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Christmas Photos

Colosseum!

Our story begins when Henry showed us a video of the Lego designer and the architect who created the most colossal Lego set ever, the Roman Colosseum – over 9,000 pieces! Upon seeing the video, I completely flipped out – I had no idea Lego had created a Colosseum set, and I knew right then that’s what I hoped to get for Christmas 2020.

My loyal and big-hearted boy Henry immediately went to work on making some Christmas magic with John, and they secretly set out to find the set (limited edition!) and give it to me.

Within a few days there was an extremely large wrapped box underneath the tree, and Henry worked hard to cover his tracks when I started playing Twenty Questions. He spooled out an elaborate story about a new Japanese store at the mall called “Clown Town,” telling me that he and John had obtained an amazing hat made of shards of glass, and a huge clown wig. I kept my fingers crossed that it was really the Lego set, and not a giant pair of clown shoes!

You can imagine my glee when I opened the set on Christmas day and it really was what I had hoped. I sent out an SOS to borrow a neighbor’s card table so we had a place to build, and soon enough, Henry and I were set up in the master bedroom with task lighting, two chairs, and dozens of bags full of thousands of Lego bricks. Hen was my right-hand man all the way – after I completed the base, we took turns building the Colosseum itself – which is ingeniously designed into vertical slices that snap together with ball and socket joints.

This set really activated all my nerd buttons: archaeology, Roman history, architecture, and Lego! It really is the best set they’ve ever made, and we had a ball putting it together. You can get a sense of the intricate details and overall design in the photo gallery, which also features Henry’s minifig Egyptian archaeological explorers checking out the ruins. (They are from a different set but had to come check out the scene!) We worked for 5 days in a row, reading up on the Colosseum’s history, and the Roman Empire in general, while also enjoying dumb TV game shows in the background, and just chitchatting the afternoons away. Now that it is finished, Hen and I have had a few “appreciation sesh’s” (as he puts it) just to marvel at our accomplishment and the neat details of the set. It is 2 feet in diameter and warranted its own display table (seriously, we had nowhere to put it that was dog-safe or big enough!). Best. Christmas gift. Ever!

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Christmas Photos

Merry Christmas 2020

Christmas this year was different, but we tried to bring as much Santa Claus magic as possible to the boys. As they’ve gotten older, the gift requests have become very short and very specific, and happily we were able to deliver on the specifics, as well as throwing in some excellent surprises.

Even Seamus got in on the action, helping to tear open the wrapping paper (a gift in itself!), and reaping a few gifts of his own.

Each human got a much-coveted Lego set – Star Wars & Mandalorian sets for John and Finn, a vintage pirate set for Henry, and the quite literally colossal Roman Coliseum set for Classical history-nerd mom. Santa also brought fun novelty socks, books, games, handmade stuffed animals, candy, and some incredibly soft and fuzzy new jackets for the boys. Seamus got a new leash and toy, new portable food and water bowls and a doggy water bottle for hikes.

The best surprise gifts came in the form of Seamus portraits. Grandpa Liggett had a friend do a beautiful pencil portrait of our boy, and I commissioned a custom illustration of Seamus in a Venetian Doge costume (dog, doge…get it?). Finn absolutely flipped out upon opening them – and now he has both portraits hanging above his bed where he can admire them anytime he likes.

Here is our Christmas Day gallery, where you can see the shock and awe Santa was able to deliver this year. We surely missed sharing it in person with family, and hope that 2021 permits us to travel and celebrate together!

Categories
Christmas Photos

Christmas Lights On The Move

Finn is very sentimental about the holidays. He loves our annual rituals, which we add to each year. The pandemic has certainly done its part to hamper our normal activities like going to the Nutcracker, Christmas tree lightings and parties, and the like, and to prevent us from traveling to see our families.

To that end, we are trying to create some safe, local joy that will keep our Christmas spirits up. I saw a photo recently of an old VW microbus that was decorated with Christmas lights, and I thought it would be fun to do the same with the Westy, and drive around spreading some Christmas cheer. I asked Mr. Christmas, Finn, what he thought, and he loved the idea. Last weekend, we headed out to Ace Hardware and picked up some colorful lights, and some small suction cups with hooks that we could safely stick to the van. We already have a big rechargeable battery in the Westy that we can plug the lights into.

Needless to say, we got the lights strung, plugged in, and did our first Christmas Lights Cruise around the neighborhood on Sunday night. A few observant passersby noticed our moving light show and seemed charmed. Most of all, though, Finn and Henry both love it, and they’re all smiles when we light up Westy and hit the streets, playing Christmas music on the radio. Seamus seems to enjoy it as well, cuddled up on his boy’s lap, watching the world go by. We plan to cruise around in our portable light show as often as possible over the next few weeks. Maybe we’ll even hand out candy canes!

Here’s a little photo gallery of the proceedings.


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Videos

Beehive Bilingue

One of Henry’s final assignments for the year was his 5th Grade State Report – which included research, a written report, and a very small “parade float” showcasing the information he learned about the state. Of course, our man chose his favorite state, Utah, meeting point of the Transcontinental Railroad. And, because he is in the bilingual program, all of his material was written and delivered in Spanish.

You’ll see that he included a railroad car and tracks on top of his float, commemorating the link up of the Transcontinental Railroad, as well things like the state flag, seal, and information about wildlife and interesting Utah natives (including Butch Cassidy!).

Here’s the video we recorded and turned in along with the written report.

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Birthdays Milestones Photos Seamus

Seamy’s Fur-st!

Our big furry boy Seamus turned 1 year old on Friday, December 6th! We are so happy to have this fuzzy goofball in our lives. Hard to believe he’s been with us since February! We have all come to love him so much, and he is the perfect addition to our family, especially our Westy adventures.

Finn was so excited to celebrate the big day with his dog – he’d been talking about it for weeks! We found a recipe for a dog-friendly “pupcake,” complete with frosting, to make for him, and our lovely dog-walker Terry brought him a bag of treats, balloons, and party hats to help celebrate. Here is a gallery showing our buddy on his big day.

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Photos Westy

Pulling In, Popping Up, and Cooling Out in the Delta

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This Saturday saw the Sqrlpod hit the road for Brannan Island, which is in the Delta area to the northeast of Oakland. We departed on Saturday around lunchtime and stopped for tacos in Oakland, where John received what had to be the world’s largest burrito. That bad boy weighed (no joke) at least 5 lbs, and sustained John throughout the weekend – providing the equivalent of about 4-5 meals! The boys happily wolfed down their tacos, which they deemed Best Tacos Ever, then we continued our drive up to the island.

We camped at a little state recreation area, which was quite nice, with huge camp sites that were quite spread out along the grassy banks of the island. It can be incredibly windy there, and the currents are strong so swimming is not advisable unless you’re wearing a life vest AND are an Olympic-grade swimmer. We enjoyed the quietude and the views, and Henry and John set out for the drawbridge for some droning and land-based photos. After nighttime s’mores over the campfire, some games, and lots of reading, we hit the sack, then pulled out late Sunday morning. Here’s a little gallery from our adventure.

 

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Camping Photos Westy

Westy’s Maiden Voyage

We’ve just returned from our maiden voyage with our VW Westfalia camper van, and it was great! We decided to spend the last two days and nights of the boys’ spring break on the road, in the redwoods, and atop the bluffs. Thursday morning we set out for Samuel P. Taylor state park, which is just northwest of San Rafael in Marin County, and only a few miles away from the Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

We had a blast tooling up north and then setting up the van for camping. We popped the top, turned on the party lights, cooked up a quick dinner, and then snuggled in for the night. In the morning, we pulled out and headed first for Pt. Reyes Station, a cute little town about 5 miles away. We grabbed some snacks, picked up some new books at the bookstore, and then drove over to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, which is at the veeeeeery far end of a small peninsula within the National Seashore.

It was a super-blustery but beautiful day. After a picnic lunch in the camper, we headed down all 300-odd steps to the lighthouse, learned about the history of the area and the lighthouse itself. Then back up all those steps and back into the van for a little more sightseeing, including kite surfers and wrecked ships, before heading back to the state park for night #2. We feasted on tacos and s’mores, snuggled up for some reading, then hit the hay before heading home via San Francisco on Saturday. Here’s a gallery of our adventure!

We absolutely love Westy – she’s perfect for our family. We already know there are countless more excursions in the offing, and more roadtrip adventures to come!

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Milestones Videos

The Pearly Whites Emerge!

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The time has come! Our man Henry got his braces off after 15 months. He was a complete orthodontic champ for the entire duration of brace-wearing. He was always on top of wearing the required rubber bands, and he never complained about tooth or mouth pain – kind of miraculous for our little grump! He was pretty nervous about how painful it might be to get them removed, and also anticipating how weird it would feel to not have them on his teeth anymore!

Happily the removal was no big deal, and he is getting used to having more room in his mouth and beautifully-aligned pearly whites. To celebrate the braces’ removal, we gave Henry two more of his dad’s old Lionel train cars – a flatbed and a crane car, so he was immediately off to the basement to add them to his rig!

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Christmas Photos

Xmas 2016: Blissed Out on Bricks!

It’s hard to believe that Christmas 2016 has already come and gone! This year, it was just us four California Nacks, enjoying a quiet, relaxing day at home. Although Henry and Finn tried to wake us up at 3:30 a.m. to open presents, we put them off until the only-slightly-less-unreasonable 5:00 a.m.

Santa and our extended families bestowed many gifts upon the lads this year, especially the much-discussed and eagerly-anticipated big lego sets that each boy was hoping for. Henry got his Lego Airport, and Finn got his Lego Volcano Exploration base station. Certainly not forgotten was Dad-o, who was the happy recipient of a Lego Creator Big Ben set (which he is still constructing!) and a remote control drone! Among other wonderful gifts, I got a terrific Lego Beatles’ Yellow Submarine set. Needless to say we spent a great deal of the day working on our Legos, alternating construction time with dinner, movies, naps, and snacks.

Here’s a gallery of our day.



Categories
Babyslang Miscellaneous

Swimlover!

Henry is well known for his stubbornness – which has shown up in force every time we tried to enroll him in swim lessons. This kid HATES getting his head wet, hates getting his hair washed, hates getting splashed in the pool, and has run down the clock during countless swim lessons by simply refusing to participate and trying to talk his way out of actually doing anything.

After yet another progress-free summer at the Elks pool, having to constantly keep an eye on him, while he clung to the side of the pool, resolutely refusing to get his head or face wet, and refusing to even try to float or doggy paddle while his peers were splashing and swimming away, I decided to try, once more, to get him to learn to swim. He started weekly classes a little over a month ago at an indoor pool nearby.

Finally, slowly but surely, our man Henry is making progress! He has done more swimming and splashing in the past 6 weeks than the entire previous 7.5 years of his life! Each week on our drive to the pool, I give him a little pep talk, we talk about what he’s learned so far and how great he’s doing, and wonder what sorts of things he’ll be learning. We chat about his nervousness, and the fact that even while nervous, he exceeds his own expectations. He’s gotten a lot more comfortable with floating on his back, he can hold his breath, he puts his head underwater, he tips off the side of the pool and swims to the instructor, and he can alternate from back to front floating on his own.

He did so well last week, and was so excited to report his fantastic lesson to Dad-o and Finny that he requested that the whole family go to today’s lesson so we could all witness his progress. So we all headed out to the pool, and the Nack Family Cheering Section was in full force while our man demonstrated his prowess. He did great, and Dad-o and Finny could hardly believe he was voluntarily putting his head and face in the water without complaint. A great day for Mr. Henry, capped off with a family lunch and ice cream for dessert.

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Camping Photos

Cub Scouts @ Camp Cheesebrough

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Labor Day Family camping at the Boy Scouts’ Camp Cheesebrough is legendary. We missed it last year but made sure we took the boys this year so they could get in on the fun. The camp is only about 30 minutes away, along highway 9 in the Santa Cruz mountains, has a nice big lodge building and kitchen, and tons of tent camping sites.

Many of the boys’ friends and their families also attended, so the adults actually had time to chat and get to know each other a little better while the boys honed their skills at whittling, archery, bb guns, rock climbing, blacksmithing, slingshots, and “human fooseball.” Here’s the gallery of their adventures.

Other highlights from the weekend included campfires with s’mores, running around in the woods (while hopefully avoiding poison oak), “battling” other groups of scouts, and putting on skits in front of the Saturday night campfire. Cami, the 3 year old sister of Cub Scout Colton, offered to count in Spanish: “One, Spanish. Two, Spanish.” Cub Scout David (whose dad Sabu was managing the bb gun range) kept in contact with his dad via CB: “Dad, whittling time is over, over.” Sabu: “You are free to play, over.”

As we prepared to depart on Sunday afternoon (after picking up trash and cleaning bathrooms), we realized somehow Henry’s pillow pet “Peendee Bee” didn’t make it from the campsite back to the car. We retraced our steps, hoping we’d either spot him or that he’d been turned into the lost and found. As we rounded the corner on the way back to our campsite, Henry spotted Peendee, who’d been set atop the large propane tank near the lodge, and absolutely shrieked with relief and delight. Phew! Crisis averted.

Upon returning home, we spent the next several hours washing the dust and grime off ourselves and doing load after load of laundry. We had a blast but were all excited to be sleeping in our own beds.

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Photos

La Famosa Casa Bonita!

 

As if we hadn’t crammed enough adventure into our Colorado trip this year, we crowned the whole shebang with a trip to Denver’s legendary Casa Bonita.

For those of you unfamiliar with La Casa, it is an enormous Mexican restaurant-cum-amusement park. Not only do you get heaping plates of food, and a potentially endless supply of hot, fresh sopapillas (courtesy of the signal flag on your table), there is cliff diving, an arcade, a cave room, a mine room, magic shows, strolling musicians, and skits featuring pirates and gorillas!

Since it was Henry’s actual birthday, we decided to hit the Casa after a fun afternoon at Elitch Gardens Water Park – a perfect way to wind up our day. We were seated in the magic show room, and our man Henry got up and planted himself smack dab in the middle of the first row so that he would be picked to get up and assist the magician – and boy did he have a good time doing it! He hammed it up like crazy and proclaimed the magic show the BEST part of his birthday. Here’s a video (below) and a gallery of highlights from our evening.

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Photos Videos

Minor Miners

This year, at Henry’s request, we finally toured one of the old mines that Leadville, CO is famous for. Much to our delight, it was fascinating, and far exceeded our expectations!

We were led by Bob the Miner, who owns the Hopemore mine a few miles out of town. The Hopemore was established over 100 years ago, and produced gold, copper, silver, and iron, in addition to lead. Bob told us the Leadville area is one of the most richly mineralized areas in the world—a literal goldmine for prospectors!

We got to watch Bob demonstrate all sorts of mining equipment and machinery, including drills, a tunnel mucker, the cage that took us down the mineshaft, pulleys, and ore chutes. The boys were absolutely rapt. He pointed out the vein of ore slicing through the granite on either side, and showed us pictures of a huge ore pocket when it was being mined out – it was dozens of feet high and a hundred feet deep!

We all had a great (and very cold – 42 degrees!) time 600 feet below ground. Henry and Finn even got to push around an old ore car on the narrow tracks. On our way back to the shaft, Bob shone his flashlight on the ceiling of the tunnel, where we could see a bright vein of gold gleaming in the light. (“I never show dentists until the end,” Bob chuckled.)

Check out our photo gallery from the adventure.

We could really tell the boys soaked it all in, because once we got back home to San Jose, the boys immediately went downstairs to the basement and built their own Lego mine, including tools for blasting through veins, an entry chute, and a mine car riding on tracks!

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Photos

All aboard: Visiting the Colorado Railroad Museum

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Part of Henry’s birthday present from his Colorado family was a visit to the Colorado Train Museum in Golden, CO. If ever a kid loved trains, it’s Henry Seamus Nack, so it was a perfect gift.

We spent the entire afternoon (gallery) looking at, wandering around, and venturing inside various types of rail car, locomotives, cabooses, and even a push-me-pull-you! We also got to take a ride around the property on a coal-powered steam train. Oh – and there was a spectacular model railroad (featuring Legos!) in the basement of the museum that the boys really enjoyed checking out.

Thanks to the Lingles for the tickets! Our newly-minted seven year-old was beside himself!

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Camping Photos

Annual Madres Family Camping Trip 2016

This weekend marked our 5th annual Las Madres family camping trip. (I think there’ve actually been six, but we didn’t go the first year.) It’s become a much-anticipated event every summer – the guys get to run around all day and late into the night with their friends, and all the parents get to hang out, socialize, and relax (mostly!). We leave on Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday morning. The boys were so excited this year they were literally leaping and dancing around the kitchen on Friday morning asking me how soon we could leave.

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This year we had a total of 44 kids and adults spread out over several camp sites at Portola Redwoods State Park – a real gem deep in the redwood forest of the Santa Cruz mountains. Here’s a gallery of our adventures, which included gorgeous weather, giant trees—including one dubbed the “man cave” by the Nack boys—hiking, a crystal-clear stream with swimming hole, Ranger-led Junior Ranger programs, s’mores (of course!), delicious homemade cookies courtesy of our friends Lorraine and Dina, making sunprints with found items, counting the scores of banana slugs dotting the ground, and religiously reapplying bug spray (LOTS of skeeters this year).

Man cave tour:

And just for fun, here are the galleries from prior years’ camping trips.

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Camping Photos

Cub Scout Campout!

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This past weekend, I escorted our young scouts to their first official Cub Scout overnight campout in the Santa Cruz mountains. It was held at the gorgeous Camp Campbell, which is deep in the redwoods and offers tons of activities, amazing and modern cabins (hot showers! electricity! heat! bunk beds!), and a really fantastic staff. This ranks as my favorite kid-related camping trip ever! All we had to do was bring ourselves, our sleeping bags, and some clothes. Everything else was taken care of!

We arrived Saturday after lunch, and immediately the boys started their activity rotation: Rock climbing, arts and crafts, archery, the Mole Hole, and the Nature Lab. The Mole Hole is an extremely large corrugated tube that runs down a hillside. You grab a plastic toboggan, strap on a helmet and elbow pads, then shoot yourself down at high speed. It’s completely dark in there until just before you hit the end, so it’s a pretty thrilling ride. Henry went down five times, Finn twice, and I went once. The Nature Lab was full of both live and taxidermied native animals, fossils, rock, and plant specimens to examine. We saw live snakes, birds, and salamanders, and taxidermied Horned Owls, bobcats, and other creatures.

After activities, the lads had some time to horse around with their friends (instinctual prime directive: find the biggest stick you can and start swinging it around) before we ate dinner. After dinner, more horseandalo, then a campfire with skits, songs, and s’mores. Henry was pooped out after all that action, so he and I went back to our cabin to sleep. Finn stayed up super-late with his den buddies in a separate cabin, telling ghost stories, playing games, and goofing off. Here is a gallery of their exploits. (That’s a banana slug-crossing sign to the left, by the way!)

Sunday, after we ate breakfast and packed up, we went on a 1.5 hour hike around the campground, high up into the forest. The kids got to take a nice long break to play amongst giant redwood stumps and Redwood fairy rings. It was a blast. Then we hiked out and headed for home after pit-stopping for a quick lunch in mountain town Ben Lomond. They boys were completely exhausted and barely made it until bedtime last night! They were thrilled to come home, sit still and veg out in front of a movie for awhile before dinner. Our young lads are excited for many many more campouts, sleepovers, and adventures in scouting!

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Christmas Photos

Grate Scout! Elfin Christmas Correspondence

This year, the magic of Christmas is shining brightly at the Nack house. Both boys have been so curious and excited about our Elf on the Shelf, Scout, and have been carrying on a lively and wonderful written correspondence with him.

Finn wrote the first letter, wondering about Scout’s name, and things took off from there. We’ve learned that Scout speaks Spanish, that his favorite food is marshmallows (which we often find nibbled in the morning), and in his off-time, he enjoys resting in the custom-built Elf home the boys built for him from cereal boxes, wrapping paper, and ribbon. He even has his own little sleeping bag & pillow made from jewelry bags stuffed with Kleenex.

Here’s a cute gallery of the letters and Scout’s new home. Finn told me that he really wanted Scout to feel welcome, and I think both boys are doing a terrific job!

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Christmas

Letr To The Elf

Well, December has arrived, and with it, the reappearance of our Elf on the Shelf! Finn was Johnny-on-the-spot the evening of November 30th, remembering to find the Elf’s box and set it out with the lid open so he could get out (of course, being super-careful not to actually touch the Elf, lest his magic disappear!).

Yesterday morning, the 1st of December, our Elf appeared, swinging on a ribbon from the curtain rod in the dining room. The boys were ecstatic to find him! When they arrived home from school yesterday, Finn set to writing a very polite little letter of inquiry to the Elf, because he couldn’t remember our Elf’s name. Here’s a shot of his original letter, having subsequently been answered by the Elf, whose name is Scout:

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Photos

¡Es Arte!

A few months back, just before I left for seven days in Amsterdam, I decided to leave all the Nack dudes little drawings to remember me by. I left them on the kitchen table so they’d discover them when they got home from work/school at the end of the day. They were well-received, and in fact, Finn responded with his own drawing for me/of me and left it out upon my return! Here’s a little gallery of our messages.

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Miscellaneous

In the words of FLN…

(A bored Finn, claiming “nothing to do” the other night)

F: “Well, I guess I’ll just go ahead and do my homework, then.”
Me: “Wow, kiddo, that’s a great idea!”
F: “As Martin Luther King said, ‘When you don’t have anything to do, just do the right thing.'”
Me: “Really? He said that? How did you know about that?”
F: “Well…Martin Luther King didn’t *really* say that. But it sounds like something he would say.”