll have their company on the thrill seeking rides from now on. Overall, we liked Disney, but we didn’t LOVE Disney, and we are OK with that. We knew going in that the lils weren’t really on the Disney train. They have never really watched the movies, didn’t really get into any of the characters (save for the Star Wars ones), and don’t really want any of the mouse ears or princess dress paraphernalia. Disneyland, for us, was a good amusement park, albeit a really crowded one.

Solo flyers

About half way through the week, we revealed the second part of our plan, that we were driving to Legoland for two more days of fun. Legoland was the perfect second stop for us; less crowded and slower in pace. We splurged and booked into the resort hotel, which was a huge hit. There were Lego creations AND loose Lego everywhere, and the rooms were Lego themed. We had two days there, and that almost wasn’t enough, even though the park is much smaller than Disney and all of the water attractions were closed. While there were rides and games at this park too, the biggest draw for all of us was the amazing collection of Lego creations that were scattered through out the park. We spent hours wandering around in awe of the mini cities and themed displays. I’d return there in a heartbeat.

2017-02-23 12.51.36
Amazing Death star

As we pulled into the driveway after our really long ride home, Woo sleepily told his dad that this was the best vacation ever. It was the perfect end to our first adventure.

Tips for Disneyland and California Adventure
*There is no Wifi in either park, so make sure you have data on your phone. You are going to want it to keep in touch with others in your party, entertain you while you are in line, and use the disneyland app.

*Use the Disneyland App. It is actually really, really helpful. I was shocked that there were not more people using it, because it saves you loads of time. The key bits of information that the app provides include whether a ride is open or closed (including temporary closures – but without an estimate as to length); the current wait time, in minutes, for every ride; and the time frame that fast passes for that ride are being issued.

*Fast passes. Disneyland is in the process of adding a fee based fast pass system, but it is not in place yet, so… for those who don’t know, fast passes are available in limited number for the most popular rides. When you are holding a fast pass for a ride, it allows you to skip the bulk of the line-up for that ride. You generally save between 30mins and 120mins of waiting time, and often walk right on.

*The passes are available near the entrance to most rides, from machines that are marked “fast past distribution”. There are some exceptions to this – the fast passes for the Cars ride is in the Bugs Life area, and the ones for the Star Tours is by the Buzz Lightyear ride.

*When you get a fast pass, you typically can’t get another fast pass until the start time for the first fast pass that you are holding. So if you obtain a fast pass at 9:30AM that allows you to ride at 11:00AM, you can only get another fast pass at 11:00am (and you should do that, get the second fast pass before you ride the first ride). BUT if you pass is for more that two hours in the future, you will be allowed to get a new fast pass sooner. Look on the bottom of your fast pass, it tells you the time that you are first eligible to get another pass.

*There will also be at least one ride (possibly one per park) that doesn’t lock your fast pass, so you can hold a fast pass for it and get another pass instantly. When we were there it was the Buzz Lightyear ride, which we all liked, so we went on it often.

*You can get fast passes for all members in your group and have only a subset use them. We got four passes for some rides and the lils went twice, or in the case of the big roller coaster, I went solo multiple times.

*You can have multiple fast passes in each park, but pay attention to the times that you have to use them. If they overlap, it may be tricky to get from one park to the other in time.

*Plan the rides you sorta want, and plan the rides you really want. The most popular rides for our trip were Hyperspace Mountain and the Cars ride. They had the longest waits and were out of fast passes first. If you want these rides, get your fast passes for these first, even if it means you are riding it later in the day.

*Don’t stand in line for more than 30 minutes, for any ride. We went on a week where it was really crowded (not the most crowded it gets, but pretty close), and the waits for the popular rides were all over an hour (some were 2.5 hours!), but we never waited for more than 30 minutes by paying attention the fast passes and the wait times listed on the app.

*Rides randomly shutdown, especially the roller coaster rides. Once they are shut down, they often have to go through many security checks, so they are shut down for a while. Don’t save any ride as a special ride. If you are there and it is available, get on it.

*Bring a lunch. The food in in the parks is expensive and not great. We packed a full lunch and snacks every day and were never questioned.

*The exception to the food thing is the Dole Whip. Have a dole whip. Have a dole whip float. Every day.

*When you go in to Disneyland, go left. Everyone heads right to Tomorrow land. Going left takes you to the Indiana Jones ride, Big Thunder Mountain and the Haunted mansion. You can get a fast pass for one, ride the all three then use your fast pass all within the first hour if you are organized.

*The “magic morning” is available for both parks, but it is not all that magic – not all the rides are open and you can’t get fast passes, so the line ups for fast passes when the machines do open are actually really long. Ditto for the rides. It does let you get *into* that line before the rest of the crowd, though.

*Pay attention to the park opening hours. In addition to the magic morning, the times vary by day and by park. If you go on a day when the magic morning for one park is the same as the open time for the other park, expect long lines for both security and getting in to the parks.

*Find out what nights the parade and the fireworks are. They aren’t held every night. We found the parade to be OK, but the fireworks were really good.

Big Thunder Mountain

California Screamin’

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9
February

The pool guy

When we came to San Jose to find our house, we basically lived through an episode of “House Hunters International.” The relocation specialist that Willy’s company provided a list of suggested properties, based off criteria that we supplied and included a few homes that we had found online. We had one day to see twelve houses; twenty minutes in each house. If we were lucky, we got those twenty minutes, but we also had to deal with traffic, agents who were late, and agents who brought the keys to the wrong house. It’s somewhat amazing that we found a house at all.

Going in, we figured that we were moving to California, so our priority items for the house included a pool. It turned out to be a pretty easy wish to fulfill, given that all but one of the houses we saw had a pool. Thankfully, the house we chose also came with a pool guy, saving us from having to figure out how to maintain the pool. I think that this was included to save the pool from damage more than as a perk for renters, but we were OK with that.

Our pool guy is not the stereotypical “pool boy”, who is more eye candy than anything else. He is a really nice, knowledgeable guy who has helped us to understand how we can help to keep the pool warm and safe for our lils. He has also offered great tips on maintaining the hot tub, which we are responsible for. He seems to like us too, and is always pleased when we take his advice.

It was our hope that the pool would be available for use year-round, but the lack of supplemental heater and the cloudy, rainy, and “cold” winter days meant that the solar heater and covers were doing very little, so we packed everything up and closed the pool after one last cold swim in early December. The lils were sad, but they could see that the pool was barely getting to 14C most days. It became hot tub only season.

Last weekend, after a gorgeous sunny hike, Goose and Woo got it in their heads that they should try going for a swim. The water was a chilly 15C, but they went in multiple times for quick swims. They went back in the following day, and the day after. Then we had friends from home over, and their lils went in briefly. By this past weekend they were actually swimming happily. We knew the only solution was to pull out the solar covers and re-open the pool.

Monday morning brought the pool guy at his usual time. He walked into the yard and looked at the covers on the pool with a puzzled expression on his face. “The lils have been in every day for a week,” I said. “We knew we had to give them an extra degree or two with the covers.” He smiled and shook his head, saying “Your children are CRAZY.” Then he set to work on what he needed to do to officially open the pool for us. I am pretty sure we are the first pool he has opened this season.

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7
December

Creepy crawly

I have a love-hate relationship with most things that creep and/or crawl. I mostly hate them, but pretend to love them so that the lils don’t grow up freaking out over bugs of any size. This approach worked fairly well when the lils were younger, making sure that they thought of all the littlest creatures as “friends”. They embraced this idea, but it did mean that I could not just kill a bug when it was found in the house. Those bugs had to be saved and re-homed. Willy became the bug mover in our house, even if it meant that the bug was just tossed outside in -30°C. Everyone was happy with this arrangement (except maybe the bug).

As the lils got older and Willy started to travel more and more, I became the relocation expert. Centipedes were among my least favourite, followed closely by the spiders. We live in an old house, so we have plenty of these creatures live in the basement and the dark corners. I got very good at catching them, and disposing of them without showing my true feelings, for the most part. Woo seems to have accepted all the bugs that cross our path, but Goose is infinitely twitchier. I am sure that some of those twitches can be tied to my reactions to the various bugs. You can really blame me, though. Over the years we have had a few really cool bugs show up, but we have also had our share of pests that were giant or overwhelming in number. These things start to get to you after a while.

This year has been the year of the spider. I don’t know why, but they seem to have taken a liking to me, to our house. We had about a thousand hatch from two egg sacks in the late spring.
Creepy Crawlers Creepy Crawlers

These stuck around, and became big garden spiders. Harmless garden spiders, but still an annoyance. Every time I walked out of the house I walked through a new web. Walking through a new web meant that I had to do the “OH MY GOD, there is a SPIDER on my face/neck/hair…” dance many times a day, much to the amusement of my neighbours, I am sure. The last thing I saw as I was leaving for the airport on moving day was this guy, who’d been around for weeks and was actually growing on me.
Creepy Crawlers

In moving to California, I figured that we might see scorpions if we looked really hard for them, but I wasn’t terribly worried that we would even see them. “It’s just like home,” I convinced myself, “but with more cockroaches.” Then this happened on a walk with Woo:
Tarantula

Despite my desire to run away, I did stop to take a picture. Tarantulas are creepy as hell, but they are also pretty cool. This one was not too big, and was walking very slowly. It looked like it had been injured, so I was fairly certain I could outrun it if it made any sudden movements. Woo was thrilled. He told me several times that this was the best day ever, and has taken to referring to that particular walking trail as ‘tarantula path’. When we were there today, we both were on the look out for more of these big furry spiders, but only one of us wanted to see one.

I didn’t sign up for this. I am afraid of what comes next.

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23
November

Wordless Wednesday – redwoods

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest

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23
November

Round Trip

In theory, one of the perks of our move to California is that it should be relatively easy to get home for visits. We’ve lived really far from home, and during that time, it would have been nice to be able to go home for special occasions, or the not so special occasions. California is close. It’s not the one flight that I would like it to be, but we live near two major airports and Willy has a pile of frequent flyer points from his many, many trips back and forth over the last two years. It makes it very easy to plan a trip and go.

To test this out, I am heading home this weekend for a quick trip. I booked the trip weeks ago, a getaway with my book club. We are going to sit around and eat too much, drink too much, play cards, and read nothing on the first day. On the second day we will get on a school bus with a bunch of strangers and visit wineries where we will sing for a taste of this year’s harvest, while still reading nothing. I plan for it to be glorious (save for the singing part).

Of course, as my departure date gets closer, I realize that it is not that simple. My flight leaves on Thurday, which is US Thanksgiving. While it may not be the busiest travel day, I am sure it is up there. I’m booked out of San Fran because the flights are more direct, but it means that I have to leave here before 4:00am to catch my 7:00am flight. I can’t drive there myself, because Willy needs the car, so I am trying some random shuttle service that I found on the internet. Hope they come and get me!

As anxious as I am now, I know it is going to be a great weekend once I get there. In addition to the shenanigans, I am going to squeeze in some family time, extra friend visits, and a giant shopping trip so that I can bring home all the Canadian treats that we have been missing. I’ll even get to visit with our bunny for a bit. It’s a completely frivolous trip, but I can’t wait to get there!

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19
November

Great at eight

Dear Goose:

This morning you woke up with a spring in your step and a smile on your face. While this is the norm these days, this was extra special, for today you are eight!! It’s is a big day, the start of another new year. Today is also all about you!

I have loved watching you grow over the last year. You are truly a wonderful person and you continue to be a bright light of joy in all of our lives. Your kind heart and compassion lead you, your easy laughter is contagious, and the passion that you put into everything you do is inspiring. This drive has served you well in all the projects that you undertake. You continue to love to learn, and have recently shown a strong preference for math, which secretly pleases your mathie parents.

While you continued to dabble in a few sports, you have discovered your true passion for Karate, and made a commitment to train hard and do your best all the time. This year you moved up four belts, started sparring, and committed to competing in the 2024 Olympics. Most importantly, you always started and ended your training with a huge smile on your face.

As your seventh year came to a close, we threw a new challenge at you; a move to a new city in a new country, far from friends and family. You have handled it so well, and we are so very proud of you. You are brave and confident, and have accepted all of the challenges that have been thrown at you. Now that we are settled in, you have made new friends, fit right in in your class, become an excellent swimmer. You are thriving.
I love you so much, big girl, and I look forward to what the next year brings.

All my love,
Mama

A year of Goose
A year of Goose

A year of Goose

A year of Goose

A year of Goose

A year of Goose

A year of Goose

A year of Goose

A year of Goose

A year of Goose

A year of Goose

A year of Goose

A year of Goose

Hunting Pokemon

OCEAN

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16
November

Wordless Wednesday – Catching up

Jellies!

Lionfish

Loma Fire

First Day

Hunting Pokemon

Pretty Clouds

At the pumpkin patch

Hallowe'en ready!

Trick or Treat!

OCEAN

Where the monarchs stay

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15
November

Roller Coaster

Every now and then, I stop and just take a deep breath. The thoughts racing around in my head fade a little and I relax a bit. It’s hard for me to believe that, less than three months ago, we were in Ottawa. Then, we knew that moving to California was a possibility, but I had all but given up on it in reality. The lils were ready to go back to school, and we had a full slate of activities lined up for them for the fall and winter. I figured that we would keep going on as we had been for a while yet. Things changed quickly in late August.

The one thing that I asked Willy for when we started to consider a move to California was time. Our last assignment was rushed; we barely had two months from the day that we were approved to the day we arrived in India. This was worse. With the pressure on to get the lils into their new school fast, Willy still away, and the whole house needing to be packed, we gave ourselves three weeks. We could have done it, but I would have lost my mind. It took a little over four weeks, and my sanity is still in question.

In a perfect world, settling in would have been a smooth process, but it hasn’t quite been. Nothing we have faced has proven to be crushing, just challenging in some way. The lils go to two different schools, because there isn’t room for them both at the same school. We still need to get furniture, but I guess Goose can store her clothes on her bottom bunk for a few more weeks. Our property manager is ignoring us, but I am good at escalating. We still don’t have any new friends, but we are trying. The election… the challenges from that result aren’t unique to us, nor do they affect us as severely as many others.

We are, for the most part, content. The lils are happy in their schools, and have adjusted better than we thought possible. We have dinner as a family almost every day, because Willy is travelling a lot less than he has for years. The lils have become AMAZING swimmers, and are in the pool and hot tub almost every day. They miss their home and friends terribly, but can appreciate all that California has to offer us. We’ve started adventuring, and have many more planned. Some of them even include the fun kind of roller coaster.

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2
September

Found a place!

It helped that we have done this before. We knew it would be fast, we knew we needed to be prepared, and we knew we would have to make snap judgements. It helped that Willy had been in town for a few months, and had narrowed down the neighbourhoods that would suite our needs, and that the rental market is really well captured on the Zillow app, two luxuries we didn’t have when we moved to India.

Still, we had twelve houses to see, in just one day. In a perfect world, that meant we’d travel from house to house in ten minutes or less, and have 20 minutes to look through a house and decide if it was the one for us. It didn’t work that way, and as the day went on, we had less and time at each house. Sometimes it was traffic that did us in, and either we were late, or the hosting agent was late, and once the agent brought the keys to the house that was three doors down the street (we toured it to, but it wasn’t for us). A couple of times we just got distracted by the house we were looking at. One was a well panelled, wall to wall shagged hippy paradise from the 60s:

Hippie paradise

Another was an incredible mansion…

Now that is a house!

With a view that was stunning…

This view.

Eventually we landed at one of houses that I had found in my research. It appeared to hit all of the wishes on our list, but I’d forgotten which one it was from the outside. I walked inside and said, “Oh. I was waiting for this one.” We walked around a bit and I knew. I didn’t take any notes while we were there, I simply wrote “this one” on the info page for our new home!

New house!

New house!

New house!

New house!

New house!

New house!

New house!

New house!

New house!

This one.

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