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October 21 - November 16, 2007
Tom's birthday, Halloween, balloons, hills and a lighthouse
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Birthday present of his dreams: a helicopter!
Halloween trick-or-treaters

Tommy must truly resisted to be born on Christmas, so that he would not mash all his celebrations together. I'm not quite sure if he's been so much better off at the end of October. It's a bit of a problem to organize a birthday party for him. The weather turns moody and chancy. It can be seventy and sunny -- and a hail storm may show up on our door, or simply some creepy foggy drizzle with temperatures shivering close to freezing point. Besides, we really hate social occasions and their preparations. Thus we eventually celebrated in the closest family circle at home -- and on the following Saturday we had invited Tom's (and our) friends to the aquarium in Santa Cruz, and to a lunch party.

Tom wished very much to get a helicopter for his birthday, so he go it (another huge, beeping piece of junk for his collection). Still, it belonged into the category of realizable dreams, so we had agreed to it. He also got a puzzle and a tunnel for his wooden trains; a book from granny and a new metal case to carry toys on our trips. Lizzy received a little case as well (another dangerous precedent - but so far it seems merciful to also give a small present to the non-celebrant sibling). The presents were a success, we had to show the helicopter to all the little boys in the street on the next day, and Tom was very happy when even big boys (i.e., one or two years older than he) declared the contraption to be "cool".

Leather Starfish
Tom fancies a starfish which to the touch feels like fine leather
Kids a the starfish pool
Every child likes to touch a star fish

The birthday has also brought Tommy a bitter disappointment. With the arrival of his fourth year of age, he did not grow to be "as big as daddy", and we did not suddenly allow him to ride without a child car seat (much less to drive). He did not start going to work, and he continues to attend a preschool. How can I explain to him that he's bound to wait for some things for another twelve years (driving) or more (going to work)? On the other hand, visiting the aquarium with his friends and subsequently having lunch was something Tommy did quite appreciate. At the aquarium, he presented his favorite exhibits to the kids, and he played (and fought over trains) with the three-year-old Margo.

Right after birthday comes Halloween. Tom suffered in stores decorated with skeletons and monsters again this year -- but at least he was quietly fearful and did not throw tantrums. And for a magnificent balloon in the shape of Thomas the Tank Engine, he agreed to enter a party store full of seasonal, Halloween spooks.

We took Gabka and Lukas trick-or-treating, together with a herd of children and their parents from our neighborhood. The oldest Lukas ran ahead, a pack of three to five year old boys in tow, and our little Lisa trotted last. She usually waited for the boys' bundle to unwind, and then noiselessly stuck out her little sack to collect sweets. Towards the end she had overcome her shyness enough to say some thanks. An hour later, everybody had had enough -- kids were bending under their load and insisted on immediately devouring the goodies. Due to the fact I had forced them to eat dinner before we started, I let them have their way. So once in a year they'd end up getting slightly sick from too much candy. Later that night I had confiscated all the sweets and have been rationing it since. And being insightful parents who want to spare their kids from excessive intake of sugar, we have been helping them in processing their stash.

Just like any other cat, a bobcat is waiting for a mouse.
Big cat
Even bigger cats (mountain lions) live in our mountains, but they are not as easy to photograph.

I tried to put some makeup on Tom on Halloween -- but with his bright blue-eyed face and his blond hair, he really does not look like a little devil, which he tried to portray. Lisa had surprised me, for she asked for make-up as well -- and insisted to have her eyebrows emphasized. Where the girl is getting this, I truly don't know. She looked like a retiring barmaid during our trick-or-treating -- and must have felt very beautiful. Girls must have an inborn sense -- the other day she absolutely had to have the same bow in her hair like Julianna had. On another occasion she wanted to wear a dress for the whole day. Fortunately she let me talk her out of light summer dress and into a corduroy one, which allows a few layers underneath. When she spotted a store where one can rent dress clothes for social occasions, she exclaimed that they have a princess there. And topped it off by claiming the other day that she's my princess. All this while there's really no role model in our family who'd lead her towards dressing up and princessing -- apparently, girls have this wired by nature.

Tom has become a train. It's been so for a while now. He's an engine, which pulls double-decker passenger cars, and who shines at night. When it gets dark, he states plainly that he had to turn on his lights. So far I did not have the heart to explain to him somehow, that he does not have three headlights on his forehead, and that he DOES NOT SHINE. I hope it's a harmless imagination. In fact, he has been making horn and whistle sounds at home in a very loud, penetrating voice, but I recall having meowed and barked at my parents for several years. I wonder what's better.

Tom during balloon packing
From a safe distance, a balloon at an airport is a wonderful thing.
Deflating an aerostat
Hot air from a balloon must be eventually pushed out -- quite literally

I wrote many times already that my kids have entered a very pleasant phase. They are relatively independent and have been enjoying all kinds of activities. In our favorite Rancho San Antonio, Tom musters to run the whole multi-mile trail without getting tired. Lisa sometimes takes refuge in the stroller. When we go there with the twins, it's like herding a bag of fleas. Last time we had an additional attraction in this park. A wild bobcat strolled down a meadow with apparent ease. Most animals here are protected and the wild one often have no idea that they might want to be afraid of man. This large cat with typical feline dignity let us admire it and take pictures from a respectful distance.

We took our children ballooning on one weekend again. Both Tom and Lisa still fear the noisy flying monsters, but later closely follow colorful balloons in the sky. They maintained safe distance during landing -- and since the balloon landed at an airport this time, its technical equipment, namely taxiway navigation lights, became the best attraction, for a normal mortal does not often get so close.

It would seem that the fall had decided to rule mostly on weekends. I don't know who's in control of the weather, but when it's sunny during the week, you can bet that at least ugly fog would creep out on Saturday, and a drizzle will last till Sunday. One overcast Saturday, our family went to Castle Rock. It's a frequented climbing area, but we found a deserted forest road and let the kids run there a bit. They enjoyed the woods, collected acorns and climbed on nearby rocks. Especially Tom has been showing an explorer's attitude -- like most men he has a desire to scale the highest hill or boulder. And since he's also a train express engine, we can rarely keep up with him on his forest tracks and switches.

Kids in a forest nearCastle Rock
Kids in a forest nearCastle Rock play coupled train engines
Lisa jumping off a boulder
Another favorite game is jumping off a boulder

In middle of November, my Hippo was sent on a four day business trip to Paris, France. We took him to the airport, our kids' favorite place (escalators, elevators, airport shuttle), until the moment when Sid passed through the last security -- and we could not follow. Tommy threw an absolute tantrum -- but not because of losing his father -- his sustained injustice lay in not being able to fly along! Between sobs Tom explained that he won't be friends with daddy if he's gonna fly WITHOUT HIM.

I was rather afraid how I would cope, but being alone with my kids turned out well. They go to preschool, after all, which gave me a break for one morning. I had a ladies' night long planned for Wednesday, and so I arranged Tom's teacher to baby-sit. Children welcomed her happily and were unfazed by my leaving. When I returned by ten, the kids were asleep, and so was the teacher on our couch -- her shift must have been quiet. I must say that I find such sitting ideal -- having no grannies available I am glad to find someone whom the kids know, and are ready to respect and heed -- and it's a person used to kids, trained to deal with them.

One quickly notices one person less in the household -- fewer dishes, laundry, cooking. Still, after four relaxed days I discovered that was stressed nevertheless. Not that I could not manage, but the feeling that there's no backup, no one who would take over or help, was unpleasant.

Fremont Peak Panorama
A wonderful 360° view from Fremont Peak to San Andreas Fault, Salinas Valley and Monterey Bay

Sid had arrived on Friday night. With regard to his probable jet lag, tiredness etc., we had not planned rest for Saturday morning. Yet to a question, where he would like to go for a walk, Tommy replied, up on a hill. The one with antennas. So we drove up to Fremont Peak. Tom was happy, claiming that he remembered it. He wondered whether we would still find the fallen dish (parabolic antenna) there, and we stopped on a spot where Lisa had tumbled downhill last year. Lizzy did not share Tom's joy -- she did not cooperate, wanted to be carried, and kept asking when we'd be back at our house. Just under the final climb we had thus decided that only Sid and Tom would go, while Lisa and I would begin our descent back to the car. It was a good choice -- Tom happy to have scaled the hilltop, Lisa happy not having to do it.

24 light beams of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse
24 light beams concentrated by mighty lenses invented by monsieur Fresnel sweeping in circles through the darkness during the annual Lighting of the historic Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Tom dobyvatelem kóty   Lisa demands to go home
Tom asked to scale the hilltop -- and Lisa to drive back home.

Then we failed to find a place to eat in Hollister; we ended in a nondescript pizzeria. Having gotten back home by three, Sid and the kids laid down to have a nap -- yet only Sid fell asleep -- I fear that my afternoon siestas are over. Tom has not been sleeping for a few months now, Lisa remains bothersome for an hour, getting up and out, only to have a half hour nap. I shall abolish this ineffective model and we shall go out instead. Darkness comes early these days, by five or so, and thus we fit a small walk in -- and kids can go to bed earlier, shortening the time when they're up but nothing can be done since it's dark and cold outside.

That Saturday, I pulled Sid out of bed by five p.m., we jumped in our bus and headed for the lighthouse at Pigeon Point. It was a dark and foggy evening, while we raced down the unusually deserted scenic road. Sid and I discussed the question to what extent we have been sane to undertake such an adventure. Tom watched a kids' show, Lisa slept. Finally we reached the last one of the fifty miles -- and an impressive glow welcomed us. It did not come from the lighthouse, though -- local traffic on highway 1 was controlled by police, and people in festive mood streamed between their parked cars and the lighthouse. When we stumbled out of the intersection illuminated by arc floodlights powered by huge, screaming portable generators, and finally managed to get our bearings in all the darkness and fog, we spotted the lighthouse. Once every year, on a Saturday closest to the anniversary of its opening (November 15, 1872), the Pigeon Point Lighthouse turns on the lights behind its original, historic Fresnel lenses, for whole two hours. This year's fog had added mystery and dignity to the show. There was nothing spooky or depressive about it, perhaps due to the many crowds of admirers, perhaps due to merry Christmas lights decorating the paths. It surprised me how many people came to see this lonely lighthouse on such a unfriendly night. Thus Sid and I concluded that we may not have completely lost our minds (yet).

Wrapped in fleece jackets and windbreakers, we spent almost an hour on Pigeon Point. We took advantage of our favorite Sabieng Thai in Santa Cruz for a late dinner, and got back home by nine thirty. On the way back, Tom slept; we skipped the kids' batch and put them right to bed. So much for a day of rest -- give me more of them and I shall need vacation!

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