happy sixth, melina!

Posted by lynn on 02 Jun 2013 | Tagged as: melina

Big 6


Our first baby turned six yesterday! She and I started the celebration Friday right after school, with a cafe treat and a pedicures followed by a trip to our new library with sis. In the process of trading pink for gold as her favorite color, Melina opted for a pink-gold pattern on both fingers and toes. She also got to pick out a balloon from the party store: a big gold 6 with pink ribbons!



Saturday was both her birthday and birthday party day. (At first this fact disappointed her – she likes to spread things out – but she soon saw the beauty of all that concentrated attention.) She decided to have an ice cream party at Fentons Creamery and invited friends from school, her after school program, the neighborhood, and of course Lily and Emma.



We had a blast! The kids got to color, eat lunch, chat, watch ice cream being made, then pick their very own flavor from the big display at the front. We had most the back room to ourselves so didn’t really bother anyone else with our party noise.

In the evening Kai returned from Mosaic camp and joined us for Melina’s birthday dinner. At first she wanted to go out, but at the last minute opted for a pizza and movie night (Wizard of Oz) followed by her lemon birthday tart. Yummy fun. Happy birthday to my girl!

sayin’ it like you’re three

Posted by lynn on 09 May 2013 | Tagged as: nalani

Baby girl just turned three, which means she’s really chatty, loves to tell full-on stories, and is saying things how she hears them. Here are just a few fun examples from the past couple months.



Nalani is now tuned into the fact that she, like most of us, has a first, middle, and last name. Or in her case a nickname squeezed in there too. See, like this: Nalani Poppers Umbrella Rapoza

When Nalani really wants something but is feeling diplomatic, she’ll just look at us after our “no” and politely respond, “Say yes Mama (or Dada). Say YES.” We usually just laugh and say “Nice try, but no.” She’ll try again a few more times but eventually will laugh herself and move on.



When she tells stories (which is often) she’s always sure to end them with “and that’s the end.”

Before Mina’s recent performance, Nalani ran up to tell her preschool teacher: “We’re going to sister’s forest!

Recently she came up to me looking really sad and holding a book in her hand.
“What’s wrong, Nali?”
The book bited me.”
I looked at her finger and she had a paper cut.



When she woke up congested and unable to breath well from a really bad cold, she pointed to her nose and said “I want you to open this.” Poor girl.

The elevator and escalator are both “alligators.”

And finally (at least for this list), grilled cheese is “gorilla cheese.”

We celebrated Nalani turning three with a brunch at our house – complete with a pinata and pin the horn on the unicorn. Happy belated birthday, Poppers!

dancin’ kiddos

Posted by lynn on 23 Apr 2013 | Tagged as: community, friends, melina

This afternoon I happened to catch Melina and her buddies practicing a salsa routine for their upcoming after-school program performance. Look at them go!


Posted by lynn on 10 Mar 2013 | Tagged as: family, melina, nalani, travel



It’s official. Our kids like the snow as much as I do. Sorry Joey, you’re outnumbered! Last year Nalani had a cold (and was, well, one year old) and didn’t seem too thrilled by all that cold white stuff on the ground. This year, she was the one who wanted to jump on an inner tube ride – over and over and over again – “all by myself.” She didn’t even reach the 36″ minimum height requirement, but the teenage line monitor (and tire pusher/spinner) didn’t care, even when I asked. It wasn’t unsafe. She was just out of my eyesight for a few minutes. And thrilled about it.



Melina kept to sledding, throwing snowballs at cartoon targets, and helping Daddy, Lucas, and Nali build a snowman for a contest. (They won third place! A snow robot took first.) Lucas and Noah did plenty of tube riding themselves (as did Stacie and I), and the two little Hams romped around in the snow. We absolutely loved Tahoe Donner, and by the time we left even Joey agreed that we should rent a cabin with cousins there next year. My only addition: Next year, I’m getting on skiis again for the first time in 10 years.

growing girls

Posted by lynn on 09 Mar 2013 | Tagged as: melina, nalani



Our girls continue to grow and flourish. Friends who haven’t seen them in a while take one look at Nalani and say “she’s looking more and more like Melina every day!” and one of Mina’s school friends recently told Nali to her face: “You’re a mini Melina!” Nalani just said, “No, I’m Nalani.” And regardless of her looks, she certainly is her own person.



Our baby’s biggest current feat is potty training. It happened so quickly that on her first diaper-free day at preschool she was also underwear-free: Her teacher had asked if she wanted to try using the potty instead of diapers and she said yes, but we hadn’t brought any panties so she had to go commando. The whole day. (She didn’t mind – and didn’t have a single accident.) Overall it’s still a work-in-progress but we’re happy to see her on the right track.



Nali continues to be rambunctious, decisive, and happy. Besides the potty, these days she’s spending a lot of time honing her cutting skills. She’ll cut anything paper-like in sight: brochures, stickers, the plastic baggie that was holding the stickers. We sometimes walk into a room full of confetti if she’s been left alone to “craft” for just five minutes. She also moved to a big-girl (really, toddler) bed last month and loves it. She recognizes when she’s tired and goes to bed easily. The other night she simply said “good night, Mama” and kinda pushed me away. Other nights she’ll ask for a song or story or lift up her shirt and say “here,” meaning “please rub my back.”



Last month we took the whole family to a classroom cleanup event at Melina’s kindergarten. Nalani was super excited about “going to kindergarten,” and when we got there she even asked Ms. W which one was her cubby. She scrubbed chairs and washed paint cups, and tripped over the teacher’s dog… and when we got home wondered aloud why there weren’t any stories or circle time. When Joey took her to school on Monday she was also a little confused why she wasn’t in the car with her sis heading to elementary. She asked, “But where are you taking me?” When Joey said “preschool” she just shrugged, then happily ran to her friends when they arrived.



Speaking of kindergarten, Melina is reading! She flies through simple early readers (“BOB” books) and sounds out more “complex” early readers like Fancy Nancy or the Pinkalicious series. Nalani also “sounds out” the letters and words in a book – or at least she thinks she’s doing that. “Pp-iii-gg” when the real word is, say, bat. But she’s going through the motions and one day it will serve her well. At their after school program, Melina and Kai both continue to dazzle us with their performing arts performances. They both expressed sheer joy during the dance program, where they each performed three dances – from African to modern (Melina) to the Charleston (Kai) with their peers.



Our big girl loves to write, and, thanks to Ms. W, has finally learned it’s ok to sound out words on your own and not look to me to help her with every single sound. This means words like “gardener” and “when” come out “grdnr” and “wen,” but this is how she’ll learn to spell on her own. Melina does, however, have a perfectionist streak that’s starting to shine pretty clearly. When she’s tired she’ll insist on re-doing a homework drawing or word up to five times, and once was so frustrated by the imperfect “e” in Melina she wound up erasing a hole in her paper. She also loves having a tightly made bed, with all her animals lined up perfectly at the foot. No one can help her, because we never do it quite right. While big sis is pretty easygoing overall, she, too, knows her own mind!

nalani’s song

Posted by lynn on 05 Jan 2013 | Tagged as: nalani



Nalani has always loved music and singing, so when she was a baby I always sang as I nursed her to sleep. When she stopped nursing our bedtime routine continued to include rocking and the nighttime song I created for her over the course of several months, when one verse of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” was no longer enough. Holding my peaceful babe-in-arms, I would periodically look around at the pictures in her room to inspire new lines. Each verse follows the same melody as “Twinkle Twinkle” and took at least a week or two to solidify, and they’ve probably all shifted a little over time.



Now at age 2 1/2 we don’t sing it routinely, but I do pull it out when she needs calming or just wants a song. The best part is she can now sing along, and will ask for a verse by name (“Mama, you forgot the monkey song!”) if I leave it out. I’m sure one day, several years down the road, I’ll look at the swinging monkey picture in her room and realize we haven’t sung it in a while. Maybe not, but I’m including her song here so we don’t forget. The second two verses in particular are direct messages to both my girls.

Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

Pretty pretty butterfly
Flying up in the sky so high
With your wings so shiny and bright
I like the way they look in the sunlight
Pretty pretty butterfly
Flying up in the sky so high

Chirping chirping little bird
Singing around this great big world
With your voice so vibrant and strong
I like to listen to you all the day long
Chirping chirping little bird
Singing around this great big world

Swinging swinging monkey bones
Traveling through the trees when you’re all alone
With your mind so curious and brave
You like exploring all through the days
Swinging swinging monkey bones
Traveling through the trees when you’re all alone


Posted by lynn on 30 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: family, melina, nalani



Melina had been counting down the days since my birthday (conveniently, also the first day of advent), and was bouncing off the walls when December 24 finally arrived. Nalani (who still deserves the nickname echo for how she copies big sis) followed suit, and before long we were off to our Roseville celebration with Grandma, Grandpa, and a house full of cousins.



Melina and Lucas didn’t miss a beat in connecting over markers and stacks of plain white paper in Lucas’ art area. Nali and Ella immediately ran towards each other and asked to go outside. Noah played solo with his Legos and toddler Zoe said “hi” with outstretched “pick me up” arms to any adult in sight. We got the celebration rolling with no fewer than eight (might have been more) steaks on German’s new smoker, plus lasagna, a gingerbread trifle, and plenty of wine, beer, and other sweets.



The kids sprinkled the Ham’s front lawn with reindeer food (dry oats and glitter) for Santa’s crew, and set out cookies for Santa himself before going to bed, more or less successfully considering it was Christmas Eve. In the morning Nalani found her asked-for blue present with a black bear inside, and Melina a huge Rudolph with a light-up nose. She had been asking Santa for Rudolph for two years and he finally came through!

Happy holidays to all!

santa spirit

Posted by lynn on 21 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: family, kai, melina, nalani



We’ve been gearing up for Christmas all month, starting with a family photo shoot (the visuals of this post) for our annual holiday card and, well, because we hadn’t had a family photo shoot since Nalani was eight weeks old. Now, at 2 1/2, she happened to fall off a swing right before the photographer arrived, but we still managed to get some sweet (if not-so-smiley) shots.



We’ve also had performances: Kai and Melina sang in a beautifully staged and sung choral performance with their after school program; Nalani dressed as an elf for her preschool singalong; and Melina’s kindergarten class staged a re-enactment of the story of the gingerbread boy and girl. We’ve decorated gingerbread and cutout cookies with friends and classmates, made multiple batches of cookies, and decorated and re-decorated the house.



We’ve had incredibly specific Santa requests, like this exchange I recently had with Nalani:
Poppers, what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?
A present.
What kind of present?
A blue present.
What’s in the blue present?
A bear…. a black bear.



And we’ve been entertained daily by the Santa musings of an uber-curious five-year-old. Some recent examples follow. (I wish I’d written down more of them!)
Melina: Does Santa Claus ever die?
Me: No, he’s magical.
What about his elves and the rest of his crew?
They’re magical too.
When he delivers presents to China is it light out?
No, he delivers them at night there, too.
But since it’s daytime here when it’s night there, maybe we’ll see him in the sky?
Hmmm, I never thought of it that way. Sure, maybe.

A few days later:
How does Santa fly so fast? Can he fly without his reindeer? (Stream-of-conscious non-sequitur:) How do babies know to start growing in their mommy’s tummy?

And just tonight:
The thing about Santa is, he knows everything, but how does he know how *everyone* has been good or bad?

Most my answers to her questions focus on the magic of Santa, which translates easily into the magic of the season and the spirit of giving (Santa) in all of us. I have a feeling by age six she’ll have made this logical connection all on her own.

Happy holidays! Enjoy the magic of the season.

ballerina weekend

Posted by lynn on 16 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: friends, melina

arms up


My little ballerina got a bit of a dream weekend, with both days filled with ballet. This morning she performed with her junior ballet class – and good friends Lily and Emma – in a real theater in front of an audience of a couple hundred parents and siblings. They all did beautifully! Not an ounce of stage fright from my “slow-to-warm” girl, and we saw confidence and joy emanate from her face.



Yesterday we joined Kendall and Rachel for a trip to Melina’s first viewing of the Nutcracker, at the Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley. The performance featured students of the Berkeley Ballet, some of them not much older than Melina and the oldest still teenagers. They danced beautifully, Melina was mesmerized, and to top off the event we got to meet the dancers on stage after the performance.

thanksgiving weekend

Posted by lynn on 25 Nov 2012 | Tagged as: family, friends



This year Thanksgiving had a few twists and last-minute turns. We’d planned to celebrate with my parents in San Jose, but a week earlier jointly decided it would make more sense to gather in Berkeley. My parents were winding down their 2-week-long babysitting stint for the Ham kids while Stacie and German adopted Zoe from China. And we Rapozas wanted to travel to Roseville the day after Thanksgiving to meet our newest family member. Thanksgiving in Berkeley meant less prep stress for Mom, and less travel stress for us.


It also meant our first chance to host turkey dinner in our “new” house. We’d hosted a handful of times at our Alcatraz pad with it’s modern convection oven, and had successfully roasted two chickens at once in our newly-acquired 1940’s Wedgewood oven, but had yet to put our kitchen centerpiece to the 13-pound turkey test. Hosting also allowed us to invited the Schultzes to join us and my parents for a relaxing afternoon of food, festivities, and plenty to drink.



On Friday we hopped in the van and headed up to Roseville to meet 17-month-old Zoe and welcome her to the extended family. She had a cold and was still adjusting to a brand-new life with three brand-new siblings, but enjoyed waving and saying “hi” over and over, and watching the other kids indulge in plenty of good ole’ cousin playtime. We can’t wait to see her (and the whole Ham clan) again for Christmas next month!

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