April 6, 2014: Happy Birthday Theo!

Well, the big day arrived—Theo turned six on Saturday! And what a weekend we had! Theo’s desire, for his actual birthday, was to spend the day with Grandma Diane and Auntie Lynnie and her family, and to stay at a hotel overnight. So on Saturday morning, we drove up to Elk Grove and spent the day with Grandma Diane, Auntie Lynnie, Uncle Charles, and cousins Stevie, Noelle, and Sam, along with Sam’s boyfriend, David. We hung out at Grandma Diane’s house for a while and went to the neat little park that just opened near Grandma Diane’s house. Chris and I got a good chuckle when we were trying to decide whether to go out to lunch or just have Chris go pick something up, and Theo very seriously encouraged us BOTH to go and take Sam with us, so he could spend some time with Grandma Diane! We decided that was a plan and said we’d pick up takeout and be back shortly, and he suggested that no, it would be better if we ate at the restaurant and took our time. Clearly, he had plans to just have a grandma-and-him date!

Theo’s wish for his birthday dinner was pizza, and we were all happy to oblige, being a pizza-loving group! We went to Round Table (where Chris worked for years—though at a different location), and it was….delicious but not relaxing. We pretty much never eat dinner out with our kids. Both of them turn into pumpkins around dinnertime—after a long, hard day of play (and on that particular day, very little nap for the younger one), they are usually kind of fried by dinnertime, so it’s just not worth taking them out. But this was Theo’s birthday, and he dearly wanted to go out for pizza, so…we went. And we survived. Actually, Theo did pretty well, really. Sam was the cranky-pants of the two. But he hadn’t had much of a nap, so you can’t blame the kid. And then he bit his tongue hard enough that he had three lovely little bleeding holes in it, so that didn’t help. (He has razor-sharp vampire teeth, so this is a frequent occurrence, poor kid!)

Anyway, we survived. And had delicious pizza. And then we went to Leatherby’s (a local ice-cream chain) for dessert. The restaurant sang “Happy Birthday” to Theo, which was very cool, and he devoured a clown sundae made out of rainbow sherbet. And even Cranky-Pants was more cheerful, as he gorged himself on a cup of rainbow sherbet. (Add ice cream to the list of few foods he’ll eat. And pizza. He also devoured an entire piece of pizza—albeit with all of the toppings removed, after he choked on a piece of ham.)

After that, we said goodbye to Auntie, Uncle, and the cousins, dropped Grandma Diane off at home, and went to the hotel. But before I tell you about the hotel, I have to tell you a cool story!

Cousin Noelle has a chameleon. I love this creature, even though I’ve actually only seen it once. It is the coolest-looking reptile, and it has a fun little attitude. I get all excited when Noelle posts videos of it on Instagram. Anyway, one of Noelle’s friends watched Chameleon for a while when Noelle moved back from college, and Chameleon returned fat. Or so everyone thought. As it turns out, Chameleon wasn’t fat—she was egg-bound. Late Friday night, Noelle posted a very sad note on Facebook about the fact that Chameleon was going to die within hours. She didn’t have the money for the spaying that would save her life, and she couldn’t get her to lay the eggs. She had tried doing stuff with Chameleon’s habitat to encourage her to lay, and she just wouldn’t do it. So, when Noelle showed up on Saturday afternoon, I carefully asked about Chameleon—not wanting to upset her, but wondering how Chameleon was. Noelle said she had bought a 50lb. bag of sand, spread it in a laying enclosure, covered the cage with towels, and left Chameleon to see whether it would do the trick. Several vets she had talked to had advised against sand, because apparently chameleons will eat it and die, but Noelle decided since she was going to die anyway, it was worth a try.

So we visited for a while and then went to eat pizza. Then we all stopped at Auntie Lynnie’s house for a pit stop before going to ice cream. Noelle went upstairs to check on Chameleon, wondering if she’d find her dead. Instead, she found Chameleon calmly sitting on her branch…with eggs laid in the sand below her. Sixty-five eggs. Apparently, chameleons normally lay between 12 and 20 eggs. But Chameleon laid sixty-five!! No wonder why she looked so fat! I don’t even know how she held that many eggs, as the pile of eggs in the picture Noelle took looks bigger than Chameleon! But Noelle said they’re sort of squishy and gelatinous, so they were all squeezed inside of her. But still, she was so full of eggs that her tiny ribs were breaking.

So now, Chameleon, having laid her massive stash of eggs, is resting comfortably and will hopefully survive. Having been that egg-bound is apparently rather dangerous, and she’s not out of the woods yet, but hopefully she will survive. Noelle says she is now flat as a pancake. 🙂 So we ate ice cream in celebration of Theo’s birthday and Chameleon’s very productive afternoon!

Anyway, back to the hotel. We decided to stay at a Marriott Residence Inn because (a) we earn Marriott points, (b) they’re not terribly expensive, and (c) they often have one- or two-bedroom suites, which work very well for us traveling with our kids. This Marriott was no exception—we got a two-bedroom suite for a reasonable rate, and it was clean and quiet and lovely! It was like a little apartment—you walk in the door into a sitting room with a tiny kitchen, and then there is a bedroom on each side of the sitting room, each with a bathroom attached. So we gave Theo one bedroom, Sam and I took the second bedroom, and Chris slept on the pullout couch in the main room. Worked out very well! And Theo was in seventh heaven—he had a TV in his room and control of the remote, which pretty much made his day. And as a special treat, I served him water in one of the wine glasses in the suite, because lately he’s had an obsession with wine and beer. (I have no idea why. Likely because it’s forbidden, which holds much allure for him.)

We got the boys to bed late, and Sam slept through the night (woohoo! he’s actually been doing that for over a month, but I’ve been afraid to jinx it by saying anything!!), but Theo was up from something like 3:45 on. He’d had a lot of sugar and gluten on his birthday, so I’m sure that and the excitement did him no favors. Anyway, he was wakeful but cheery, so it wasn’t a huge deal, though it did mean that Chris didn’t get much sleep! (I didn’t either—Sam’s coughing kept me awake.)

So the next morning, Theo was cheery but overtired…and turned into a weepy mess when it was time to check out of the hotel. We knew he was upset so we tried not to laugh, but honestly, it was hilarious! First he got irritated and started ranting about how he was going to get around the rules about checkout time. His first plan was to become President so he could change the law and make it so that hotels “let you stay for eight days.” I told him that you can stay for eight days…you just have to pay for it! So his next comment was, “Why don’t you put Sam down for a five-hour nap so you can work and we can afford eight days in the hotel?” (Clearly he thinks my hourly pay rate is far more impressive than it really is!) When I told him that I was sorry, but we had to leave, he then announced dramatically, “I am just going to take all of the dishes and the plates and the cups and especially the wine glasses, because they’re very breakable, and I’m going to put them in the bedroom!” I was mystified as to how this would change the fact that we were leaving, so I asked him what purpose that would serve. “I will pile them up behind the door so that you can’t get in, or they will break!” he informed me. Aha. Interesting plan.

When he finally ran out of schemes for extending the checkout time at the hotel, he launched into life’s injustices. He was sitting on the couch, brimming with tears, so I just looked at him and said, “Theo, I love you,” thinking he just needed some reassurance. “Yes,” he said seriously. “And how unfair is it that you don’t let me drink out of wine glasses at home?!” I stifled a grin and said, “Tonight, as a special treat, you can have water in a wine glass at home. I expected a bit of gratitude, but instead I got, “Why not every night?!” So I launched into a tale about not looking a gift horse in the mouth. He responded with, “And how unfair is it that Papa gets to take his drink into the family room, and I can’t?!” And so on and so forth. (Later in the day we got a random, “How unfair is it that you don’t let me go to church?!” Which would hold a lot more water if the real reason for him wanting to go to church wasn’t so he could say “Jesus Christ” without getting in trouble for taking the Lord’s name in vain. Seriously—that is the reason he wants to attend church. He thinks “Jesus Christ” is a swear word, since he’s heard it used as such, and he wants permission to say it. Not the loftiest of reasons for attending church, eh?)

But really, our Sunday turned out very nice. We took the boys out to breakfast at the restaurant where we had our first date, nine-plus years ago, and we had a great time. Theo did his best job coloring I’ve ever seen (this from a kid who hates coloring!) and ate his meal calmly, and Sam, after refusing the best French toast ever, developed a love of bacon and supplemented with dry sourdough bread. (How he can want dry sourdough bread when there’s Tower Café French toast to be had is beyond me.) And we were reminded that taking the boys out to eat early in the day is generally a pretty pleasant experience, unlike attempting dinner!!

After breakfast, we headed over to the house of an old friend from grad school. She has three kids—the youngest is one and the oldest is five. A few years ago, she and her husband bought property in the northern part of Sacramento and started a little farm. It was the first time we had seen it, and it was so cool. Theo was in heaven, as he loves being outside, and pretty much nothing was off-limits. He got to climb up on two tractors and pretend to drive them, and we got to see all of their animals and play on their kids’ play structures.

I have to admit, we were pretty enamored of their farm. Neither one of them grew up on a farm—evidently they just wanted to have a little family farm, so they learned everything about how to do it on YouTube. They have tons of chickens, which they use for eggs but also for meat. (The chicken-plucking machine was fascinating, in a slightly disturbing way!) They often have pigs, but not at the moment. They had goats for a while, but the goats ate the apple trees, so they’re history. They have a couple of rabbits. And they have cows, which they raise for meat. Evidently they started with two adult cows and a calf, and now they have about eight. They’re small cows and very gentle—we walked through their pasture, and they were very sweet! Nate was telling me that they’re a type of cow that was used in the 1950s. Cows have since been bred to be bigger, but these are small cows—and cows that are capable of birthing their young on their own. So they’ve had several calves born since they started raising cows, and in fact five of them are pregnant right now. Nate also planted something like 100 fruit trees on the property—pomegranate, pears, cherries, apples, plums, apricots, peaches…and on and on. And they have huge vegetable beds, where they’re growing corn, beans, and tomatoes. Oh, and an aquaponic system Nate built, where you raise fish and grow lettuce in one environment. (Something about the fish excrement running through a system that breaks it down, and the nitrate-rich water is then used to water the plants and given them essential nutrients.)

It was, in a word, awesome. Their kids have the run of the farm, which is big enough for all of the things I’ve described above, but small enough that Tina can keep an eye on them, as the entire property is fenced. It’s pretty much a paradise for kids, really. Theo loved it! Chris and I sometimes talk about not buying a house here, in the rat race of the Bay Area, but just saving our money and buying a house outright somewhere cheaper, when he has finished his stint at Genentech (however long that may be—he has no plans to leave, but we just daydream about the future). We dream about a place with a little bit of land, so we can build on a guest house for Sam to live in—a place where he can be independent, but with our supervision. And doing what Tina and Nate have done is just really neat. Their goal isn’t to sell their crops and make money—they raise the crops and the animals to feed their own family, and they give away what extra they have. It’s a small farm, but one from which they can essentially fully nourish their family—protein, veggies, fruits, in theory dairy, if they get a dairy cow at some point. Neat! I’m not sure Chris and I would ever be that ambitious, but we sure do admire people who are. Dreaming about something and making it a reality—that is just way cool!

Anyway, we spent a lovely few hours there, hanging out and letting the kiddos play, and then we headed for home. At that point, I had to catch up on my jog, and I have to brag a tiny bit: I’m up to 10-minute jogging segments! I never thought I’d be able to do that! I couldn’t even do that in high school, so evidently I’m in better shape at age 40 than I was at age 18. Make no mistake: I am not a fast runner, nor am I in any way graceful. In fact, I lumber along at a pathetically slow pace. But I’m able to sustain a jog for 10 straight minutes, which I believe is close to a mile, and I’m pretty darn excited about that! My friend Janeane was right, too—my aching knees got used to it, and they no longer scream after my jogs. Now if the scale would just show a little downward movement…ah well. First things first…

I have a crazy number of things still left to accomplish before bed, but before I sign off, I have to share the story of my Monday, and how I should be nominated for Mother of the Year.

Cesar Chavez Day is a state holiday here in California. Government offices are closed, Sam’s early-intervention program was closed, and a neighboring school district that we have friends in had the day off. So I assumed we did, too. We went about our morning, with Theo elated to have a day off (he has decided he really doesn’t like school)…and then I got a call from the school office, asking me where Theo was. Um…home. For Cesar Chavez Day. Except he wasn’t supposed to be! Worse still, Monday is my volunteer day in his class, so I not only kept my kid out of school, I left his teacher in the lurch! Luckily, she was very cool about it and thought it was funny, but I still felt bad! Theo, however, was quite pleased. When I told him I had made a mistake and that he had been supposed to go to school, he said cheerfully, “That’s okay, Mommy, I needed a break anyway. This was the best day ever! And you’re the best mom in the whole world!” Yup, that’s me. Mother of the Year.

I have lots more to tell about Sam’s bloodwork (we finally got the draw done on Monday—when we were celebrating Cesar Chavez Day, you know! It was a horrible experience that ended up with Sam’s arm bruised and completely covered in a rash—he and I were both traumatized), but I need to wrap up and get to skewering fruit for Theo’s birthday treat for his class, as well as writing a bunch of thank-you notes.  And packing Sam’s lunch. And showering. And eating dinner. Someday, I will sleep… So I’ll bid you adieu and give you a full report on Sam’s labs next week. Long story short: He will likely be starting on treatment for hypothyroidism. Stay tuned next week for more info! Mother of the Year, signing off….

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